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DISCIPLES OF ZANN

Or
The Condensed History of
H. P. Lovecraft’s
Influence in Heavy Metal
by ALLEN MACKEY

[February 6 to March 4]

H. P. Lovecraft was one of the most influential authors of all time. A


worldwide cult now exists, based on the literary strength of his
writings, constantly drawing more and more souls into its field of
influence. This Lovecraftian cult phenomena—otherwise known as
the Lovecraft Movement—is one of the longest lasting and most
diverse fan bases in the history of fantastic literature. Scholars, the
main movers of the Movement, hope to see HPL taken more seriously
and achieve mainstream academic recognition, while others translate
HPL and Lovecraftian ideas into different media.
The encompassing, though often subtle, tendrils of Lovecraftian
inspiration have been most obviously felt in literature—most notably
in the works of Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, T.E.D. Klein,
Brian Lumley, Colin Wilson, and others—and in films (though it is of
popular opinion that Lovecraft cannot be effectively translated to the
screen, not when so much depends on descriptive mood and
suggestion), but what about other mediums?

HPL’s work has sown seeds of macabre creativity into the minds
of many great artists, who in turn interpreted them into various art
forms. Take the weird paintings and sculptures of Clark Ashton
Smith for instance, or the eerie photomontages of Harry O. Morris
and J. K. Potter, and the infamous Gahan Wilson Playboy cartoons.
They create a distinct visual link to Lovecraft’s repressed spirit.

There is a popular role-playing game, Call of Cthulhu, based on


HPL’s and his disciple’s tales of cyclopean horror, and the over-
populated comic book kingdom has its own graphic examples of his
fiction (and deservedly so, because if Robert E. Howard’s splendid
Conan the Cimmerian can achieve an amount of success, then so can
Lovecraftian comic books).

All of this is common knowledge. What may not be as well-


known is that there is even an underground sect of followers who take
that sad hoax, the Simon Necronomicon seriously—and actually
worship the Ancient Ones.

But aside from the previously listed facets of the bloating


Lovecraft Movement, there is another that is generally omitted for
lack of current information: music.

Music is an important aspect of modern civilization. It blares


from radios, cassette decks, and compact disc players. When you turn
on the television, obnoxious music accosts you, along with rapidly
flashing images, a product of the Mtv Generation. Music is an
integral part of the youth counterculture; without it, the uniting bond
of the young would dissolve. It is a polymorphous member of society,
in constant flux, changing to suit the moods, tastes, and desires of the
listener.

For example, the genre known as “rock” music has suffered


through countless mutations, sundry innovative saplings struggling
for lives of their own, while evolving the face of music. A few
Lovecraftian specimens have sprouted here and there, but most are
destined to drown in the murky depths of obscurity.

No other horror writer has such a hold or widespread following


in underground music (a term used to describe bands that perform
for a small, select audience and are widely unknown to the general
public), though Clive Barker has his own rabid crowd, as well as Brian
Lumley and Stephen King.

The late Sixties and Seventies spawned the hippie subculture,


and HPL was an instant hit. Over one million copies of his books
were sold from 1970 to 1973 alone.1

The most well-known Lovecraftian music group formed in 1967,


and the first to disband—was simply called “H. P. Lovecraft.”

Lin Carter wrote:

A rock group from Chicago, calling itself “The H. P.


Lovecraft,” has been rather popular, and albums of their
music have been issued. The group knows what it is doing
and did not merely pick the name at random or from idle
whim. One of their songs is entitled “The White Ship,”
[they had another called “At the Mountains of Madness”]
and the group’s company is known as “Dunwich
Productions,” while their music publishing affiliate is
named “Yuggoth”—with, it should be pointed out, the
amused permission of August Derleth.

He continued, stating that:

Unfortunately, even as Lovecraft himself was, the group


seems to have been somewhat ahead of its time, and
disbanded as recently as August, 1969 [Carter wrote these
words in 1971]. A new group is now recording for Warner
Brothers, under the name of “Lovecraft,” a correspondent
informs me, but it is not composed of the same people.2

Indeed, the group was far ahead of its time; although a slight
number of musicians were influenced by HPL during the Seventies, it
wasn’t until the Eighties that Lovecraft became a focal point for
teeming hordes of bands.
Another early rock group said to have absorbed Lovecraftian
ideas was Blue Oyster Cult, at least according Francis X. King’s
Witchcraft and Demonology, where the author asserted that the band
had:

… complex lyrics centered around strange rites similar to


those described in the sinister occult stories of H. P.
Lovecraft.3

By this time, in the early Seventies, the term “heavy metal” had
been put into use, borrowed from a literary source, but not Lovecraft.
The honor went to the infamous Beat Generation author, William S.
Burroughs, as is often pointed out. In an article about Burroughs that
appeared in Newsweek last year, journalist David Gates wrote that:

… the entire genre of heavy metal owe their names to his


hallucinatory, dystopian novel, Naked Lunch.4

Heavy metal is, of course, the generic term to clamp on bands


that emerged during this period that were taking things, musically
and lyrically, further than most people could accept at the time.
Some bands would play aggressive music backed with songs about so-
called “Satanic” situations and activities—and more often than not,
their music would be enhanced by the listener’s use of certain drugs.
In fact, the name “heavy metal” itself is a reference to a drug, as
Burroughs’ briefly explains:

—a heavy metal addict from Uranus—what we call opium


or junk is a very diluted form of heavy metal addiction—5

Drugs were a big part of the music scene, and more people
devoured the Lovecraft Mythos. Robert Bloch put it best in Strange
Eons when he wrote that:

Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos [seem] to attract a certain


segment of disturbed youth; there had even been a rock
group named H.P. Lovecraft some years back.
Hallucinogenic drugs might heighten the intensity of
HPL’s weird imaginings and inspire unbalanced addicts to
translate them into hideous reality.6

The best—and most notorious of these early heavy metal groups


was Black Sabbath, who have used Lovecraftian elements in several of
their first batch of songs, such as “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” on their
self-titled debut album (Warner Brothers, 1969), and “Planet
Caravan,” which appeared on their second release Paranoid (1970)
Sabbath paved the way for countless groups to come, and are still
considered a major influence by mast of the newer metal bands.
Their distinctive slow and gloomy style has been copied by three
generations of musicians.

