As far as Irish metal is concerned, Mourning Beloveth are hardly in need of an introduction. Even within the wider doom scene, the band commands are certain level of respect forged through years of honing their gloomy craft. With five albums and a couple of line-up tweaks along the way, they are a band that has been forced (or enticed) to make changes to their sound over the years, in order to keep fresh and invigorated, while also preserving the heart and spirit of the band. Sixth album Rust and Bone is a continuation of that endless quest but how it will fit into the canon of Mourning Beloveth – the bigger picture – is difficult to ascertain.
With 2013’s Formless, Mourning Beloveth made a bold and strident statement. The double album introduced more strains of melody to the fold. It featured some of the band’s finest songs committed to tape yet, namely ‘Theories of Old Bones’ and the gorgeously captivating ‘Nothing Has a Centre’. It was a difficult but ultimately satisfying listen to say the least. Rust and Bone, subsequently, finds itself at a crossroads of sorts and thus decides to pull in the reins a little bit.
Noticeably shorter, the album clocks in at just shy of 40 minutes. Mourning Beloveth are certainly a band adept at quality control. Formless was grand and sprawling in nature. Rust and Bone is much more concise and tight. This may raise initial eyebrows for Mourning Beloveth, a band known for their lengthy passages but one shouldn’t feel short-changed at the end. Rather, both albums are expertly designed and constructed.
Nevertheless, it begs the question of how the band will master their art once again but within these parameters. Opener, ‘Godether’, a 16-minute oeuvre, is a compelling opening gambit. It sees the band traverse through many familiar climes with sorrowful clean vocals slithering into crushing riffs and guttural growls for what is the quintessential Mourning Beloveth sound before gradually gathering in pace and morphing into something almost death metal-like. ‘The Mantle Tomb’ meanwhile flip things around and opens with a wash of guitars that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Opeth’s Blackwater Park.
In truth, this five track album is only made up of three full songs. Lodged between them are two brief interludes that feel a little unnecessary. It feels like their purpose is to create a particular atmosphere that link the songs together, it certainly doesn’t disrupt the flow in any way but does feel a little pointless at the same time.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t take away from the highlight of Rust and Bone, which is far and away its closing song, ‘A Terrible Beauty is Born’. An acoustic track, it comes in stark contrast to the rest of Mourning Beloveth’s gamut. Guitarist Frank Brennan, who has always handled clean singing duties, laysd out a heart-wrenching hymn that is every bit as imposing as you would expect. Brennan’s vocals are instantly recognisable at this stage but on ‘A Terrible Beauty is Born’, he takes on a whole new depth of emotion. Perhaps it’s the stripped down feel of the acoustic guitars but once its final notes die out, it truly leaves a staggering impression behind.
Rust and Bone is another impressive record from the band but not quite in the same league as Formless or Dust, two of their finest centrepieces. That said it sees the band once again tinker with ever-increasing amounts of melody while never obfuscating their doom pedigree or sacrificing their roots for some other end.