by Niklas Göransson
During the millennial shift, Swedish black metal veterans Malign helped propel the wave of so-called orthodox black metal. After many years of inactivity, guitarist Mörk breaks his long silence by granting a rare interview.
Bearing in mind they are one of the Swedish underground’s most revered bands, MALIGN have produced precious little material: “Demo 1/95”, the 1996 “Live in Uppsala” tape, their ’98 “Fireborn” EP and 2002 ten-inch “Divine Facing”. The band then went into a state of hibernation. Thus, in 2011 it was to the surprise of many when MALIGN were announced as supporting act for a WATAIN show in Stockholm. After the concert they returned to dormancy – until now, with new ten-inch “A Sun to Scorch”.
– I left the scene for a long time, we just didn’t stir up a fuss about it. I explained to our label that I was ready to give up and how they shouldn’t hold their breath in wait for more material. In certain ways, those are sentiments I still have. Virtually anything related to black metal, or just metal in general, fills me with loathing and shame. I have however come to realise that we operate beyond the circus and this is something which must be done. We’re determined to be back for real this time.
Besides the original members Mörk and Nord, MALIGN’s line-up has been completed with two new recruits.
– They go by the names of Evig and Intet – that’s about all people need to know. MALIGN is not about cultivating personalities, we are instruments to the disposal of something entirely different. To this ‘something’, it matters not one bit if people regard us as ‘cool’ or not. What’s imperative here is that the individuals in question handle their tasks perfectly and infuse much-needed passion and drive into the band. As far as I’ve been able to determine, they also fit in well ideologically. Furthermore, they are the most rewarding musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of collaborating with; Intet‘s drumming style brings the occasional tear to my eye and one only has to show Evig half a riff for a flawless interpretation. They are now full members of the quartet that today, together with Nord and myself, constitutes MALIGN.
Prior to entering the studio, Mörk had precious little time to mingle with his new cohorts. He didn’t meet his new guitar player in person until they were in the studio.
– Back in 2014 I sent a few demo recordings to Nord. He got back to me half an hour later, stating that someone he knew had already transcribed all riffs by ear. Once we finally met and began collaborating, everything worked fine. I was initially very sceptical towards the notion of new members; note that this gentleman was born in 1994, the same year we started the band. He has however proven to be mature, balanced, and intelligent.
Regarding Intet, Mörk isn’t quite sure exactly how he ended up in the band but this was another one of Nord’s recruitments.
– We’d met briefly at an art gallery. I liked him and knew he was an amazing drummer. The day before the studio, we sat down and spoke over a few beers and, before I knew it, both of them were part of the band. This recording was meant as a test run more than anything else, with neither pretentions nor expectations. Had the recording been deemed lacking in the right atmosphere, we would’ve simply discarded the whole thing or released it under a different name. We only needed about two minutes of work until it was entirely apparent that this was indeed MALIGN.
Two tracks grace the new opus: “A Sun to Scorch” and “The Love of Abysmal Wrath”. One hymn to the sun and the other a love song, thusly.
– Sure, it might sound amusing when put like that. We progressed beyond lyrics about hating Christians somewhere around the completion of our third song. In regards to esoteric symbology, there is significantly more depth at play than what the uninitiated might gather from titles alone. However, I’ve also tried to ensure that our message isn’t shrouded in a cloud of gibberish. Compared to certain others we’re quite accessible, musically as well as lyrically, and there is reason and purpose behind this. Good music primarily targets the heart, guts and muscles – and perhaps only then the intellect. I’d say this is what we aim for, albeit inadvertently.
The EP is dedicated to Selim Lemouchi of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD, who died in March of 2014. Mörk doubts there would ever have been a new recording without his help and subsequent passing.
– Selim‘s demise certainly catapulted us back into action. His ghost and spirit were palpably present during the entire studio process and I will honour him with everything creative I undertake for the rest of my days. THE DEVIL’S BLOOD is one of the best bands in recorded history and one that drew their inspiration from the same cup as we do.
The cover artwork looks like an amalgamation of Edvard Munch‘s classic painting The Scream and the flagellation scene from The Seventh Seal. Mörk explains that it was painted in 1934 by one of Nord’s relatives and depicts plague victims cast out into the desert to perish under the ruthless sun.
– The original painting hung in his childhood home when we were teenagers. We loved it, the atmosphere is so intense. We were already planning on using it back then but never got the chance to and ended up forgetting about it entirely – until recently when we had to find cover artwork. While somewhat different it fits the material perfectly, so events playing out like this can hardly have been a coincidence.
Given free reign – logistically and judicially – what would a MALIGN concert look like?
– Were I to answer this one honestly I suspect the people in white coats would soon turn up to collect me. We’ve had – and still have – some pretty macabre plans but I assume most people would interpret what I have to say as sheer provocation. Let’s just leave it be for now.