There was also a group called Mythos, but I don’t know if that
name was a reference to Lovecraft or not.

Science fiction fans were delighted with Hawkwind, the sonic


experience that author Michael Moorcock was involved with for a
time. An important band split off from Hawkwind, named after a
speed (or amphetamine) freak: Motorhead, who immediately began
releasing an onslaught of album after album featuring their
trademark sound of simple minded raw power.

Then, towards the end of the disco age, a strange thing


happened. Another wave of discontent swept across the continents
and angry youth picked up instruments that they could hardly play,
and called themselves punks. They were outcasts from the society
that they despised—and punk was (still is, in fact) a fashion. Scuffed
leather jackets and torn clothing, along with a multitude, of metal
spikes, were their gear. They shaved their hair in unusual and exotic
manners; all in defiance to the materialistic and indifferent society
that they scorned. The music was loud, mad and obscene, and their
lyrics were often political in nature. HPL had no place in their
movement—at least not directly.

A bizarre mutation shortly took place, a weird merging of the


straight-ahead speed and aggression of punk and the intricate
patterns and cohesion of metal, resulting in a new form of music.
This hybrid genre called itself “thrash metal.”

These new bands were faster; harder, and more explicit than
their predecessors. One of first and most influential entities that
arose from this genre was England’s Venom, who were weaned on
fellow countrymen Black Sabbath and Motorhead. Their first album
was an ugly affair entitled Welcome to Hell—the album that initiated
the modern trend of Satanism in music. It opened the Gate for a
legion of other inept groups, most of which also claimed to be Satanic.
The Los Angeles group Slayer, also a founding father of thrash metal,
took the Satanic image one step further, and are still popular today.
From then on things weren’t the same.

Around the same time in San Francisco, the band Metallica


formed, forever changing the face of underground music. They
released their first LP, Kill ‘em All, in 1983 (MegaForce Records).
Their sound soon came to typify early thrash metal—the awesomely
heavy wall of guitar barrage, backed with moments of serene
harmony and grace. Metallica too felt the cosmic touch of Lovecraft,
and proudly displayed it on their follow-up album in 1984, Ride the
Lightning, with a lengthy tribute instrumental entitled “The Call of
Ktulu.” It worked. The dirge was both suggestive and atmospheric,
redolent of rites that have passed beyond the scope of memory. Not
to mention that it served to lead a new generation of HPL fans.

Metallica’s best Lovecraftian song, however, can be heard on


their next album, Master of Puppets, (Elektra Records, 1986). The
song in question was “The Thing that Should Not Be.” It was
everything “The Call of Ktulu” was and more—plus this one had
lyrics!—and over one million people have heard it.

Despite what erudite Lovecraftians might think, “The Thing


that Should Not Be” does not refer to Henry Kuttner’s Nyogtha,
introduced in his stunning tale, “The Salem Horror.” Instead, it is
about Cthulhu—the “Hunter of the Shadows.”
Extract from the lyrics:

Not dead which eternal lie


Stranger eons death may die
Drain you of your sanity
Face the Thing that Should Not Be.7

Also around this same period, a new sub-genre was formed, out
of the need to experiment and shrug off the limited confines of thrash
music, this one called “death metal,” a far more brutal form of its
direct descendents, induced by Switzerland’s own brilliant Celtic
Frost. Celtic Frost delved deep into the mysteries of the occult for
their song topics, and often found themselves in Lovecraftian
territory. Their early recordings, Morbid Tales, To Mega Therion,
and Into the Pandemonium, and blackened songs such as “Into the
Crypts,” “Idols of Chagrin,” and “Tears in a Prophet’s Dream,” often
showcased their incredible talent of producing an eerie atmosphere
while still being “heavy,” and innovated the then-current music scene.
Tom G. Warrior, the vocalist, chanted his words lower and more gruff
than other front-men at that time—growled them, really—and
initiated what has since become a common element in death metal.
Celtic Frost had an album planned with the title Necronomicon, but it
was cancelled for some reason. Their latest effort was Parched With
Thirst Am I, and Dying, a “greatest hits” collection.

There was a German group in the mid-Eighties called Mekong


Delta. They played intricate, classical-influenced music, and paid
their Lovecraft homage with the mini-album The Music of Erich
Zann.

Another German band, in the same musical category, called


themselves Necronomicon—again displaying the fascination that
HPL’s fictional tome holds over this segment of “disturbed youth.”
They had an eponymously titled album, and one dubbed Escalation.

I’ve heard of another group, this one from Canada, who were
obviously influenced by the Old Gent—Yog-Sothoth. That’s all I know
about them.

There was yet another band, this one more punk than the ones
listed before, that played a bizarre mix of ambient instrumental
psychosis. They were fittingly known as Blind Idiot God, and had a
self-titled release out on SST Records.

Two more slight punk nods toward HPL came from the singer
for the Dead Milkmen, who called himself “H.P. Hovercraft” (infidel!)
for a while, and from the guitarist for the Dwarves, San Francisco’s
rudest and crudest garage band, who calls himself “He Who Cannot
Be Named,” and for some reason, he always wears a mask, usually of
the bondage or professional wrestling variety, while performing on
stage. But don’t expect to find anything pertaining to Grandpa
Theobald in the Dwarves’ songs; they are notorious for their super-
sexist lyrics and album covers (especially Blood, Guts, and Pussy, Sub
Pop Records).

Singer Glen Danzig may be subtly influenced by HPL. His past


credits include fronting the seminal hardcore (fast punk) group the
Misfits, Samhane, and finally, one after his “surname.” Danzig the
band is a bluesy rock group with a heavy occult image; they sound like
a modern, twisted incarnation of the Doors.

