I was initially attracted to Mournful Gust for the most childish of reasons in that they had a name that made me giggle, much like my fascination with Greek death metallers Ancient Balls. Being a fan of the Eastern European doom scene however, I was seriously hoping that there was more to the Gust than a series of cheap fart gags. When the opportunity arose to review their 10th anniversary reissue of their debut album ‘She’s My Grief’, I seized the chance, but was left disappointed and deflated by its shambolic nature. A combination of uninspiring songwriting and abysmal musicianship left the sulphurous stench of an ill wind; but all was not lost. A quick cursory listen to their follow up ‘The Frankness Eve’ showed the band in far better musical form, the 8 years between recordings clearly having been put to good use honing (or perhaps I should say acquiring) their skills. So it was with renewed hope in their abilities that I approached their 3rd full length album ‘For All The Sins’ and was at the very least hoping that the album didn’t blow.
Even though their previous album was a huge improvement over the shoddy debut, it seems that there were still refinements to be made as both guitarists and the drummer were replaced shortly after the release of ‘The Frankness Eve’. The difference is noticeable too, especially in the drumming, for although Vjacheslav Kapusta improved hugely between the first and second albums, new drummer Nikolay Kostetskiy is a class above, and the whole sound of the band now feels that bit tighter and more polished. The opening track ‘Sleeping With My Name’ shows the level of their ambition now, with the song moving through several different acts and incorporating a number of different styles it sounds very impressive, especially with the sparing use of a string section. Singer Vladislav Shahin has truly grown as a vocalist over the past 15 years or so, with his impressive guttural death growl now complemented by a strong and melodic clean style that reminds me a lot of Killing Miranda’s Richard Pyne, in particular on the traditionally gothic styled ‘Let the Music Cry’. The guitar work is much improved also, with the pairing of Vasiliy Morozov and Evgeniy Rusetskiy displaying a measured and patient style, with some nice, if not technically outstanding solo work.
Tracks such as ‘This Drama Will Be The Last’ and ‘Until I’m Bright’ clearly show the vision of the first album as there are moments and passages that echo their early work, yet now with improved musicianship and over a decade of experience you can genuinely appreciate the fruits of their collective labours. This version of the album contained 2 bonus tracks, the first of which is a stripped back version of ‘Let The Music Cry’ with a string accompaniment. As with Paradise Lost when they tried a similar experiment with the Lost in Prague Orchestra mixes, it never quite lives up to the expectation and lacks the impact it deserves. The other bonus track is a cover of ‘Rainbow Eyes’ as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio. When I saw this on the label I thought that this would almost certainly be a case of ambition outweighing talent, but I have to admit that they have carried it off very well. Shahin is clearly well outside of his comfort zone although his style is so far removed from Dio’s as to prevent any direct comparison. It is a welcome addition to the album and an interesting interpretation of a genuine classic.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Mournful Gust have taken the criticism of the past on board and have addressed many of their previous problems, whilst acknowledging their musical limitations and largely staying within the lines. ‘For All The Sins’ is their best work to date in my opinion, although it is only marginally better than ‘The Frankness Eve’. Whilst they are improving musically and growing in confidence as songwriters they still lack the ability to really draw in the listener. There are very few hooks and melodies that remain with you afterwards, even after multiple listens, and in a genre so rich with talent they still lack that last something that will turn them into contenders. That being said, this is still well worth checking out. It may not have been the mighty wind I was hoping for, but there is still a fresh breeze about it.
(7/10 Lee Kimber)