I, Voidhanger Records has unleashed a beast, and it’s only the beginning. To inaugurate its series of special thematic releases centered on the osmotic relationship between metal and literature, the label has picked the master of cosmic horror, H.P Lovecraft.
The first volume in the Yogsothery trilogy of metal tributes to the genius of Lovecraft, I, Voidhangers Records presents Gate 1: Chaosmogonic Rituals of Fear. The CD consists of only four tracks, but the artists hold nothing back, crafting more than 77 minutes of mind-numbing and nerve-stimulating music ever set to a compact disc. Each band reached deep into their notion of the essence of Lovecraft and his literary creations, and the end result is astonishing for fans into drone, ambiance, and understated but moving metal.
The opening band is Jaaportit, whose contribution is titled “Kuihtuman Henkivi.” Hailing from Finland, Jaaportit consist of a duo who play mostly instrumental music that combines styles that range from cold, atmospheric ambient electronic to frostbitten post-rock.
“Kuihtuman Henkivi” is the former, a dark instrumental journey that captures the weird concept of cosmic horror by drowning the listener in an overwhelming drone, within which there are instrumental kernels that hint at the outsider, the cosmic, and deep-seeded terrors of things and concepts best left alone. At more than 25 minutes, “Kuihtuman Henkivi” is a masterpiece for fans of drone and blackened ambiance.
Formed in 2000 in Finland, Umbra Nihil play progressive doom metal. The trio are inspired often by horror fiction, with its latest CD, The Borderland Rituals, serving as a concept album inspired by William Hope Hodgen’s The House on the Borderland, a novel that influenced writers such as Clark Ashton Smith and Lovecraft with its introduction of a more realistic and science-driven concept of cosmic horror.
With “Suur-Nikkurin Virsi,” Umbra Nihil begin with an amalgam of noise (I swear I heard Al Azif in there!), which then is taken over by an acoustic guitar under which are layers of subtle keyboards. The song then expands to a doomish structure, complete with a droning electric guitar and slow percussion. Low-end, chant-like vocals also take center stage, with subsequent interludes that provide a more psychedelic and spacey vibe. Of the songs on this disc, this one is the most metallic, featuring a guitar solo driven by a foot-stomping guitar riff.
One of the more esoteric and mysterious collectives is Aarni, an avant-garde metal band from Finland. Masterminded by 4 = 1 Master Warjomaa, Aarni play a musical style that covers various facets of metal, such as funeral doom metal and even folk metal. The band includes in its influences Lovecraft (the collective refers to itself sometimes as the Chthonic Musick), transhumanism, and parapsychology.
The band’s contribution, “Lovecraft Knew,” consists of more than 11 minutes of doom-driven chaos. A centered guitar riff is surrounded by sounds from the outré realm, including hideous voices, string stings, and distortion galore. The end effect goes for Lovecraft’s horror tales, evoking feelings of dread, weird science, and summoning things that should not be. There’s more of a structure to this song, with ambiance connected to actual musical interludes with keyboard and guitar leads.
Italy’s one-time-only formation, IV. Caput LVIIIm, is actually the code name for Baphomet, an entity worshiped by the Knights Templar. Its purpose is far too complex to go into here, but the occult significance of the code is well known to those who delve into such studies. The band was formed by members of necro-doomsters Malasangre (“bad blood”) and black-ambient masters Tronus Abyss.
The band’s contribution is titled “Resurgent Atavism,” which clocks in at almost 30 minutes. The title of the song refers to a tendency to revert to ancestral type. Thus, in biology, the concept refers to an evolutionary throwback, whereas in the social sciences the concept refers to a cultural phenomenon in which a person reverts to ways of thinking and acting of a former time. Lovecraft was such a person, as he yearned to have been born in another time, preferably during the Victorian era. Atavism emerges in Lovecraft’s fiction in tales such as “The Lurking Fear,” “A Shadow over Innsmouth,” and “The Dunwich Horror.” The song attempts to reflect on concepts such as alienation, familial regeneration (punctuated with subtle but chilling laughter), and interbreeding leading to degeneration, all of which Lovecraft explored.
As the first of the Yogsothery trilogy, Gate 1: Chaosmogonic Rituals of Fear is a monumental success. All four bands manage to tap into the weird worlds of Lovecraft, using music as a pallet with which to paint abstract visions of cosmic terror. Fans of drone, ambiance, funeral doom, and of course Lovecraft will relish every minute of this CD. In one word: Outstanding!