Likewise singer King Diamond may be an HPL reader. He sang


for Mercy-full Fate and his own solo group for over a decade now, and
almost all of his songs reflect his occult interest—like Danzig (and a
hundred other metal performers), but unlike Danzig, most of King
Diamond’s music is more upbeat and mirrors his own theatrical
gothic demeanor, thanks to the expert use of keyboards and organs.
He is also publicized as being an actual-Satanist (a rarity in music,
despite popular belief), and claims to know Anton Szandor LaVey
personally.

But that doesn’t matter. His 1988 album on Roadrunner


Records, Them, might be Lovecraftian. It is a concept album, with
each of the songs depicting a piece of a bigger story, which involves
Mr. Diamond returning home to his grandmother’s house. She had
just been released from a sanitarium, where she had been sent after
she beheaded her husband—having been compelled to do so by
strange, disembodied voices—and the voices of Them tell her to do
the obscene things again that she did before, this time to King. It
seems that the house itself was the focal point for Them … Well,
maybe it isn’t Lovecraftian. Them was followed with Conspiracy, a
continuation of the same plot.

The next two entries are only of marginal interest to


Lovecraftians, because of their respective tributes to Stuart Gordon’s
cult-classic gore flick Re-Animator. One group from San Diego
named themselves after the movie, and had an LP issued with the title
Condemned to Eternity, while another from Texas, Rigor Mortis, had
a song called “Re-Animator” on their 1988 self-titled Capital Records
release.

After the seeds of Lovecraft had been planted in the late Sixties,
they began to slowly bear fruit. When the Eighties came to a close, a
dark cloud loomed over the aural horizon, and a barrage of sound-
spawn emerged to take their positions for the Nineties. All of this
happened within an even larger movement; the international
underground scene was gradually gaining momentum, with death
metal at the head of the rabid pack, struggling to gain a foothold for
its own existence.

From 1990 to 1993 there was a swelling tide of underground


activity, a veritable flood of frantic young musicians, far more
disturbed than those souls that Robert Bloch had observed in Strange
Eons. As it was inevitable, this spawning was bound to produce a
Lovecraftian band or two—then they were legion.

Death metal is well described by journalist Richard Proplesch,


who stated that it:
uses speed metal’s barrage and then, like a vulture, strips
and discards melody, hooks and harmony from hard
rock’s torso. The musical remains—as death metal—
include lurching guitar riffs over rapid jackhammer
rhythms, typically with belching vocals extolling the virtue
of all things dark.8

Another hybrid sub-genre arose, a direct link to the latter. The


state of music had to evolve again—to become faster and more brutal
than previously thought possible, and this new division was labeled
“grind-core.” The founder of this style was Napalm Death. Their
songs ranged from one second to three minutes (epic length for
them). Other groups followed, quickly copying their method of
“blasting”—the term given to extremely rapid drum beats. Most
groups were ridiculous, with only a handful worth any merit.

As much as 75% of these new bands had one thing in common


the occult. The first generation of so-called “Satanic Metal” bands
paved the way for many other acolytes with the same pretensions.
Esoteric elements are common in this medium, linking these devious
practitioners from around the world with webs of discontent towards
Christianity.

A small sampling of the sundry names and titles includes:


Astaroth’s Lost State of Dreams demonstration effort, the Behemoth
Return of the Northern Moon demo, the Cryptic Tales Anathema
offering, Lucifer’s The Dark Christ, Impaled Nazarene’s Sudo Goat 7”
record (a 7” is also known as a “45”), Fallen God of Doom by
Blasphemy, Acheron’s moronic The Rite of the Black Mass, and
Varathron’s His Majesty at the Swamp LP.

This juvenile fixation with the occult was epitomized by the


release of The Great Beast, a spoken word compact disc by Aleister
Crowley, the father of the modern Satanic Movement, that was
recorded on a wax cylinder in 1920.

The preceding passages clearly demonstrate the mentality of


these rebellious youngsters. They are highly susceptible to the
ghoulish undercurrents present in today’s culture, resulting in a need
or obsession for the macabre. They are desensitized to horror, and
morbidity flows in their blackened veins. They turned their backs on
conventional music and embraced something darker. Escapism
entertainment, but some people tend to take things too seriously.

The redundant excuses that call themselves “bands” are, for the
most part, trite and uninspired—and a dime a dozen. Many have
reared their ugly heads, only to promptly fizzle out, making no lasting
mark on the music scene, while other atrocious new arrivals step up
to fill the spaces left behind.

This phenomena—the teeming network of communication, via


fanzines, telephones, cassette tapes, and other recording mediums
which came to be known as The Death Metal Explosion, is only, as far
I’m concerned, relevant only because of the assorted references to
Lovecraft and a few of his associates and imitators.

The group with the best name is easily Shub-Niggurath, who


hail from Mexico. Their vocalist, Arturo Alvarez, is the HPL junkie of
the group; he injects Lovecraftian elements into his lyrics, as can be
heard on their demo, Horror Creatures, and on the full-length album
Evil and Darkness, which is only an import at this time. (It may be
obtained through Relapse Records, P.O. Box 251, Millersville, PA
17551. Request a catalogue.)

Shub-Niggurath has also appeared on the Appointment with


Fear compilation CD, along with Cenotaph, G-Annex, Massacre,
among others. They can be contacted in care of Mr. Alvarez, Apdo.
Postal #1305, C.P. 06002, D.F. 1 Mexico.

Finland’s Thergothon is next. They have a cassette EP out on


Wild Rags Records (2207 W. Whittier Blvd., Montebello, CA 90640)
entitled Fhtagn-Ngah-Yog-Sothoth. It’s a four song, doom (slow,
ponderously heavy-Black Sabbath-like) affair. The vocalist edits an
underground fanzine called Hammer of Damnation. Contact their
label for more information.

