Remember the first doom metal bonanza

by Brett Stevens
January 1, 2014 –

morgion-solinari

bo·nan·za, noun
2.
a source of great and sudden wealth or luck; a spectacular windfall: The play proved to be a bonanza for its lucky backers.

Does anyone remember Morgion? They had a reunion a few years ago, and it seemed to peak interest for a month and then vanish. That’s a far cry from how it was in the late 1990s when Morgion was considered the future of metal.

Morgion was atmospheric heavy metal styled doom metal, or basically Black Sabbathy stuff with a little death metal technique and a lot of keyboards. Death metal had just burnt out, and the labels needed something new to fire out the cannons. As a result, the first doom metal boom was born.

This boom died of course because the real public discovered black metal exactly five years past its point of relevance, and suddenly it was quite popular and everyone had to have a black metal band. But before that, the labels and magazines had been casting about for something to call the future. No one wants to admit the best days are behind, but for all things, the day comes when that is true.

Back to Morgion. What happened? They produced some albums, lost a band member to a tragic accident, toured a lot and were on the cover of every magazine. Following up years later on the trail Cathedral blazed, there was a brief period where melodic and atmospheric doom metal bands came out of the woodwork to inherit the spotlight. There was a great gold rush to get on the gravy train of the popular trend of the moment, as if illustrating the dangers warned of by black metal. Death metal bands slowed down and added keyboards and strings. It was an odd time, one where the indecision in the air smelled strong.

My point is this, and it’s stolen straight out of Plato: there’s two ways to approach life. The first is to figure out what the idea is that gives it meaning, and then put that into flesh. The other is to accept the flesh as the end goal, and then use ideas to justify the behavior of the flesh. The first doom metal boom was the latter. It wasn’t about expressing an idea, cultivating a soul or any of the good things music does (including bringing us face to face with our fears and making us want to win). It was about bucketloads of cash since no one had any upward ideas.

We’ve forgotten about this now, shoveled it straight into the memory hole. Think about it: there was a time when you couldn’t go anywhere in metal without hearing about Morgion. Now you never do, only a decade later. And other bands persist seemingly immortal. It seems the first (Platonic) approach leads to something greater than life itself, where the latter drags us down into the same morass that clutches pop, politics, late night TV and mass religion, and once it has us it will never let go.

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24 comments

  • apathetic loser

    “The first doom metal boom was the latter. It wasn’t about expressing an idea, cultivating a soul or any of the good things music does (including bringing us face to face with our fears and making us want to win). It was about bucketloads of cash since no one had any upward ideas.”

    Yeah because doom metal brings in bucketloads of cash. I’m sure that’s why all those bands and labels were dealing with slow, dark, heavy music that wallowed in despair. The vast majority of the population doesn’t want to feel depressed, let alone pay for the privilege.

    If you don’t like doom metal that’s fine, but can you at least come up with a more viable reason why this supposed doom metal “boom” ultimately failed? I highly doubt that, save for the severely desperate, anyone will honestly buy that it was because they wanted to make “bucketloads of cash”.

    By the way, I don’t recall Morgion being pushed any more than any other doom band during that time. I have a rather large collection of metal magazines from that time period and I’m sure they were never the featured cover artist for any of them.

    1. Juancho Corpse

      “I’m sure that’s why all those bands and labels were dealing with slow, dark, heavy music that wallowed in despair. The vast majority of the population doesn’t want to feel depressed, let alone pay for the privilege.”

      You could be very well describing Radiohead, just without the “heavy” epithet, and guess what? they made “bucketloads of cash”, so your argument is also invalid.

      1. apathetic loser

        There’s a reason why music like Radiohead is commercially successful and music like Morgion is not. The despair (trivial) of Radiohead is not the same as the despair (heavy) of doom metal.

        So why didn’t all the doom metal bands just play alternative/Britpop like Radiohead instead? Surely that would have been a more accessible path.

        1. Juancho Corpse

          It’s the same formula, only adequated to a different audience: indie/alternative kids VS metalheads.
          If you don’t remember, doom metal was once considered the most commercially promising subgenre within metal limits, which are of course not comparable to those of mainstream music.

