by Niklas Göransson
Swedish black metal duo Murg share a vision of nature in its purest form – and whether the results come soaring through the sky or boiling out from the earth’s core, there is justice in the scourging of an evidently malignant humanoid infestation.
– Our lack of internet presence is absolutely a conscious decision to avoid attention, says the gentleman I’m speaking to but who declines to give neither name nor rank, we have no interest or knowledge in operating websites or social media channels. Nordvis, our label, does a great job in getting us out there so there’s really no need.
The members operate under secrecy, but judging from promo photos they appear to be a duo.
– Yes, he confirms, there are two of us. Why not anonymity? It’s not as if we’re politicians, so there’s no reason for people to see our stupid faces or know our names. We record music, and we’re glad that Nordvis likes it enough to distribute our albums.
If one is to believe the rather scarce information that’s available, MURG as a band is an artistic portrayal of what its members envision awaits humanity.
– Our debut, “Varg & Björn” (‘wolf and bear’), depicts the swift annihilation of mankind and society as a whole. The new album, “Gudatall”, is about a small group of survivors slowly perishing in their dugouts – totally subdued under nature’s rules. That pretty much sums up what I imagine lies in store.
MURG are known to reside in an old mining district known as Bergslagen, with the adjacent forests cited as a strong influence.
– I definitely believe that the relationship one has with the natural surroundings can affect the music. That’s the feeling we’re striving for, the raw and icy – it resonates how we feel and sounds like what nature looks like.
As stated, the title of the latest record is “Gudatall” – which means ‘pine god’. I’m unsure how to process this information.
– People never seem to stop believing in higher forces, so why not a tree? It’s what the survivors see as their god – and yes, conjuring up imaginary worlds might seem pretentious as fuck but that’s how we do it.
These concepts would obviously have been a simple task for the listener to investigate, had MURG actually bothered publishing their lyrics. My suspicions about bands that withhold theirs generally tend to lean towards the poetically challenged.
– Hah! Maybe so? As soon as you release something it no longer belongs to you, and that’s all right as long as you don’t have to answer for it.
I suspect that part of their reluctance stems from people taking lyric phrases out of context, distorting them with their own interpretations and then forcing the band to comment.
– Shit, he says bemused, you nailed it – couldn’t have said it better myself. That, and we prefer our album booklets clean.
I suspected as much, this is however precisely what I’m about to do. Through a vigorous application of diplomacy and thinly veiled blackmail, I was able to obtain said lyrics directly from the label. After studying them, I conceded that my initial qualms of pedestrian prose were unfounded – which makes this all the more perplexing.
– Lyrical content was never really anything we were particularly interested in, the same goes for ‘the scene’ in general. Much of what today is considered classic black metal was written by twenty-year-olds imagining themselves to be anywhere in-between Goethe and Count Dracula, often reflected in writing quality.
Preferring not to ruin music by suffering literary infantilism, he simply refrains from exposing himself to it.
– I’ve never read the lyrics for BURZUM’s “Hvis lyset tar oss”, but one knows precisely what he’s on about just by listening. That’s the power and the beauty of it.
“Sorgeblot i gångarna” – am I reading this right, that it’s about eating the flesh of the dead?
– When there’s extreme scarcity of food, a logical step is to preserve meat from the deceased – and the supply is endless. Malnourishment, and having to use wood as fuel for the fires, means that disease will spread.
“Mästarens resa i mörkret” speaks of a man leaving his body on a plant-vapour induced spirit-quest, traversing inwards to seek council from generations past. I have recently heard of a variety of florae capable of facilitating an astral audience with the ancestral. (I, II, III)
– Hah, show me! Drugs are expensive. In searching for answers about their inevitable demise, the survivors send their master to the realm of the dead with hallucinogenic plants found in the vicinity. A classic.
MURG’s music serves as soundtrack for this story, so the song arrangements are structured accordingly.
– We have all the titles and main storyline finished before we start composing. This way, whenever we come up with a riff or a melody – the feeling it generates will immediately tell us where it fits conceptually on the album.
This story seems pretty intricate – plots, characters, theology and so forth.
– For us it’s about the music and the atmosphere it creates, the lyrics are our own little circle-jerk to get us in the right mood. It’s the music that’s our main focus and what we want to release.
Might is right, as MURG’s title “Den starkes rätt” proclaims. Touting this bold statement, I’m curious if they subscribe to some manner of social Darwinism or other elitist ideology.
– Most definitely not, he declares in no uncertain terms, we are maggots – just like everyone else. There’s no ‘might’ in man, it lies in nature; the wolf and the bear. Those living in accordance to the true rules, and who as judge and executioner will maul mankind into mince.
Different forms of life exist in self-sustaining cycles, he observes, and everything living feeds within a closed ecological system which in turn absorbs them when they die.