The next band’s name was inspired not by HPL this time, but by
Clark Ashton Smith: Abhoth. I don’t know anything else about this
incarnation of the Father and Mother of Uncleanness, except that
they dwell in Sweden.

Likewise Dagon, another new spawn of the underground. They


may be French, though, because I gleaned their name from a French
fanzine ad (Decibels Storm #3).

The same with Zadok. This could be a name inspired by Zadok


Allen from “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” but I’m not certain.
Another export from France is Catacomb. They formed in 1990 and
have thus far released two tapes, the former—Morbid Attraction, and
the newer EP, The Lurker at the Threshold, which is marketed by
Wild Rags Records. Song titles include: “Legion,” “Catacomb,” “Call
of Madness,” and “Supposed Dead.” Their biography sheet, also
available from wild Rags, states that:

The lyrics are inspired by the myth of Cthulhu of H.P.


Lovecraft, [steeped] in the morbid atmosphere given to
the music, but nevertheless, terribly powerful.

It is interesting to note that their logo has, to the left, the Greek
spelling of “Azathoth” (Ά϶αϴοϴ) and, to the right, the Sanskrit form
of Cthulhu (more properly, Katala: क त ल). They can be reached by
writing to James Moreau, Parc Des Tilluls B7 BA, BD Des Armaris,
83100 Toulon, France.

From out of Italy comes Excidium, with their demo Defuncto.


Despite the laughable title, the demo had one track of interest, “De
Vermis Mysteriis,” Robert Bloch’s eldritch tome of sorcery. Also of
possible interest is “The Abyss.”

They also have a more recent 7”, Infecting the Graves, but I
don’t think that Lovecraft has anything to do with it.
Flegethon (sic) from Athens, Greece—named after one of the
five rivers of Hades in Greek mythology—came forth with awful
offering, Repugnant Blasphemy, then went into hiding. Humorously
enough, they chose to “rename” themselves—the bass player was
“Rotten Flesh,” the first guitarist “Snarl,” the second six-stringer was
“The Serpent of Kthoulou (sic),” and the vocalist displayed their
Simon touch, his “name” was “Marduk.”

A sample of the lyrics from the song “Ancient Disgust” shows


their HPL influence:

When the stars and moon are in the right position


Then the stones are the shores of no return
Actor in an ancient scene
And the blood will never stop to flow
To baptize the sacrifice to the Lurker
Beyond Space and Time
America’s own

Ripping Corpse brings us a few Lovecraftian goodies with their


debut album, Dreaming with the Dead (Kraze Records). Two or
three of their compositions deal with Old Gent’s fiction, such as one
based on “From Beyond.” They had a rabid following at one point, but
have since dropped out of the public’s eye. Contact them, in care of,
Scott Ruth, at 94-D Throckton Ave., Red Bank, NJ 07701.

Next, before I get to the biggest faction of (for the most part)
indirectly HPL influenced bands, there are a few borderline groups
worth mentioning. Dunwich is a group from St. Louis, Missouri.
They have a demo tape out, Madman with a Head-rush, with nary
the slightest touch of HPL, save for their name. In a letter dated June
8, 1992, bass player Heather Coven answered my inquiry as to
Lovecraft connection, in an oblique manner, “… H.P. Lovecraft rules!
‘The Dunwich Horror’ is a weird, weird, strange story and believe it or
not, we’re all a little weird and strange, too.” By “we’re,” she meant
her fellow band members.

Order From Chaos, also from Missouri—Kansas City, to be exact


—have claim to one song subtly Lovecraftian, “Webs of Perdition,”
which is about an Abdul Alhazred-type character. It is available on
both Crushed Infamy and Will to Power, two EPs issued by Wild
Rags Records. Singer/bass player Pete Helmkamp told me that he’d
been reading Lovecraft “for years,” and he kindly Xeroxed a copy of
HPL’s “A History of the Necronomicon” for me a few years back.

A recent addition to the sound-spawn includes Paralysis. They


present Patrons of the Dark (Grind Core International), a gutteral,
seaweed festooned album, with cover art directly inspired by “The
Festival.” They hail from New Orleans, a musical hotbed of activity.

Grind Core International (now called Pavement Music) offers


another slightly Lovecraftian group, Cianide, from Chicago. Their
festering debut is The Dying Truth, a trudging slow slab of pain.
They sound reminiscent of the aforementioned Celtic Frost, especially
the track “The Crawling Chaos.” Heavy.

Finland’s very own Sentenced has a second album, North From


Here (Century Media), that features a tune titled “Beyond the Wall of
Sleep.”

Disincarnates Dreams of the Carrion Kind (Roadrunner


Records), lists HPL (along with Brian Lumley, Clive Barker, Aleister
Crowley, and Anton Szandor LaVey) as an influence in their thanks
list. HPL flavored songs are “Entranced,” and “Monarch of the
Sleeping Marches.” The track “Dead-spawn” is, of course, Brian
Lumley inspired.

Disincarnate, from Florida, is one of the better bands


performing death metal/grind-core today.

France has produced another fine group subtly connected to the


aural Mythos—Merciless. Their first LP, Abject Suffering (Restless
Records) begins with an introduction nicely entitled “Nyarlathotep,”
while their latest effort, Coloured Funeral (Century Media), contains
the splendid “Forgotten Fragments,” which utilizes, August Derleth’s
acquisition from Ambrose Bierce and Robert W. Chambers, Cthulhu’s
half-brother, Hastur.

From “Forgotten Fragments.”


Hear the voice of Hastur
Ignored by humans
Hear this voice so high
A call from nowhere
The pits of Earth
Without age and without face.10
Entombed, Sweden’s finest group, is one of the most successful
death metal practitioners to date, and deservedly so. Their innovative
style of composition and arrangement has blazed a wide trail of
gibbering praise from the metal press, leaving countless imitators
struggling in their wake to catch up. Their releases (issued from
Earache Records) include three albums and three EPs, the former
being The Left Hand Path, Clandestine, and Wolverine Blues, and the
latter are Crawl, Stranger Eons, and Hollow-man.

