Australian black metal outfit, Mhorgl shows no fear of stepping outside the proverbial box of the genre’s tradition while still very effectively paying tribute to their inspirational roots. With a rabid sound simultaneously fusing misanthropy and seething rage, the band’s latest effort has just put them on the worldwide map of the more extreme side of music. When Forbidden Magazine recently caught up with Mhorgl’s James Campbell, the bassist unleashed a virtual flood of information in regards to the band’s evolution and their unholy conjurations from Down Under!
Hails! First thing’s first. For those that might not be to familiar with the band, could you give a brief history of Mhorgl?
Hails! Mhorgl was formed in 2004 as a studio project, and in this form, put out a demo and a full-length recording entitled The Sacrificial Flame. The line-up at that time was myself on bass and guitars, Sam Moretta on vocals and Rob Thorpe on lead guitar. There was never really any intention for the band to be anything other than a recording project until we were asked to play live at a benefit for a local metal radio show in 2008. We decided it would be cool to play the show, but needed to find a drummer. We asked Louis Rando, the drummer of another local band called Furor, if he’d be interested in helping out for the show. He liked what we were doing with the music and things kind of progressed from there, with Louis becoming Mhorgl’s drummer on a permanent basis. With the full line up in place, we played regular live shows and wrote new material for a year or so which culminated in the recording of our second album Antinomian, released in May, 2010. The album caught the attention of Italian label The Execution Kollective which has led to Antinomian receiving worldwide release.
The band’s name might come across as a bit mysterious to some. What’s the story behind it?
Mhorgl is simply a corruption of the word Morgul meaning “dark sorcery”, taken from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Mhorgl has never really been inspired by Tolkien’s work apart from the title track of our first demo called The Shadow of Morgoth, but the idea of dark sorcery/black magic was an initial inspiration for the band’s music.
As a black metal band from Australia, what are Mhorgl’s highest musical influences?
Well, I would say that Darkthrone is probably the band that has influenced all the members of Mhorgl the most and is the strongest common influence that we have. We respect both their music and their attitude. They create music that is true to their vision and not to the expectations of others. Apart from them, we all have a wide variety of musical tastes, metal and non-metal but it is mainly the black, death and thrash metal influences the show through in Mhorgl’s music.
What else in this world inspires the band’s work, outside of music?
Mhorgl draws inspiration from the themes of death, war, destruction, rage, fear, and other such powerful aspects of life and endeavors to express these in an aural form.
Speaking of the band’s home turf, how would you describe the metal scene in Australia, and in particular, the presence of black metal in general?
The metal scene in Australia is fairly healthy I would say. There are a few bigger bands doing well internationally such as Psycroptic, The Amenta and Nazxul plus more underground bands doing well also like Drowning the Light, Pestilential Shadows, Destruktor and others. Black metal has a reasonably strong presence in Australia and there are quite a few bands active around the nation but distance and organization make tours and shows few and far between. There was a black metal festival in Sydney recently featuring bands from all around Australia including Wardaemonic and Naetu, two bands from Perth, Mhorgl’s hometown. It was a first for black metal in this country and by all accounts was very successful, so I think that bodes well for the further development of the genre here as far as shows and bands touring.
Can you recall the instance in life that you were first drawn toward the world of black metal, or the more extreme side of music in general?
As I mentioned before, Darkthrone have been a big influence on Mhorgl and also for me personally. Darkthrone were the band that drew me fully into listening to black metal although I had been a fan of Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost, Sodom and Destruction, etc. previously. I really liked the Soulside Journey album when it came out and when Darkthrone then changed direction with A Blaze in the Northern Sky, I was drawn into what the Norwegians were doing with black metal and hooked from then on.
How did the creative/writing process for Antinomian compare to that of 2007’s The Sacrificial Flame?
It was very different process. I wrote all of the material on The Sacrificial Flame apart from the last track. There was no real input from others until the vocals and lead guitar parts were recorded. The songs kind of evolved from what was basically going to be a second demo, into something more substantial and all the material felt related. Antinomian, on the other hand, was written as a full band with input from all members. Whilst it was not written in the rehearsal studio as such, everybody was coming in with songs pretty much fully realized, but everyone was able to put their stamp on the songs. We also dropped the keyboard elements that had been strong on The Sacrificial Flame, as Mhorgl was focusing on live performance at they were not part of the live band. Antinomian is a reflection of the bands progression from studio to live band.
The cover art for both records seems to carry a common theme, with a sense of mystery. Can you shed some light on the concepts of the artwork on both?
The artwork for Antinomian is basically a comment on the hypocrisy of organized religion and how they set strong moral laws for their followers yet the organizations themselves, the church etc., seem to disregard these same values in pursuit of political and financial gain. The Sacrificial Flame album was loosely based around the concept of sacrifice, either literal or figurative. The cover is a depiction of a child sacrifice/demonic summoning. It doesn’t relate specifically to a particular track on the album although there are a number which are based around the theme of human sacrifice.
For those that may be unaware, can you describe the concept of Antinomian?
Antinomianism is the religious belief that salvation comes from faith alone and not from adherence to moral codes or laws. In other words, your actions in this world have no bearing on your spiritual salvation and therefore sin is an irrelevant concept.
Compared to the ideology behind the work of other black metal bands, how do you feel Mhorgl fits into the picture or otherwise?
Mhorgl is not as ideologically-driven as a lot of other bands, I guess. We are more inspired by darker aspects of world and human nature than a specific ideology although the band does have a strong anti-christian, anti-organized religion stance.
How do the members of Mhorgl spend their time outside of the band?
Our drummer Louis plays live drums for a death metal band from Dubai called Nervecell, so he is kept fairly busy with that outside of Mhorgl. Nervecell have been promoting themselves quite heavily in Europe and Asia and playing a lot of shows in those regions over the past few years. Louis flies out to tour with those guys whenever they have shows planned. He and Rob are also involved with thrash metal band called Shrapnel which play shows now and then in our home town. Shrapnel has an album out at the moment called Hellbound. The rest of us work but are involved in various musical projects.
In light of the band’s recent cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley”, how would you say the bands and music of that era have influenced the Mhorgl sound?
I would say there is an influence from bands of that era in Mhorgl’s riffs, songwriting and use of lead guitar breaks. We grew up listening to bands like Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest and many other bands from that era, so they definitely have an underlying influence on Mhorgl’s sound.
What does the remainder of 2011 have in store for the band? Recordings? Tours?
Mhorgl is currently recording our third album, and it won’t be too long before that is finished. We will be working hard to get that released before the end of the year and will be looking at organizing a tour in support of the new album.
It’s been a pleasure! Forbidden Magazine thanks you for your time! Any last words?
Thank you very much for the interview. For your readers who are interested please check out our latest album, Antinomian, which has just had a world wide release through The Execution Kollective.