– And along comes the human being; making room for himself with no questions asked, digging up minerals and old solar energy that have no place in any eco system. It’s only logical that the majority of all life-forms will eventually die gasping from toxic fumes – let us hope that humanity is one of the first.
MURG believe that all of us have forfeited our raison d’être by committing various ecological transgressions.
– We’ve been living in the golden age from a biological perspective, and this is what we are now slowly raping to death. The amount of species we’ve driven into extinction, for instance, is staggering.
As dastardly as that might be, mankind’s contributions to the death of fauna pale in comparison to what nature and the universe have done. Take the Younger Dryas – a massive cataclysm in the shape of a comet which occurred roughly 12 800 years ago. It’s believed to have wiped out millions of species – including countless megafauna, and reshaped entire continents. Pretty heavy duty stuff that not even the worst eco-criminals of humanity combined could aspire to.
– The difference of the matter is that a comet just happens, it’s not as if it makes an active choice to orchestrate a fiery plunge into the earth. It’s part of the endless universal recurrence. We humans are also just a temporary fragment of nature and existence, perhaps the only self-conscious being in the entire cosmos, but like all forms of life we’re instinctually programmed to stay alive.
Indeed, it’s almost tempting to decry the blatant injustice of it all; being exterminated sounds like a bloody inconvenience – especially when one has never personally perpetrated any large-scale environmental harm.
– Now you speak in terms of morality and other human inventions; ‘Oh, but I’m innocent!’, as if you yourself would have some kind of value by simply existing.
Is there no sense of ego in all of this then, I’m left wondering – why give up one’s own life just to see the fall of man? Surely the scourging of a 200 000 year-old species from a planet that is 4.5 billion years old could wait another century or so. In the time-scale that the Gaia operates under, it wouldn’t take more than the blink of an eye to repair whatever damage humans could inflict.
– If something exists then it’s dying – energy is redistributed, not replaced. It’s true on earth and at least in our observable universe, and there’s an absolute beauty to that. This hatred and disgust comes from the arrogance of mankind, and the parasitic nature of our actions.
To illustrate what the future may hold for Earth if man is allowed to reign free, he mentions Venus. The planet has a surface so hot that it will melt lead – conditions believed to have been caused by a runaway greenhouse effect. All of her oceans are vaporised and steam perpetually fills the atmosphere.
– Earth’s chemical composition is a highly delicate balance. Through our actions we are altering this organic equilibrium, knowingly and in full compliance with our civilisation’s financial logic.
The economy is something that can wreak almost as much havoc as nature. The stock market crash of 2008, for instance, saw millions lose their homes in the United States alone.
– Exactly – to the majority, the monetary is a root cause for everything from daily anxiety to suicide. For a few, it’s a game of monopoly.
An estimated five thousand children die in India every day. In Africa, the same amount perish from dirty drinking-water alone. This still occurs despite the billions in foreign aid the stricken countries receive – which makes it difficult to appreciate the scope of what might happen if this financial influx were to cease following even worse market disruptions. As such, whoever controls global finances wields an almost divine influence over life and death.
– It’s astonishing that such a small number rule the many, but people’s need for leader figures is evidently insatiable, it has been the same throughout history. As long as there’s more than one person, there’s an economy – but the organisation of it is a human construct and can take many different forms.
Do you see the financial currents as any kind of sentient force, like Mammon?
– In my view, Mammon is the people ruling the economy and by extension controlling people. But they are slaves as well – to their own greed and lust for power.
What lasting wounds is man even capable of carving in Mother Earth, one could ask. Certainly, we can render vast areas inhospitable to ourselves for a million years – but that doesn’t mean that nature has been harmed. Look at Chernobyl for instance; the surroundings are recuperating perfectly fine now that the humanoid infestation has been dealt the radioactive relocation treatment.
– In comparison to other types of destruction caused by modern civilisation, Chernobyl was an isolated event. There’s not a tree in the forests, nor river or animal that’s been spared human poison. On a cellular level, what we like to call nature is really nothing more than man’s waste-ground.
What does your utopian vision of the great wild look like then?
– In our view, nature stands for the pure and the clean – the untouched, the way that life actually functions; an indifferent realm where everything living is equal under its laws. Perhaps another comet or a volcano could deal sufficient mayhem.
Had I been a gambling man, my coinage would be on the latter. The ground in Yellowstone, the largest active supervolcano in the Americas, has seen significant swelling since monitoring commenced a century ago. Historically, it’s been neatly erupting with a near-clockwork cycle every 600 000 years. As it happens, its last little tantrum was 640 000 years ago, and for most reading this an outbreak would mean the end of life as we know it.
– That’s fair game. When the species I belong to, intentionally and without hesitation, commits repeated atrocities against nature, we should all be dragged to trial and hanged.
He points out the bitter irony that our so-called prosperity is built on unearthing materials that should have been left in peace – and in this scenario, it’s what comes from within earth that will instil the final peace.