The lyrics for a trio of songs on Clandestine were contributed by


Kenny Hakansson, a close friend of the band members. He
interjected a few Lovecraftian ideas into the cement mixer that is
Entombed. “Stranger Eons” is the most obvious of the three. An
extract:

One more dead soul, there’s a hole in the sky


Illuminating dream quest, the Prophet’s eye
By virtue of madness, a sign of faith
Lurking at the Threshold, you’re lost
Between the Gates.11

Immediately following that is “Chaos Breed,”—on the full-


length Clandestine, not the shorter Stranger Eons. A sample:
The dawn of the blackest sun of all skies
Mysteries of Khem revealed
Ancient arts of process of pain
No longer concealed.

“Through the Colonnades” is the final cut on Clandestine. With


it ends their exploration unto Lovecraftian ground.

Holland’s Pestilence is a well-known group. They’ve evolved


from a simple minded (but very brutal) death metal group, to,
gradually, a death-jazz hybrid—yet another sub-genre! They are
responsible for the albums Malleus Maleficarum, Consuming
Impulse, Testimony of the Ancients, and, their latest, Spheres.

Some of the chants on Testimony of the Ancients deal with


“spheres from outside” that can be “called down.” The next album
deals more with the theme, wherein the spheres amount to spiritual
transcendence. Spheres is very New Age sounding—and ultimately
disappointing, even if the music is good.

Benediction from the Isles of Mist offered one Lovecraftian item


of concern, an excellent song of utterly crushing magnificence.
“Artefacted Irreligion” is the name, the Necronomicon is the game.
An excerpt:

Contained in blood scrawl


Compiled evil artifacts
Inane investigators of ritualistic pacts.
(Chorus)
Necronomicon
Bestial methods, age old acts
If darker side thus beckon
In limbo boundaries must smash.12

This song appeared only on “The Dreams You Dread” demo,


highly obscure item, and, in partial form, on their latest disc,
Transcend the Rubicon. I believe that it is their only venture into
Lovecraftian territory. This could be partly due because the lyricist
and vocalist for the group at that time, Mark “Barney” Greenway, had
left his former band-mates and joined the more popular Napalm
Death. While he and his legendary cohorts were on their first US tour
they came through Oklahoma. I met Mr. Greenway and discussed,
among other things, authors, and—of course, he is a Lovecraft fan.
He cited At the Mountains of Madness as a personal favorite. He also
likes Ramsey Campbell’s fiction.
By far, the most idiotic rendering of the once forbidden
Necronomicon (now it is accepted as a common device, something
that everybody has at least heard about, even if they don’t know the
source) has been perpetrated by Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Dr.
Shrinker.

I’ll let the alleged lyrics make my point:

Necronomicon, Book of the Dead


Summon the demons when the passage is read
The ancient evil possessed from the start
Brutal force from the woods rips you apart.

As if that wasn’t absurd enough, they continue:


Why have you woke them from their ancient slumber
Chopped and strewn like useless lumber
Henrietta’s arrived to swallow your soul
Her eyeball shoots out and you swallow it whole.

What utter garbage! But wait, there’s more:

Ancient Arab language only exit of this time


Back in medieval place worshipped as a prime
The Book bound in flesh written in blood
The passageway to demons—dead by dawn.13
It’s crap like this poor example that makes the fictional Mad
Arab’s work seem inane. The pathetic song is “Dead by Dawn.” It is
evident that it was based on a mindless teen slasher flick—like a
group of teenagers would have access to the Necronomicon!

For a non-existing tome, the Necronomicon has a tremendous


amount of suggestive influence, touching people in obscene ways and
leaving the seeds of madness in its wake. The mere title used to be
enough to send a cold shiver down the spine, but now—thanks to
incompetent bands like Dr. Shrinker—it has become trivialized into a
book of conventional demonology.

As most readers are doubtless aware, there have been at least


four spurious books that claimed to be the “actual” Necronomicon.
This next section will chronicle; the easily seen influence of the Simon
version on the ranks of these young hordes. While much of the book
is well researched, it fails by placing the title Necronomicon on its
spine.

Simon definitely has the largest following. Printed as a mass-


market paperback by Avon Books in 1977, this work has mutilated the
established lore of the Mythos. Regardless, it is a prerequisite text for
members of black magic circles (though the book is clearly a clever
hoax, I have been told that certain of the rituals do, in fact, work), and
for misguided death metal musicians.

I do, however, own a copy of the book—despite my feelings


toward it—as I’m sure that many other Lovecraftians do as well. With
it, I have been able to detect a wider radius of HPL’s indirect
influence that I had been previously unaware of.

The aforementioned Pete Helmkamp, the vocalist for Order


From Chaos, once wrote in a letter dated July 31, 1991, that “the
Necronomicon is … fake—no such book ever existed—I have proof in
this letter by Lovecraft describing the necessity to back up fiction with
non-fictional facts … Anyway, it’s still cool to see how many bands
draw from [the Simon version] for their lyrics.”

That was when he sent me the Xerox of HPL’s fictional essay.


We had been discussing Lovecraft and his influence on underground
music.

The two most important groups in this category are not wholly
influenced by the Simon book. Both bands in question—Deicide and
Morbid Angel—are from Florida (a teeming death metal spawning
ground) and draw from LaVey, Crowley, and Lovecraft directly for
their lyrical (and supposedly spiritual) inspiration.

