It is fitting that, here we are at the very end of 2018, and we are holding a mental funeral for the year. That’s also apropos because we are naming our No. 1 record of the year today, and it is Australian funeral doom legends Mournful Congregation’s masterful, elegant “The Incubus of Karma,” an album that arrested our souls when it landed March 23.
Mournful Congregation have been a favorite here for years and years, but this album is their supreme work. It’s devastating, scary, psychologically scarring, and cosmically bizarre. Their set at Migration Fest was one where you just had to stand and stare in wonder as these, and other, songs played out. I definitely was a little drunk when they played, second-to-last set of the fest, and I remember just gazing and taking in my first experience seeing these guys live. But we’re talking this album, and it’s a doom record for the generation. If you think that sounds hyperbolic and haven’t really immersed yourself in it yet, please change that. I’ve heavily sunk myself in the band’s other four albums, all of them top notch, but this is their finest hour (well, hour and 20 minutes). From “Whispering Spiritscapes,” the first non-instrumental cut on the album, to “The Rubaiyat,” to epic closer “A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being,” everything comes together expertly. Guitarist/vocalist Damon Good was generous enough to answer questions we had about the record, its creation, their time touring in America, and what they have on the horizon. All respect and hails to Mournful Congregation and “The Incubus of Karma,” our favorite record of 2018.
MEAT MEAD METAL: We are naming “The Incubus of Karma” our top record of the year. The band’s albums appearing here seems to be something that’s a regular thing with our site and your band. How do you feel about the record now that it’s been out in the world for some time?
DAMON GOOD: I’ve slowly come ’round to acknowledging the strengths of the record, as opposed to focusing only on the weaknesses. The positive reception from fans and reviewers has definitely helped my confidence. So, thank you. But I must admit at first, I was a bit apprehensive as to the strength of the album, probably due to spending too much time mixing it, etc. But in hindsight, I think it is a strong fifth album for us, and we could not have done any better at the time.
MMM: At six tracks and 80 minutes, the album might seem daunting on the outside, but once you experience the music, it feels half that long. It can’t be easy to keep such long songs interesting, so how does the band always seem to do it?
DG: In writing this type of music, it is important that it has a constant flow of aural stimulation. We analyze every section of music constantly throughout the writing and recording process to make sure something interesting is going on and that each section is as strong as possible at all times. Our song structures are such that they rarely repeat. Rather they flow from riff to riff with little regard for choruses and verses or any “standard” structure. However, in doing this, it is important that the structures have the right ebb and flow, the right dynamics, and build up to something rather than meander endlessly. I do find that our music has a tendency to time-dilate. Playing it live especially. It’s an interesting phenomenon.
MMM: “Whispering Spiritscapes” is such a spellbinding song and the ideal first full track after intro cut “The Indwelling Ascent.” What’s going on during this song, and what’s behind the chilling spoken lines at the track’s end?
DG: In the beginning of the song, we wanted a more traditional approach, ala traditional British Doom/ Death melodies, with some crafty three-guitar interplay. In the middle we explore some more obscure sections with some disharmonic dissonance, and toward the end some more progressive mid-paced stuff. This song is definitely the most dynamic on the album, therefore a good opener, I think. Lyrically, it is more akin to an inward psychedelic or meditative journey than anything else. The sermon at the end seemed to encapsulate the dissolution of the ego quite well, often experienced in such journeys. A preparatory warning, perhaps, of what is to come when the ego dissolves.
MMM: “The Rubaiyat” is an interesting topic for the track of the same name. Is this song based on FitzGerald’s work? Omar Khayyam’s poetry? Why did you select this for inspiration?
DG: Yes, FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat was the inspiration. I came across it in my grandmother’s book collection (I think it was quite a popular tome in the early 1900s). It seemed interesting and obscure to me, both in title and text. I also came across Yogananda’s commentary on The Rubaiyat, which revealed a much deeper meaning to it all. So, it seemed befitting and worthy of basing a song around. Once again, it documents the journey of self-realization, the dissolution of the ego and the discovery of the true nature of reality.
MMM: “A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being” is such a crushing ending to the record, the longest track at 22 minutes and one that’s swelling with emotion. What is it about that one the band decided this is fitting to close the book on “Karma”?
DG: We simply could not see this track fitting as perfectly anywhere else on the album. Plus, it has the perfect end section for the record. This is a special song for us in that the intro and outro, plus some other sections were written by Ben Petch, who I formed the band with and who had not written music for Mournful in probably two decades. So, it hearkens back to the earlier days of the band in my opinion, when myself and Petch were brainstorming together. And there is more of that to come since he is now a full-time member of the band once again.
MMM: Mournful Congregation obviously were a huge part of Migration Fest this past summer. Talk about your experiences during that festival. You don’t often get to the East Coast, so what was that like for you guys?
DG: I guess it just feels very welcoming and supportive, both having a label like 20 Buck Spin, who will provide an avenue like this for us to perform at, and the receptivity of the fans who came to the fest. Overall, we have felt very welcomed in the US over the last few years both on the West Coast and East Coast. Pittsburgh was a very nice city to visit, and a Fest like Migration has a very nice feeling of community among metalheads, with the perfect variety of bands and fans.
MMM: What can we expect going forward in 2019 from the band? Are more shows planned? Is it too soon to think about new music?
DG: Musically, we have a lot of material written for the next album. In fact, too much. We are in the process of culling it down and crafting it into the best possible follow-up to “The Incubus…” This could take some time. We need time for it to organically manifest and concepts to form and present themselves. Having some strong new material under our belts, there is no need to rush things at this point. As far as live performances go, we have no plans and no offers for 2019. So perhaps something will arise or perhaps nothing.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/mournfulcongregation
To buy the album (North America), go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/search?type=product&q=karma
Or here (Europe): http://www.osmoseproductions.com/index.cfm
For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/
And here: http://www.osmoseproductions.com/