– It’s a never-ending story. Disregarding technical advancements, humanity’s basic functionalities will always be the same. These are the themes that fuel the lyrics; the parasitic nature of man, and gluttonous overconsumption without reciprocity.
So there is, as the classic Swedish garment states, no future for democracy?
– The society we live in requires rules to function properly, the problem is that a large portion of the human psyche lacks such concepts. It’s fascinating really, how our abstract thinking always seems to lead to sophisticated forms of inflicting murder and misery.
Objection; judging from small tribal communities that still live as hunter-gatherers, intra-group rules not only develop alike globally but are also adhered to without enforcement. One will also rarely, if ever, see anything resembling torture or rape – those are perversions that wait along the road from settlement to metropolis.
– I won’t argue with that, but perhaps we’re talking in a more modern and urban context. Humans are pack animals that follow inherent codes of conduct and rules, just as you’re saying.
Another thing one rarely finds in said tribes is depression, mental illness or even boredom. However tedious the task – without a social safety net or family support to fall back on, working might seem more like a meaningful survival task rather than means of feeding contemporary whims.
– First we must distinguish between surviving and feeling alive, the former will always be the main goal. I believe that the more you stick to the baser needs, the surer one is with one’s role in a social context – the local storyline, the more meaning and purpose one feels with existence.
Going by the scientific theory of Dunbar’s number, which is essentially an estimation of the optimal amount of fellow humans to share a tribe with; the most commonly used value is one-hundred and fifty. Once a society exceeds that cap, they will be forced to introduce more restrictions and eventually create laws that must be imposed.
– It’s about social control. Smaller groups govern themselves through daily interpersonal contact. Larger groups – for example nations, need things like organised religion, patriotism, mass-media or whatever, to fall in line.
His view is that any rules and ethics a community develops is an instinctual response to the documented human disposition towards self-serving brutality and bullying.
– Most people manage to suppress these urges, and the ones that don’t become pariah. But we can’t go against our instincts; our taste for blood and violence is a constant – just look at our news and entertainment. Music is no different, it’s escapism like everything else.
He sums it all up as ‘channels for the primal fuckery’.
– Perhaps social control is more rigid and present in tribal communities, where everyone has a personal relationship. That’s an interesting aspect of human warfare – morals are inverted in the interaction with ‘the other’, the creatures from a different pack.
Large-scale conflict is something engaged in only after the advent of agriculture and livestock. First we settle, then we have a surplus that needs to be defended from those who want it for themselves – so we arm ourselves, and then glance at nearby land when the living space gets cramped. “Grannen är din fiende” – ‘the neighbour is your enemy’, as the MURG title states.
– Theoretically, you could establish an agricultural production fully assimilated in its surroundings. Also, hypothetically speaking, if you base your financial system on ecological principles then you have a real shot at co-existing with nature. But we both know that this will never happen, certainly not on a grand scale.
On the contrary, he predicts, we are far more likely to keep increasing in numbers exponentially until the planet gives the wheel of Malthusian misfortune another spin.
– From an evolutionary standpoint, we can never be reintroduced to nature. Even if we were to return to a more basic means of production; the human brain is a malicious creation. There’s no harmony to be found in the Homo sapien, either we’re here slowly consuming everything or we’re not here at all.
Overpopulation has historically been dealt with through a series of inventive methods, none of them pleasant for the recipient. Plagues, wars, famine, volcanic winters, natural disasters, and so on – whatever lies in wait for this civilisation, I trust MURG will welcome it with open arms.
– We’re not psychopaths, there is no joy in the misery of others. At the same time, life is suffering – and you deal with that the best you can until the day you die.
Modern science has alleviated much human suffering, by not only preventing sickness but also ridding many afflictions of their fatality. Then there is the average life-expectancy that’s doubled and more in the last century.
– The most peaceful way would be to stop breeding, but this is yet another dream we will never see. Procreation is every species core reason to stay alive, because that’s why we’re here in the first place. The difference now is that we have become exempt from the process of natural selection.
There is no solution, he claims, mankind is set in its ways and will never change.
– All of these societal factors controlling our minds and governing our lives are perversions. We’re all slaves – some just happen to wear fancier clothes, but all of us are forever rejected from any real processes, any real life.
What about when the collapse finally comes, are you a so-called prepper?
– Hah, he scoffs, no – we’re not tinfoil-hat morons.
Even if they don’t expect to survive the cull, I’m curious what this post-apocalyptic vision their songs are based on looks like.
– Something pure; nature untainted by man. This day of reckoning is not a radioactive crater, it’s the cleansing of a bloodsucking parasite and a reintroduction of ecological and natural functions. The group of remnants we write about on “Gudatall” nominate their own deity, as people do, but the tree slowly dies. The landscape around them is healthy and pristine but the maggots are just not welcome there. It’s not their world anymore.