Deicide (signed to Roadrunner Records) is big on illusion. They


have an image that shocks even the most stable gore-seeking fan.
Rock reporter Richard Proplesch—observed that:

Deicide has been called “the sickest of the sick.” Their


stage show is literally a nightmarish frenzy, like a drive-in
horror flick come to life. The band dons gladiator-like
armor perfect for a torture chamber, their vest-plates
apparently adorned with sharpened, glistening spikes. As
the music rages, animal parts and blood (discards from a
butcher shop) are tossed by the band, like souvenirs, into
their gore-happy auidence.14

I’ve seen the group perform in Oklahoma City and didn’t


witness any rain of carnage, though I must admit that they have a
definite aura about them (bassist/vocalist Glen Benton in particular)
—a charge of malignancy. Still, I doubt that they are genuine
members of the satanic Church, mainly because Anton LaVey himself
is said to have denounced them. I understand that Mr. LaVey thinks
that true Satanists should remain “in the closet,” so to speak—in other
words, to not make such a huge carnival out of themselves.

Deicide thrives on controversy. Christian zealots love to accost


them, and Mr. Benton has been driven to the point of fighting such
people. In England, after one of his bass guitars was stolen, and after
being taunted by several leering Christians, Mr. Benton predicated a
riot. The band constantly receives death threats from extremist
organizations, not to mention that radio talk show personalities such
as Bob Larson vigorously condemns them.

Part of the controversy is due to the fact that Mr. Benton has the
imprint of an inverted cross burned onto his forehead, as a symbol of
his “pact” with Satan! (You don’t get more disturbed than that!)

Glen Benton is also a faithful disciple of Simon. References to


the Ancient Ones and the Necronomicon abound throughout their
songs, most notably “Dead by Dawn” (not to be confused with the Dr.
Shrinker song), which is on their eponymously titled debut. Other
tracks on that disc include the Manson Family inspired “Lunatic of
God’s Creation,” the ultra-sacrilegious “Sacrificial Suicide,” the
Reverend Jim Jones anthem, “Carnage in the Temple of the
Damned,” an evil chant about Christ’s crucifixion aptly named
“Deicide,” and several others.

Their debut was immediately seized by the hungry underground


hordes, and proved to be incredibly successful for Roadrunner
Records. Their follow-up, Legion, was at least twice as efficient. It
had eight tracks, one of which was in the Lovecraftian vein—“Dead
But Dreaming.” Also included on this nausea inducing disc is “In Hell
I Burn,” “Behead the Prophet (No Lord Shall Live),” and “Satan
Spawn, the Cacao-Demon,” written about and for Mr. Benton’s son,
Daemon. Talk about taking an image too far!

In a Roadrunner newsletter, dated August 30, 1991, Mr. Benton,


when asked who his favorite horror authors were, and why, he
replied: “The entire Stephen King collection, all the H.P. Lovecraft
books, and all of Aleister Crowley.” Why? “I, can relate to where
these authors are coming from.” He went on to say that his favorite
horror film was The Emerald Forest, because he likes “watching
naked women get eaten by small pygmy cannibals.”

Deicide is written of so prominently here only because they


have been instrumental for many of the following group’s formation.
But before I get to those, I must mention the other highly influential
Simon-es-que band.
Morbid Angel. They also have basically the same image as their
fellow Tampa residents Deicide, though to a keyed down extent.
They’ve also been around longer, stirring up the bottom of the music
underground for over a decade now. They’ve released advance tapes
for an album called Abominations of Desolation in 1987, but the LP
was cancelled due to line-up changes. The cover art is shudderingly
remarkable because it depicted a scene that would have made Richard
Upton Pickman proud—a trio of ghoulish creatures were rendered in
the act of desecrating a female corpse … not a pleasant sight!

Morbid Angel’s first official album, Altars of Madness, very


much has its roots in the Simon Necronomicon. Take the title, for
instance. The same words can be found on p. 5 of the book. The track
listing includes: “Immortal Rites,” “Suffocation,” “Visions From the
Dark Side,” “Chapel of Ghouls,” and “Maze of Torment.”

Blessed Are the Sick came out soon after. It was a vast
improvement, both lyrically and musically, for the band. More
Lovecraftianism can be detected, such as references to Yog-Sothoth
and Cthulhu (as “Kutullu” in “Unholy Blasphemies” and “The Ancient
Ones,” respectively. There are a few more mentions and allusions,
here and there, peppered throughout their songs. More titles: “The
Kingdom Come,” “Abominations,” “Fall From Grace,” and “Blessed
Are the Sick/Leading the Rats,”—the latter half being an eerie Pied
Piper dirge; more like what the Pipes of Pan must sound like.

Their third LP is named Covenant, after the Covenant that is


mentioned the Simon book. Here things get a little better, with the
number “Angel of Disease,” an invocation to Shub-Niggurath:

Angel of disease, One Who Shuns the Light


Shub-Niggurath, Goat With a Thousand Young.
Another part of the song:
Praise the beast, the chanting grew
Praise the beast with virgin blood
Praise the beast, with soul and mind
Praise the beast and show the Sign.15
Directly after that song in sequence is “Sworn to the Black,”
another Simon contamination. Following that number is a brooding,
cosmic instrumental performed with keyboards that is thoughtfully
called “Nar Matturu”—also straight from Simon, which is mentioned
in a “chant” on p. 160 as “beneath the waters NAR MATTURU.”
All of their releases are available from Earache Records. It
should also be noted that the guitarist for the morbid ones is “named”
Trey Azagthoth, another strong indication that Simon is an important
part of their lives.

Several other groups took their monikers directly from Simon.


The most well-known of these is Tiamat, who, according to Simon, is
the female counterpart to Kutullu. Tiamat is signed to Century Media
and have three albums out, Sumerian Cry, The Astral Sleep and
Clouds. They have been described as “strange and atmospheric.”

Another is Marduk, a supposed Elder God, who slayed Tiamat,


and is represented by the sphere of Jupiter. He is described on p.
123. The band Marduk is from Sweden, and have a hard to find
record called Those of the Un-light.

Nergal comes from Switzerland. Nergal is purported to be an


Elder God as well, whose seal must be rendered in blood on virgin
paper. He is represented by the sphere of Mars, p. 28. I don’t know
anything about the band.