Still somewhat curious, one wonders if this would even be feasible in practice.
– Everything in this world is about money and concerts are no exception. I don’t mean to say that we’re simply waiting for the right offer; playing live requires a lot of effort. MALIGN is not an active band in that sense, nor have we been for many years. We have no gear and never rehearse or even socialise privately. The fact of the matter is that we have declined several offers your average band would’ve jumped at, even ones promising twice as much as should be reasonable. Our current focus is on recording more material. If there are to be any live shows in the immediate future, I image it’ll be something small and intimate – by invitation only.
Mörk knows more about playing live than most, having been a touring member of WATAIN for several years.
– In 2001 I found myself standing in for their guitarist, Pelle, who had slashed his hand open just before a tour with UNPURE. They called and asked if I liked the album they’d given me, which I did. Then they asked if I could play the guitar, which I was entirely incapable of and still barely can. Anyway – I quit my job, rehearsed once or twice, and then went along. I later assumed bass duties for several years and played my final performance at the 2006 Party San festival in Germany. The short answer as to why I quit is that I’m not rock-star material. I look back on this period a bit like you would on a loved one you had to let go of, for both sakes. Their success makes me proud and happy and it does happen that I miss being a musician; rehearing and performing live, the bond you form. Nevertheless, I know everything which led to my departure has gotten a thousand times worse by now. Honestly, I can’t for the life of me understand how they manage to endure their fans and all other scum that flock to musicians. We remain close and help each other out if need be, I imagine this will always be the case.
In the Stockholm scene of the late 90s and early turn of the millennium, MALIGN were probably more renowned on the merits of antisocial behaviour than actual sonic output. Gruesome rumours surrounded the members and the circle they were part of. During concerts of the era it was a common sight to see them engaged in fisticuffs with other attendees, an often one-sided activity typically culminating in the suspected poser having his band shirt confiscated.
– The thing is that we took black metal seriously, a phenomenon that appears cyclical. What early black metal bands like VENOM and BATHORY did as a bit of a joke was held in much higher solemnity by the second wave from Sweden and Norway. Bombs, arson, murder. Our generation, the third one, took things even further; we just refrained from boasting about it, which is why most of us stayed out of prison. Not to mention that we were organised to a much higher degree compared to our predecessors. I have no idea if there’s been a fourth or ninth wave that’s been even nastier, I don’t read tabloids or internet gossip sites but one can at least hope. Violence itself is often pointless but I’ll make the case that there was a method to the madness. The Great Work has fundamental aspects that one cannot simply grasp from fancy books or arcane accessories alone. Gaining certain insights and being able to implement them requires both the administering and reception of violence. Even if most of what went on around us has expired in a purely judicial sense, there’s a lot that’s neither been nor ever should become known – satanism is about action, not words.
Looking back at all this today – is it as pure nostalgia or something that’s no longer relevant?
– Both, to be honest. In hindsight, I’d never have gotten to where I am now without these chaotic years. The utter devotion to violence, misery and decadence that burned during that time had specific meaning and defined certain matters. It was experimentation in pain, pleasure, evil, love, empathy, hatred, black and white – far transcending your average adolescent troublemaking. These days I regard myself as a bit of a pacifist, as long as the situation doesn’t require a more hands-on approach. On the other hand, this might very well be indicative of how isolated I am these days. I moved from Stockholm out into the country ten years ago. Nowadays it’s quite rare to find myself in situations that require violent solutions. At the same time I must admit that at the handful of rock concerts I’ve attended the last decade, it took approximately five minutes until the old familiar urge to administer fatal beatings to at least ninety percent of the attendees kicked in. Nevertheless, accidentally slaying some whippersnapper for having short hair or an undeserved shirt doesn’t feel particularly dignified when one is approaching forty. The aggression and fury are ever present, merely ventilated in a more sophisticated manner.
In addition to sidewalk-pugilism, MALIGN are notorious for relentlessly promulgating the religious aspect of black metal as one of fundamental importance.
– MALIGN exists to praise Satan. It is the only reason a black metal band should ever have to exist. But there is little point in attempting to put words on things that can’t be structured in simple prose your average person could comprehend. In this context, it would be outright blasphemy to even try. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: our music and lyrics contain everything worth knowing about us.
To what extent does theology influence your private life today?
– Religion permeates my very being. Granted, I might not be standing in the town square with a plaque hanging from my neck, bellowing incoherently about perdition – even if that’s a scenario which occasionally feels close at hand. My entire life has been about balancing the spiritual plane against, or with, existing and working here. It’s been a balancing act; I’ve only just now started to comprehend what I must do in order to be an efficient servant. I have come to set it all aflame!