  • Lord Mosher

    There were a few lesser known Doom bands promoted by Prozak or his staff back in the day, for instance: Alastis (back on Prozak’s Mc Bong days!), Dark Millennium (Kontinual’s seal of approval), Creepmime, Nightmare Visions, Ceremonium and Argentum (from Mexico). Aside from the big names we all know.
    .
    There are other bands I’ve seen mentioned on the Metal Hall and a few findings that I deem worthy. I’d like to drop a few names and see what you fellers think bout them:
    .
    Dream Death (1987) – Arguably the first speedmetal Doom band.
    Sempiternal Deathreign (1989) like a punkier early Paradise Lost
    Necro Schizma (1989) – slow Hellhammer doom metal
    Spina Bifida (1993) – slow Metallica meets Cathedral
    Symphony of Grief (1994) – like a very slow Morpheus Descends.
    Mystic Charm (1994) – Like a very slow Obituary
    Mordor (1991) – this one’s ambient doom metal
    and of course, Unholy (1993) Winter meets Skepticism.

    1. Robert

      You can do no wrong with Ceremonium. Their two full length albums were some of the greats in both death and doom metal. I’m glad someone mentioned them. Not too many fans of this band and I question why.

    2. trystero

      Dark Millenium`s first is a solid heavy metal style death metal album played slowly. Quite worth listening to and the endorsement by Kontinual is legitimate. Check it out. The title track is the strongest and seems almost like it was made to be a single, yet the rest of the album also works as a concept album. Some are turned off by the screech vocals, which sound like Lori Bravo sometimes honestly (praise of Lori, not denigration of Dark Millenium). Stay away from further output. Far, far away.

      Paradise Lost had two decent albums. The first is, once again, heavy metal styled death metal played slowly. Lost Paradise is very strong material. The second album added both gothic metal elements and a bit of wankery. The art faded a bit but it is still worth at least one listen (Dead Emotion is a solid track for instance, could even have been on the first).

      Creepmime is experimental heavy metal and extremely effective, heartfelt stuff. Not maudlin like most doom, not negative in that sappy way that a lot of these bands became. It has the soul of Cathedral.

      Cathedral – Forest of Equilibrium was a powerful album that has survived to this day. Lyrically brilliant, musically effective. Very minimalistic, playing heavy metal in a clinical grindcore style… slowed to a crawl. Very, very strong and the jewel in the crown of thorns wich is doom metal. Candlemass deserves no mention, Cathedral were strongly influenced by them but they extracted just the elements that they required. Candlemass kept going faithfully for a few albums but later were absorbed by trend and scene. Quite unfortunate, yet I wold recomend listenig to the first two (up to Nightfall

      The greatest, truest expression of doom metal imo was Ras Algeti. There is no comparison to that band. Not even discussing stuff like Skepticism and Thergothon. Instead lets head to My Dying Bride. One album maybe worth listening to if you a day or s t9 hivvvve

      1. trystero

        Unholy is also very solid, but once again this is just slower Finnish death and not really uniquely doom. Now whether that is a category of metal anyway is debateable.

        *Last sentence was supposed to be: One album may be worth listening to (first) if you have a day or two to spare for educational purposes.

  • Anthony

    Both Morgion albums are actually rather interesting listens, but they don’t really fall into the standard accepted retro-doom/death format, so the Relapse compilation of their discography only goes for $5.00 online instead of $50.00.

    Also, bands like Mystic Charm and Sempiternal Deathreign are boring as shit and part of why doom metal might have a bad name around these parts. Dream Death is cool though.

  • Dionysus

    I get why this kind of doom is looked down upon around these parts, but what’s the site’s take on funeral doom like Mournful Congregation and Worship? To my ears they boast some of the sharpest and most fluid melodic composition in metal.

  • SERIOUS QUESTIONER

    Dear Brett Stevens:

    Are these bands’ early output any good ? This is a list of bands compiled from the metal hall forum of past years:
    THE BLACK
    OSCULUM INFAME
    EINHERJER
    NASTROND
    RAGNAROK
    SÓLSTAFIR
    FIENDISH NYMPH
    TWILIGHT
    DISMAL
    ZEPHYROUS
    MALIGNANT ETERNAL
    ZEMIAL
    ORDER OF THE EBON HAND
    MEGIDDO
    BLOODAXE
    KAWIR
    LUNAR AURORA

  • Richard Roma

    Although atmospheric doom had a brief flash in the pan around then, it had much more to do with My Dying Bride. I still listen to Morgion fairly often, especially “Cloaked By Ages, Crowned in Earth” which has held up quite well.

    No one wants to buy the Relapse discography compilation because it stupidly splits their debut album across both discs and you have to change the CD to hear it in its entirety.

  • dawn

    To answer the OP’s question: yes, I remember Morgion, quite fondly in fact. They never took off the same way most other doom bands never took off; their tempo was too slow for the average metal fan(ADHD motherfucker) to get excited and headbang to. They had a nice career, and at least they knew when to hang it up and move on.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_w90aC7X78

  • EricSyre

    I think we’ve never been as close as we are to Doom Metal being trendy these days. Every band out there has doomy riffs and try to fit in some stoner bits. The big question should be ‘What will be big next’? Where will the labels dig this time in order to get their new big trend?

  • West

    I think you should reconsider your reading of Plato. Diotima’s speech on love in the symposium considers the flesh as an opportunity or first step towards its formal perfection. Just like the man in the cave who first looks at the shadows on the wall, not realizing there is a great light outside the cave, someone in love first sees only the physical beauty. Perhaps Plato can be interpreted here as saying that a person who is attracted to the flesh has done nothing wrong; rather, they are partaking in one of the emanations of perfect beauty, preparing themselves for something greater, achieved later in thoughtful reflection. Similarly, the man in the cave does not realize the sun even exists until he is forced to see it. He does not think it first, but is impressed by it because he knows only a weaker light. What difference would it make to him to know that there was some great sun if there had not been this first, weaker light? One must scale the steps one at a time. The earthly, mundane world as a more or less positive element in the progression towards beauty and truth.

  • morgion

    Old post, I know, but this is probably the most uneducated, presumptuous post I’ve seen in a while. Spend more than five minutes of research to debunk every assumption here. Don’t take the fact I was a Morgion-ite fool you into thinking I’m taking this personally–I’m not–but I’m having a good laugh at the sheer ignorance of this piece, likely written by someone who was in diapers when we were doing our thing. “Gold rush?” “Gravy train?” “Popular trend of the moment?” You couldn’t be more wrong. Morgion naturally moved from it’s death metal roots to more or less what people call “doom” between 1992 and 1994. Please enlighten me to the “gravy train gold rush” doom had at the time, I’d like to hear it. Because as I remember it, we were the black sheep in every way doing what we loved. We were on a label that didn’t really give a crap about doom metal, but more likely signed us because of the “OC” scene at the time (along with Phobia, Mindrot, et cetera) before another label did, “just in case” we had selling potential. After our second album, our band, along with others on the label, was simply a cash write-off that helped fund the top selling bands. We did tours with death metal bands and were always cast to the side or unappreciated to the majority; which really didn’t bother us as long as we could do our thing. Cover of every magazine? Name one, just one. Never happened, unless you’re referring to our name in text on the cover (which was always occupied by the “gravy train gold rush” band’s photo. Doom was a niche, not a gravy train. The flip side to that coin was the fact we loved the music we were making, and to the few people who came to see us and we connected with, they made it all the more worthwhile. Most of us are humbled and flattered should the name even come up these days, because we’d like to think it is a reflection of all the hard work we put into things and the few who keep spinning the records and keep things alive. In short, we aren’t remembered because we were commercially successful. If that was in fact our legacy as you elude to in this pointless piece, I’d be enjoying my commercial viability and staging my next corporate rock move, all the while damning you for exposing my cash cow scheme. Instead, I’m choosing to do what I love, still making music, not caring to be on a label, not changing a damn thing to be trendy or fit in to what’s popular, and not caring if a handful of people hear my music more than tens of thousands. Fans are always appreciated, but I didn’t make music with them in mind, I made it with what I myself wanted to hear in mind, and was always grateful if anyone else appreciated it too. Cheers.

    1. Lord Mosher

      I still enjoy Among Majestic Ruin. The follow up album still seems to elude me but your first record does deliver the goods.
      .
      I’d like to ask your opinion on the doom metal style. Some people, myself included, opine that doom metal is not really a subgenre because it’s only either slowed down heavy metal or death metal, without exploring any new territory. What’s your take on that view?
      .
      What ideas were you trying to express with Morgion and how do those ideas relate to your selected style of metal?.
      .
      It’d be interesting to see the site’s staff interview Morgion to go indepth about a musical style that some deem frivolous.