The next few listings are of bands that happen to be from


Dallas, Texas. Absu (meaning “the Abyss”) is gaining some measure
of recognition. They seeped into the music scene a few years back
with their Return Of the Ancients rehearsal tape. In a letter dated 10-
11-91, the bass player, Ray Heflin, wrote concerning the title, “we
don’t want the Ancient Ones to return, I guess we named the
rehearsal that as kind of a warning to all, [that] if they did return, it
would be chaos.” I realized then that he believed in the Simon deities.
He concluded with this ominous sentence: “And they do want to
return.”

Absu soon had a 7” record out called The Temples of Offal,


again borrowed from Simon (p. 211), complete with three hymns to
their idols, “Immortal Sorcery,” Sumerian Sands (The Silence),” and
“Disembodied.”

Also from Dallas, but not as recognized as Absu, is Azagthoth


(sic), who brought their tape, Shredded Flesh, into being.

Dallas is also host to Gruesome Fate, who are also said to be


Simon-es-que.

Betrayer from Poland birthed Necronomical Exmortis. It’s a


six-song demo, and may be obtained through Wild Rags Records’
catalogue.

Impiety, Winona, Minnesota’s very own horror, had a three


song demo entitled Damnation of the Holy. They placed the weird
looking sigil of Pazuzu, the demon of sickness (p. 189), on their ads
and circulated them via mail. They sound exactly like the previously
described Deicide.

Hypocrisy is an up and coming band from Sweden. Their two


albums for Relapse/Nuclear Blast Records are Penatralia and
Obsculum Obscenum. On the latter, the group belches forth a track
called—“Necronomicon.” Nothing Lovecraftian here, though, despite
the title.

Holland’s Sinister, also signed to Relapse/Nuclear Blast


Records, has vomited Cross the Styx and the far better Diabolical
Summoning. The second contained “Magnified Wrath,” the title cut,
“Sense of Demise,” “Leviathan,” and more. Those ditties dealt with
Simon, though, like the above Hypocrisy, there’s nothing pertaining
to the master, other than a few brushes of indirect touch.

A former member of Morbid Angel formed his own band,


Nocturnus, who had, at one time, quite a frantic following. From
their first demo, The Science of Horror, they cut open the underbelly
of the brutish genre, creating another branch—this one with heavy
science fiction overtones. Their music was very complex and
technical, partly deathly due because they were the only deathly
group at the time with a keyboard player, who gave the music that
extra aural touch of the eerie. On the whole, Nocturnus sounded like
a science/horror movie soundtrack band (but infinitely better!). They
have since ceased operation, but before they did, the record buying
public was subjected to (courtesy of Earache Records) two albums:
The Key and Thresholds.

The Key showcased their impressive talents with songs like


“Lake of Fire,” “Destroying the Manger”—about a starship traveling
back through time to do as the title says, “The Andromeda Strain,”
and the Simon flavored epic, “The Empire of the Sands.” It’s about an
evil empire in the distant future that genetically breeds a slave labor
force to erect a huge city on the Middle East sands. Using advanced
technology, the wizards of the city contact and awaken the
slumbering Ancient Ones beneath the ground and bind them to their
diabolical service. Interestingly enough, HPL is listed on the inside
cover sleeve as an influence.

Their sophomore effort was Thresholds. It contained “Arctic


Crypts, among others. Nocturnus did, however, serve to influence
other fledgling groups with their unique style.

I also have evidence that there is a band called R’lyeh. 16 I must


confess that I do not know of every music combo in the world, so
there may well be (and probably are) many other bands inspired by
the Simon joke.

There are also a few items of fringe interest to Lovecraftians.


Take the band Gammacide. They have broken up two years ago, but
Rick Perry, their guitarist, was reported to be an HPL fan. Once, in
an interview, concerning the age of the individual band members, he
said: “I cannot reveal our ages, to do [so] would violate the oath we
made with Lord Cthulhu, Unholy Master of the Abyss!” 17 In another
interrogation, when asked directly if he read Lovecraft, he responded
with, “Hell yeah! Lovecraft is one of my favorite authors. I like all the
Cthulhu Mythos stories, especially At the Mountains of Madness and
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”18

Nuclear Death from Arizona has also felt the fetid breath of
HPL. They perform an ear-torturing mix of ghastly noise and
abominable speed. Even their horrible noise had an audience;
extremists could sample their forbidden wares on the albums Bride of
Insect and Carrion For Worm, and a 7” single, For Our Dead. All of
their releases featured the bizarre and disturbing art of Phil
Hampton, who also played the white noise static that they claimed
was guitar for the ghoulish band.

Band members Lori Bravo (or, former band member, as in the


next case) and Mr. Hampton were known to admire the Necroscope
books of Brian Lumley, and at the end of an interview, Mr. Hampton
wrote “Yog- Sothoth is All …”19

Rotting Christ from Athens, Greece, uses moody elements to


enhance their visceral audio material, much like Celtic Frost, who are
listed near the beginning of this report. The Lovecraft is extremely
diluted in their music, but it is there. They have an obscure mini-LP
out called Passage to Arcturo and a newer album, Thy Mighty
Contact.

Missouri’s Time-ghoul brings us Tumultuous Travelings, a


strange conglomeration of esoteric elements and raw brutality,
executed with blistering skill. “Rain Wound” and “Gut-spawn” are
choice cuts from the tape.

Connecticut’s Carrion Lord put out All Paths Lead to Chaos.


They claim to draw on HPL and Clive Barker for influence.

Likewise claiming the master’s influence is Brazil’s Sanctifier,


who have unleashed Ad Perpetuam Rei Memoriam, a demo effort.

Texas’ Solitude Aeturnus had a long epic titled “White Ship.” It


appeared on Into the Depths of Sorrow, their Roadrunner Records
debut.

San Francisco’s Testament is the second most popular thrash


band from their area (Metallica is the first). Their early material
collected on The Legacy and The New Order—was based on science
fiction/horror based motifs. They have a song titled “Disciples of the
Watch” on The New Order that is derived from Stephen King’s
“Children of the Corn,” which I’ve always considered, to be somewhat
Lovecraftian.

