I am not even going to pretend this is a novel idea. Heavy metal’s fascination with early 20th century writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft is somewhat unhealthy — bordering on psychotic. Listing 14 songs which are based from the writer’s work is no monumental task. Especially due to the fact that there are lists of metal bands which cite him as a primary influence. Here is one. This playlist could have been made in various iterations. With that much to choose from, one then has the ability to craft a variety of different playlists. This is mine. In the spirit of the season I wanted to make a mix which not only celebrated the writer but highlighted the variety of styles which played host for his themes and concepts. This is not the only Lovecraft mix rather it is my Lovecraft mix.
It is not surprising why heavy metal fell in love with HP Lovecraft. This bookish author wrote in a style which has appealed to both literary types and aficionados of the slightly obscure. Lovecraft’s penned tales of trepidation famously inspired psychological fear rather than the physical. It was supernatural but not in the traditional sense. Metaphysical dismay. Lovecraftian horror would come to be more terrifying and paralyzing than any masked killer or creature from a dark bog. Lovecraft’s casting of the unknown as the main antagonist has resounded through the decades and created some of the most memorable monsters. This, combined with an academic air and penchant for surreal settings, has made him a trophy for horror hipsters and metal bands over the generations.
This is not a Lovecraft mix. This is my Lovecraft mix. I have delved into the world of YouTube playlists because of Spotify and RDIO’s limited capacity for housing the things I want. This set of circumstances has allowed me to add knowledge of other mediums which have acted as Lovecraftian avatars throughout the years. In all honesty, if you are going to spend any considerable amount of time with Lovecraft, you might as well get comfortable with black metal and terrible films. Not always, just most of the time.
Tis the season for ghouls and frights and outer-worldly horrors. Lovecraft is as horrifying or as lighthearted as you want and allow him to be. From beyond the grave, celebrate with a Lovecraft mix of metal, punk, psych, and progressive rock. When the monster mash ends, the real macabre begins. Tin Wrym turns 3 tonight in the shadow over Innsmouth.
HP Lovecraft – At the Mountains of Madness (1967)
I looooove acid. It was not until coming to Reddit’s metal forum that I met and befriended other people interested in hard psych and proto-metal. Enter HP Lovecraft, the psych rock band, who are a shining example of psych’s descent into the darkness. While not entirely devoted to the tales of Lovecraft, HP Lovecraft occasionally celebrates their namesake. Example: At the Mountains of Madness. Again while not entirely about the 1931 novella by HP Lovecraft…well alright…. while not at all about the 1931 novella by HP Lovecraft, the band still uses their namesake name as a conceptual beacon which successfully mixes the surreal and the psychologically unnerving perfectly. I love HP Lovecraft and not just because I love old psych nor the fact they eventually became a 70′s funk band under the name Love Craft. No, I love this because it is a perfect opener to my Lovecraft mixtape. Start with the softball.
Catacombs – In the Depths of R’lyeh (2006)
I want you to be prepared for the very real possibility of funeral doom and noise throughout this mixtape. Sure, the hard psych and the later punk song are interesting, yet they are more outliers in the sphere of Lovecraftian music. For some reason, the creeping and rolling landscapes of doom’s despair pairs nicely with the writings of Mister Lovecraft. I know this is a gigantic stretch. Catacombs. Holy fuck. What you are hearing is the last thing this project ever made before doing absolutely nothing for the past 6 years. Come on dudes, lets get a move on! R’lyeh is the name of the lost corpse city which Cthulhu and his astral buddies call home. Its nothing big, just a city with impossible architectural dimensions and a feeling of cosmically morose terror. No big deal. You see, you trick them with psych rock and then you close the trap with funeral doom.
R’lyeh – Cthulu Dead Dream (1992)
This mixtape is connected in more ways than one. Notice the name. Yes? Alright, whatever, bear with me on this. I understand this maybe a bit on the raw side but it is amazing. You remember R’lyeh as the mysterious abode of ancient space monsters right? Well, here is a Mexican act who seems to be entirely devoted to praising Cthulhu within the sugary sounds of raw death. Sing me that lullaby sweet prince. This band is still listed as active despite only putting out two demos in the 1990′s. Hey, it is not like I wouldn’t want to hear more tales from the slimy precipices of R’lyeh, it is just that I am surprised. How do we get down from here?
