Church ov Melkarth: Balrogs of Ambient Metal

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

Regular readers might be familiar with the Church ov Melkarth and their leader Jvstin Whitney from Whitney's regular appearances in the Gothic Council. He is possibly Houston's sole representative of gothic metal in the city; his work is ambient, dark, frightening, occult and spooky as balls. Melkarth takes their theatrics and invocations very seriously, and their shows are basically the equivalent of watching a Balrog play an experimental set.

There's a reason that the band partnered with Alamo Drafthouse to bring Houston a night of Satanic brilliance the featured a set between showing of the cult horror flicks The Gate and its sequel.

Whitney's earlier band, the Splinters of Death, recorded a concept album based on the movie called Towards the Demon Gate in 2004. The album was shelved and remains unreleased, as Splinters dissolved and Whitney rebuilt Melkarth from the ashes of the old group. Still, he credits The Gate with inciting a love and worship of dark gods, and the forces of chaos.

The resulting night was a packed house of people who delighted in reveling in a Luciferian ecstasy you just don't see much nowadays. Modern scares are all about torture, and no one really takes evil music seriously anymore. Luckily, the Church is one of those bands that keeps the blood-stained knob jacked to eleven.

For all the years I've been following them I've never really sat down and figured out their name. With a show on the horizon, this seemed like a perfect time to invite Whitney down to Gothic Council HQ, crack open a bottle of absinthe, and discuss etymology like the gentledemons we are. It may help you to picture us in top hats and monocles.

Rocks Off: Where did you come up with the name Church ov Melkarth?

Jvstin Whitney: I got from one of the stories of the Lovecraftian Mythos cycle; a cult that worshiped Cthugha in the time of the Roman Empire. It was something conceptually interesting to build my own mythos around and expand with the story arcs of each concept album.

RO: What does Church ov Melkarth mean to you?

JW: The path of the inner flame, all-consuming and ever-changing.

RO: What are the most important tenets of the Church?

JW: Wherever even two come together in reverence of the fire, there is my church. Speaking his name, even in revulsion, gives him power. Speak not his name. Adorn thyself not even the inversion of his symbol, for he is still therein.

Do what thy will shall be the whole of the law,.

And of course, the unwritten "Only cash is real."

RO: Do you plan to seek tax-exempt status as a Church?

JW: Don't I need a minimum of eighty members for that? I'm not as good at religions-for-money-grabs as L. Ron Hubbard.

RO: Describe the anti-Melkarth.

JW: Nyarlathotep is his most reviled rival of the old ones; amongst the trappings of men it would be those content with stagnation. If we had an enemy band like in Purple Rain, it would probably still be Morris Day and the Time.


Church ov Melkarth: (n) 1. A body of worship based around a fire deity. 2. Houston's best chance for utter damnation. 3. Only cash is real.

Church of Melkarth plays Sunday July 29 at Super Happy Fun Land with Awen, Mugwump, and Children of December

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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner