Mournful Congregation started life almost two decades ago, long enough to be considered - along with peers, Thergothon, Skepticism and Evoken - as forefathers of the whole funeral doom genre. And though the band have not been very prolific across these two decades, they have managed to release two full length albums recently, the first being a compilation of out of print material, the other, a brand new album entitled The Book Of Kings.
Its a warm Sunday afternoon when Metal As Fuck meets up with the band, at one of their rehearsal sessions, just as they were due to embark on their first US tour. Present are founder and guitarist Damon Good, long term drummer Adrian Bickle, second guitarist Justin Hartwig, and new bassist, Ben Newsome. Also present is Stuart Prickett, from Sydney doom metal band Stone Wings, who has been roped into helping the band with the aforementioned US tour.
As mentioned above, its been a slow crawl for Mournful Congregation - if you can pardon the pun - with the band only sporadically releasing their previous albums. But is this a pace the band has actually been happy with, or has this journey been one of frustration? "Its sort of has been frustrating at times", confesses Damon "but in the ealier days it was more to do with the line up, because we were never a full working band."
But still a considerable time between albums, whatever the reason? "Yeah, but we're not too concerned with pumping out albums quickly", admits the guitarist. "We work at our natural pace. (Whether) it takes two years, or takes four years, its just a natural progression I think."
Drummer Adrian decides to add his perspective: "I think its kind of gained momentum since The Monad Of Creation came out. That release, even though we recorded it in 2003, it was 2005 when it came out, and since then it's been fairly consistent. I think for the last seven or eight years the momentum has really been quite strong - every two or three years an album coming out, plus splits and so on."
It seems that this is a view shared by all members of the band as Justin elaborates further: "It really has felt like a project band. I joined at the end of 1999 and we did a one off 7",The Epitome Of Gods And Men Alike, and that was the first real test: 'is this going to work as a band'. But it didn't really become what we know as a band until The Monad Of Creation became popular. It took a few years, but we started noticing that that release was pivotal to where we are now, and I think, since we started playing live in 2009, that is where its become a functioning band. We did just treat it like a studio project, up until we started playing live," acknowledges Damon "so I guess its pretty natural that once we started playing life, it did start to feel like a proper band, just because we were getting together weekly for rehearsals, whereas before, we weren't doing that so much."
This seems a reasonable, and logical enough answer, but was there any reason for the band not to do this earlier? After all, it has taken them almost fifteen years before finally hitting the live circuit.
"I think, even with The June Frost, the three of us never jammed together," explains Adrian. "Damon and I jammed, Justin would put some guitar parts on top, but it was just functioning like a project up until the point where we thought 'lets do some live shows', then realised that we couldn't do it as a three piece, that we actually had to get additional members, and start rehearsing, and it kind of just bought it all into focus. Instead of treating it like a side project it became a proper band."
And for a band that has indeed only started playing life in the last couple of years, they are sure not wasting any time, with the band having already toured Europe, as well as having just toured the US. Newest member, Ben Newsome, expalined to us how this latest tour came about. "It was a little strange," he starts. "I had just been to a festival in Germany and when they found out that I played in Mournful Congregation, they - the festival organisers - were on the phone to the organisers of the Maryland Dethfest, to try to get us over there. So we actually sort of organised a bit of a tour for earlier this year, which was meant to be in May, to sort of coincide with the Maryland Deathfest, and which was going to be a full American tour. But due to our work committments over here, we weren't able to make that, so we go in touch with the same guys again, and they were the ones who helped out with the West Coast tour."
With the US tour now under their belts, signing two new record deals - Osmose Productions for Europe and 20 Buck Spin for the US, respectively, - and two brand new albums now hitting the stores, things really do seem to be hitting momentum for these funeral doom mongers. Of course, that can only be a good thing us doom fans.
Both The Unspoken Hymns and The Book Of Kings out now.