Nox Arcana – The Nameless City (2004)
And this is why we have Tin Wyrm — to allow others who would not be invited to the Tape Wyrm table a chance to eat and share their stories. Nox Arcana is a neoclassical darkwave band and because I am not fully knowledgeable on darkwave as a genre, I am still hesitant about actually accepting that title. It seems to be in order, right? Nox Arcana is an American duo whose albums appeal to myself in 10th grade and, for that reason, I own them all. The duo’s 2004 album Necronomicon is based entirely on Lovecraft’s collected stories which make up the Cthulhu mythos. The Nameless City, for anyone taking notes, is the place where the race of pre-historic reptilian creatures thrived and eventually met their decline and now live in ruin deep within the Arabian desert. That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die. Cool stuff. Why am I wearing black nailpolish? Don’t come in Mom, I am writing and snorting my Adderall.
Brown Jenkins – We Disappear (2009)
And suddenly the raw noise creeps back in. Brown Jenkins is the name of a hilariously gruesome rat/human hybrid which appeared as the supernatural familiar to an old women in 1933′s “Dreams of the Witch House.” Supposedly this rat can speak different languages and nurses on witches blood. Amazing. Gross. Brown Jenkins, the band, enjoyed that description so much they made it their goal in life to bring that sort of macabre horror to your ears. Great, now I am grossed out aurally. Brown Jenkins existed within the 2000′s and, for a almost a decade, existed solely to bring upon its listeners the despair of doomed black metal. Much like I Shalt Become and Judas Iscariot in the 1990′s, the guitar tone for Brown Jenkins acts like a downpour of rain which cuts like melancholic needles. This music is maddening. Sure it is not all about HP Lovecraft, but I am hard pressed to find something that isn’t sonically perfect for each other.
Thergothon – the Unknown Kadath in the Cold Waste (1993)
Again, you kids with your funeral doom. Thergothon existed for three years and released one massively important record before splitting up. Great job guys, now what? Thergothon was one, if not the first to play in the style of funeral doom which then set the stage for like 5 other bands to play in the same style. To add to that, Thergothon was super excited about Lovecraft. Makes sense. Kadath is the home of the Outer Gods which is the focal point “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.” The story plays a pillar role in the “Dream Cycle” — a collection of science fantasy pulp stories which make up Lovecraft’s second most famous work. Think John Carter of Mars just against a darkly surreal backdrop. Much more surreal than Mars. Randolph Carter, the story’s protagonist, dreams of a city of deities and then attempts to reach that city through a series of unsettling journeys in the dream world. Praise be to Therogthon and also to the unknown city which no one can speak about.
Caravan – C’thlu Thlu (1973)
Hahaha, what in the hell is this? Something to lighten the mood after our horrifying trip to Kadath. Caravan is usually not a name associated with Lovecraft’s subtle anxiety. Caravan was an amazing progressive group who in the 70′s made music that sounded like unicorns vaulting over castles. I do not even know what “C’thlu Thlu” is really about. I know it sounds dark and foreboding, but so did a lot of stuff under the direction of hashish and progressive rock. This is added as a sweetener to the mixtape and also because Caravan is awesome. If you do not like it, you can give us back the bong and exit the awesome van. Leave the weed.
Arkham- Dreams in the Witchhouse (1999)
Hopefully, you enjoyed your time with Caravan because it is right back to raw black metal. Wooo golly, that is forceful. No one knows anything about Arkham and I believe that is the charm. Because everyone loves obscure French black metal, except my wife, I thought it was a perfect fit. Even the YouTube discussions revolve around whether or not what is being played is really the band. It is awesome, no one knows what is going on. Black metal is really like Calvinball. This band hasn’t even released a full length album. If they were not so dead bent on worshiping Lovecraft in their songs I would have a problem, but they are so I do not. Its time to set up the time-fracture wickets.
