For seven years, the tabernacle has been silent. Cobwebs cloaked the ramshackle wooden pews, the pulpit bereft of a vicar, the baptismal pool arid and cracked. Upon the altar knelt nary a penitent soul. Seven long and dreary years without a sorrow-bound sermon. Save for a mere devout utterance with the 2014 EP, Concrescence of the Sophia, the priesthood of Mournful Congregation lay sequestered in sepulchral seclusion—until now.
The priesthood wakes to weep and wail, to deliver—with lyres in hand—scrolls of lamentation upon their flock. This revelation, friends, saw light on March 23 via Osmose Productions in the U.K. and Europe, 20 Buck Spin in North America, and Weird Truth in Asia. The scroll is entitled The Incubus of Karma.
Vocalist Damon Good further expounds on the title, saying, “It is a vast and all-encompassing theme, it sounds poetic and commanding, and it speaks of our utter hopelessness and doom, being forever entwined in the karmic web.”
The first 60 seconds of opener “The Indwelling Ascent” alone leave no room for doubt: Mournful Congregation have returned! New drummer Tim Call dolefully christens the listener with tectonic snares. “I started learning songs from the back catalog to fill in for a few tours,” Call explains. “So, I guess I was already quite comfortable with the Mournful ‘style.’”
A melodic and weeping guitar lead swirls in to further bear the pall of the procession. But woe to the listener, for this blissful reverie shall soon be interrupted. With a crescendo that shreds the very sky comes “Whispering Spritscapes,” a lugubrious serenade with a tangible bleakness eclipsed only by its melody.
Therein lies exactly what separates Mournful Congregation from their peers. Many funeral doom bands can crush us; they can inter us into a blackened barrow of unrelenting grief. But one would indeed face an uphill battle to find a funeral doom band who do melody as well as these Aussie eulogists. Longtime fans will find comfort in the lonesome acoustic movements that have been a keystone in Mournful Congregation’s sound since their genesis.
The Incubus of Karma is heavily steeped in Eastern mysticism, but not in a nebulous, experimental sense. A particular text was the inspiration, and it is referenced directly by track three’s title, “The Rubaiyat.” Omar Khayyam was an Iranian astrologer and mathematician who lived between 1048 and 1131. A collection of aphoristic quatrains of poetry, “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” was first translated into English in 1859 by the poet Edward FitzGerald. The dark pessimism of Khayyam’s poetry provided a significant thematic inspiration for “The Incubus of Karma,” while “The Rubaiyat” quotes several of the quatrains within its lyrics.
For fans looking to further probe the album’s lyrical themes, Good recommends—in addition to the previous book—“Esoteric Buddhism” by A.P. Sinnett, as well as Paramahansa Yogananda’s commentary “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained.”