The Australian funeral doom band Mournful Congregation return with The Incubus Of Karma, their first new album in more than six years. Frontman Damon Good gives us the lowdown on the record, the challenge of breaking an Australian band, the state of funeral doom and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: What led to the six plus year span between full-lengths?
Damon Good: We had decided not to rush the next album in any sense after The Book of Kings. But in this span of time we recorded the Concrescence of the Sophia EP and did some tours and live shows. When we did actually start to record the album in 2016, it took over a year to actually finish.
How did your newest member, drummer Tim Call, come to join the band a few years back?
We asked Tim to play drums for us on a U.S. tour back in 2012 as our previous drummer could not make the tour. And he has actually played every show and played on every recording with us since then. So although it started as a session thing, there was just never any need to get anyone else. He is just too perfect for the band.
Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for The Incubus Of Karma compared to past releases?
Not particularly. We pretty much stuck to the same methods of writing. I think the way we write in general is a little unique compared to most bands. Because there are so many guitar lines it is impossible to always memorize them all for the studio. So once they are written we score them out on paper so we have a reference for the studio and can allocate who plays what line for the live rendition.
Do you write more songs than you end up recording, or do you record everything you write?
Yes indeed, we do write more than we record. I could probably put together two sub par funeral doom albums with all the spare riffs and recordings I have abandoned. Sometimes the gold flows, and sometimes it takes hours and hours of wading through shit for a gold nugget to appear. This is also how we end up with music on our albums that spans many years.
Do you find it more challenging to write long, epic songs or the shorter, more focused ones?
Some of our longer songs have been challenging to write, and some have just flowed out unchallenged. We have definitely hit points in a song where we do not know where to take it until years later. We can sense when a song is done and when it needs to be expanded to epic lengths.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
My overall feeling from recording this album is one of frustration. Not the actual recording of it, but the mixing. It just took a lot longer than previous albums to get everything sitting right and to get everything we wanted into the mix and out of the mix.
Did you struggle with song order at all?
Yes. It took a while to settle on the perfect order for this album. It is a long album and a challenging listen, but it takes you on the journey we want you to be on in the end.
Is there a lyrical thread or theme?
There are common themes throughout, yes, although not necessarily intended from the beginning. But actually this album has more of a cohesive lyrical concept than any previous albums. “The Indwelling Ascent” sets it all in motion nicely, then “A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being” ends it all nicely. The further you journey inwards and comprehend the inner workings, the further you comprehend the outer workings and journey outwards. It is the grand paradox of consciousness.
A few of the songs would have made good album titles. How did you choose The Incubus Of Karma?
It has a nice ring to it. It encapsulates the weight of doom upon us all.
How much attention do you pay to reviews?
I’m always interested to read any I come across. I guess the ego wants to know what people are saying about its creation.
What are your upcoming tour plans?
We will play Migration Fest in the U.S. in July, plus a couple extra shows there.
And we will do a small 10 date European tour with Ophis in December ending at Madrid Is The Dark fest.
With your members all in numerous bands, does that make it difficult when scheduling tours?
It hasn’t been a problem so far. None of our bands are on the road that often or for very elongated periods of time, so it all seems to work fine.
In what way does playing in Mournful Congregation fulfill you that your other bands don’t?
Obviously it is a whole different beast than any other band I do, in the way it is composed and just the whole energy of the band is entirely different. It feels like a weightier excursion when playing live for me.
How challenging is it for an Australian band to make inroads in Europe and North America? How much progress do you think you’ve made?
The biggest challenge is being able to perform live overseas. Flights cost a lot, and promoters aren’t very willing to pay these excessive fees for a band who is not necessarily on their radar, or popular enough to warrant the expense. So a lot of bands never make it out of Australia to play live.
We have made good enough progress compared to a lot of other bands. We now get some good offers to play some good events in both the U.S. and Europe, and I think some earlier work and effort we have put in in this regard has finally paid off.
Have you considered releasing a live album or DVD?
As one of funeral doom’s longest running bands, have you been surprised by the increasing number of groups playing that style?
I was surprised around 1999/2000. That is when funeral doom really caught on and became its own specific genre. I remember a boom in demo bands, etc. starting to do this style around that time. It still seems quite a small ratio of bands do this style though, compared to other sub-genres. I’m actually surprised there are not more bigger funeral doom bands around these days. The top tier bands are all the ones who have been around since the ’90s really, which is fine by me.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?
That we must make a living off this band.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I don’t really have a heavy musical rotation going on lately, to be honest. But some albums I’ve recently enjoyed are Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast, Jeff Beck – Wired, Arthur Lyman, Camel – The Snow Goose, Mourning Beloveth – Rust and Bone and a few Deceased albums.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thank you very much for the interview. Much appreciated!
(interview published March 23, 2018)