Shub Niggurath – Incipit Tragaedia (1986)
The Tin Wyrm banner for this article really started when I found Shub Niggurath. From what I can gather, this French band was inspired by the works of Lovecraft but expressed it in the most natural way possible — Zeuhl. Zeuhl, for those of us not familiar with wacky ass subgenres, is a style of avant-garde music that is based around the ethereal atonality of the French progressive band Magma. They love art, invented language, marching beats, and being weird. Mostly being weird. Zeuhl is the hard narcotics of the progressive world that usually scares off the vanillas and squares. I usually run the other way when someone brings up Zeuhl, but for now it oddly works perfectly. Don’t let this double headed sword dildo scare you, its just music.
Call Of Cthulhu (2005)
This is where the magic of Tin Wyrm really comes alive. Because Lovecraft works so well on so many mediums, your next selection is a 40 minute film. “The Call of Cthulhu” is Lovecraft’s most recognized story. This particular adaptation was done by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society and attempts to present the story as a silent film. Two things are important with this adaptation. One, it is short and presents the whole story for those who know nothing of the plot past Cthulhu memes. Two, “Call of Cthulhu” mostly nails the silent film aspect. Aside from some camera angles and the textural look, Call of Cthulu looks like a film made in the 1920′s. It does a tremendous job at bringing a faithful adaptation to a story which would lose most of its details in popular culture adaptations. In all honesty, you weren’t going to do anything today anyway.
Rudimentary Peni – The Horrors in the Museum (1987)
Rudimentary Peni are a staple in the British anarcho punk scene. They also are tagged under the banner of deathrock and have a sordid history with writing albums in mental institutions. Sounds like Tin Wyrm material to me. Welcome to our day camp. Please make your way to the picnic table for juice and cliff bars. Rudimentary Peni’s song comes straight from the band’s 1987 release Cacophony which is entirely devoted to Lovecraft. Cacophony would be the last release for Rudimentary Peni before a 8 year hiatus while the lead singer was detained in a psychiatric ward. Not saying anything but if one was looking for anarcho punk / death rock with a taint of mental instability this maybe a perfect Sunday afternoon. One of the most mentally unhinged Sunday’s ever. I hate coming to Charles house for dinner. Everyone is tripping and crying about world history.
Catacomb – Hallucinated Mountains (1993)
I found these guys in relation to the other band with the similar name. Alright someone else may have found it but I was standing right behind. It still counts. It is a strange shared world with Lovecratian metal. It looks like this Catacomb was doing awesome things back in 1993. Instead of sullen funeral doom, Catacomb plays a variety of very awake and horrifying death metal. This song is taken off of the EP In the Maze of Kadath which is literary accuracy since said maze is already mentioned in Kadeth. No but seriously what is up with France and their fascination with early 20th century American horror literature? You guys are all weird.
HP Love Craft Historical Society – If I Were a Deep One (2005)
I do not see a problem here. Why wouldn’t you want a Lovecraft musical parody set to the tune of music from Fiddler on the Roof? I mean, are we not human? A Shoggoth on the Roof comes direct from the same production team that did the already mentioned silent film. While the troupe is known for their humorous mashups of Lovecraft and musicals, the team does a tremendous job at adaptation. No seriously. Fiddler on the Roof. Lovecraft. Just shut the fuck up and smile.
We are ending this mixtape with a full length movie. Re-Animator from 1985. I find it important to celebrate all aspects of Lovecraft. Besides the aforementioned Cthulhu mythos and Dream Cycle, Lovecraft wrote all manners of horror/science fiction including “Herbert West Reanimator” — a 1922 short story detailing the misadventures of a medical student and reanimated corpses. The story famously featured a young look at zombies as mindless minions driven by insatiable desires and an eternal need to mutilate. It is a great movie and features the work of Jeffery Combs who was seen in Frightmare and the awesomely underrated Frighteners. This is the linchpin of your Halloween weekend, cult films revolved around the works of HP Lovecraft. If you are going to be a nerd, be the horror nerd who sits in the corner of a Halloween party smiling a little bit too much.
My own fascination with Lovecraft came after my adolescent experiences with recreational drugs and Aphex Twin’s ambient works. The three formed an important bond which changed my entire outlook on whether or not there were actually extra-dimensional hellions hiding beyond the temporal layers of existence. I fucking knew it. Lovecraft’s horror comes at the fracture where our sense of being and the outside begins to coalesce. Why is that guy just smiling in the corner. I want him out. He turned off my spooktacular mix. The Purple People Eater song was about to come on.