  • morgion

    Greetings Lord Mosher… Thanks for the good valid questions. Apologies in advance; I’m a verbose doom hermit but hope I answered your questions faithfully, ha

    As with any genre many bands jump on, frivolous eventually sets in. I suppose my point from before was the fact that we didn’t just jump into the genre, particularly for the reasons above. I come from death metal…Carnage, Entombed, Dismember, Grave, Autopsy, Carcass, Bolt Thrower, etc. I could walk on stage tomorrow with just an acoustic guitar and be more rooted in death metal than most new bands playing today (that’s the only pompous statement I’ll make ha). For me, the death metal style started to become old in the early 90s; there was a point where I felt no one was doing anything new or different (my old band at the time included). Two albums that changed my life, so to say: Paradise Lost “Lost Paradise” and Cathedral “Forest Equilibrium” (forget that the latter became the definition of frivolous for a moment ha). These an approach to extreme metal that I didn’t catch before; there was a way to deliver music that was dark, heavy and somehow connected more on an emotional level, not to mention it wasn’t too a far departure from what we were already heading to (albeit in different bands a the time; I joined Morgion in 1995). Our slow parts just seemed to pummel more than our speed parts. So is doom just slowed down death metal? There is a good general truth to that, but simply playing “Left Hand Path” at 1/2 speed doesn’t quite qualify (though Morgion certainly had the Swedish Buzzsaw sound first day to the last! Again, we were rooted in death metal). The difference is also reflected in the themes, the lyrics, the artwork, the attitude and the delivery. It takes a bit of finesse. If it’s done right, is absolutely new territory. A band to me is an entire package of these elements. Frivolous doom bands (I’m agreeing, there is (was?) a lot of that out there, are bands that thought they could play the same songs and just add a keyboardist or a female vocalist…viola! Substandard doom for the most part, and I rarely listened to any other doom bands. I still don’t; I’m too picky and know the elements all too well to enjoy them unless they are stellar. Same story as death metal. I’m not saying we were or weren’t substandard; that’s up to the listener, but I will say that we approached everything we did naturally and wholeheartedly, and when we saw the typical pitfalls and clichés over the years (female guest vocals, violins, etc), we avoided them like the plague. The second pitfall to the genre, which is a matter of opinion to each their own, is how mainstream some of the long-running doom bands became, which people reflect on the genre as a whole for some reason. Paradise Lost was mid-paced death metal; Anathema came from being a subpar doom band (in my opinion); My Dying Bride has almost always stuck to their guns. All three were, at some point, labeled doom. Would I call all 3 bands doom today? Probably not if I were forced to categorize. If one or two of those bands dabble into mainstream, does it disqualify the whole doom genre? I hope not, because there are plenty of death metal bands who dabbled in nu metal or worse to make a buck that I can counter the argument with. Doom, to me, was never about how far into mainstream territory you could push things and still stay on a “metal” label; a true doom album to me is every bit as punishing as death metal, just on an emotional level.

    We played a private wake for one of our fallen friends years ago, and that little gig is burned into my mind more than gigs we’ve done in front of a couple thousand (once? twice?). Why? We were all connected emotionally, and there wasn’t a single dry eye in the house. Tough, towering death metal vocalist friends were on the floor unable to move. Doom isn’t for everyone, but when you can connect and/or relate, there isn’t anything better than to be able to identify with the music. Cannibal Corpse wouldn’t have had the same effect that day, and I’ve never connected or identified to a song about sodomizing and eating a dead, maggot infested hooker. Extreme example, but I hope that illustrates my point?

    I just happened to see the above write-up copy/pasted on multiple sites and thought I’d respond somehow. Brett Stevens not only made massive assumptions, but also completely missed the mark on all his points the article banked on. Anyone who was around at that time would see right through this as I did (I see I’m correct given some of the other responses). I just find it quite curious that Brett chose to target Morgion of all bands, because I can think of 30 other “successful” bands that he described exactly to make his “point” (no, I’m not naming names ha). “Morgion was considered the future of metal”? Please. Everyone would have slit their wrists, and you can’t sell records to the dead, ha. That’s the price if doom were ever commercially viable when done right.

    Cheers!

    1. Tralf

      I don’t have anything to contribute to the discussion, just wanted to say thanks for the perspective, both morgion, brett stevens, and everyone else. I find the history and evolution of metal fascinating and I love hearing different people’s takes on it, especially since I wasn’t around or was too young to participate back in the heyday.