Dream Theater can be heard on any modern rock radio station.


Their current release, Images and Words, is quite the enjoyed item.
On an earlier recording, When Dream and Day Unite, they had an
instrumental called “The Yste Jam”—which could possibly have been
inspired by Robert A. W. Lowndes’ fictional tome, the Song of Yste.

Another Lovecraftian nod may be seen from the avant garde


hyper-jazz grind-noise group Naked City, the unbelievable creation of
the idiot-savant saxophonist John Zorn. Their latest release, a
Japanese import, is called Leng T’che.

Meshuggah’s European import Call From the Beyond could be


one more example to add to the list. The groups Desultory, Draksen,
Massacre, and Vader all have one thing in common—a song named
“From Beyond.”

Solo guitarist Michael Knight, from New York, has a


composition titled “Mountains of Madness,” one track out of many
that is on his newest album, Dreamscapes.

Phil Yeary, who also issues a fine special FX catalogue—


featuring a Mythos statuette in the shape of Cthulhu—had a music
project planned that would utilize the lore of HPL. His proposed
titles were “Reflections of R’lyeh,” “The Unwanted,” and “Industrial
Requiem.” Write to him for his catalogue at 1182 Kitchen Rd.,
Mooresville, IN 46158.
The following section deals with peripheral concerns. Fanzines,
as any reader knows, are an important part of the underground, a
lifeline between the general public and the die-hard fan. The music
scene has more than its share of fanzines, more than any other
medium that I know of. Only a few purport to have a Lovecraftian
angle, however. There was one called Chapel of Ghouls, a potpourri
publication of band interviews, music and horror movie reviews, and
fiction.

Others include the Simon tributes Abysmal Desolation,


Damned Souls, Necronomical, and yes, even one called
Necronomicon.

Mutilador (sic) from Mexico, sent ads into the mail that began
with: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Roealitum Wgah’nagl fhtagn … Hello
ignorant mankind, I’m a creation of the godly master H.P. Lovecraft
[one side of the ad displayed a pathetic looking monster], finally you
can see me and now you don’t need to imagine me ‘coz (sic) I’m real
and thanks (sic) to Mutilador I escape of the unholy Pnath, yeah,
after read the issue 8, I felt the real power of the life, and that help me
to fight with the dholes and Shantaks, fortunately I vanquish ‘em and
I read again this magazine ‘coz contains interviews with—“An
example of just how far HPL has seeped into the imaginations of the
youth.

Artist Brad Moore has drawn Star Trek related material for
conventions. He stated in an interview that “books by William
Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft … stir my cranium into hyperactive
states.”19

Dan Seagraves is a highly sought after album cover artist. His


paintings depict scenes that were obviously inspired by HPL. His
splendid work has graced the covers of Entombed’s Left Hand Path,
Morbid Angel’s Altars of Madness, The Key and Thresholds by
Nocturnus, Testimony of the Ancients and Spheres by Pestilence,
Benediction’s Transcend the Rubicon, Breeding the Spawn (non-
Lovecraftian, as far as I can determine) by Suffocation, a triad of
covers for Malevolent Creation, and others for Gorguts, Unleashed,
Monstrosity, Resurrection, and many others. These covers are worth
looking for. They can be found in record stores that sell the above
albums in cassette or CD format.

Renowned artist Michael Whelan, who produced some of the


most effective renderings of HPL’s work for paperback covers, is also
involved with the music scene, but only indirectly. He has also
provided art for books by Brian Lumley, Lin Carter, Karl Edward
Wagner’s The Year’s Best Horror Stories, among others.

The group Obituary used his back-cover work from The Best of
H.P. Lovecraft for their masterpiece, Cause of Death (Road Runner
Records), and another band, Demolition Hammer, has placed The
Doom that Came to Sarnath painting on their Century Media release
Epidemic of Violence.

Rising stars Sepultura have had three albums decorated with


newer works by Mr. Whelan, such as his masterstroke Nightmare in
Red, which was on Sepultura’s Beneath the Remains. Arise, Chaos
A.D. and a CD-single, Territory, also feature his art.

Not to be left out is H.R. Giger, the infamous designer of the


creature in Alien. His distinctive work is the ultimate in gloomy and
bizarre landscapes and flesh motifs, as his recent Necronomicon II
portfolio proves.

His Lovecraftian art has blessed the covers of Celtic Frost,


Danzig’s How the Gods Kill, and Germany’s Atrocity, not to mention
a sculpture of his that provided the cover imagery for Carcass’ Heart-
works LP.

Lastly is Innsmouth Records, a tiny label out from Mexico.


They have released at least one 7” record so far. Write to Juan Carlos
Ruiz (Apart-ado Postal 19-399, C.P. 03901 Mexico 19 D.F., Mexico)
for more information.

In bio sheets issued by Wild Rags Records, the band members


of Nuclear Death assert that “… no one has done justice to Lovecraft’s
stories …,” by which I take it that they mean musically. That could be
true. The music produced by some of these groups is often too
moronic and simple-minded to be taken seriously. Only a few of
them come even remotely close to obtaining a sense of atmosphere
similar to HPL’s, such as Celtic Frost, the two Metallica songs, and
Morbid Angel.

It should be noted, however—that despite the poor qualify of


several of the listed examples—that the groups perform their music
with the utmost of conviction (if not always talent or originality) and
with heartfelt adoration to the one who started it all—H.P. Lovecraft,
even if he would hardly have approved of any of them or their aural
interpretations. The sound-spawn are true disciples of Zann.

NOTES
1
Philip Herrera, “The Dream Lurker.” Time (June 11, 1973), p. 99.
2
Lin Carter, Lovecraft: A Look Behind the “Cthulhu Mythos. (New
York: Ballantine Books, 1972), p. 171.
3
Francis X. King, Witchcraft and Demonology. (New York: Hamlyn
Publishing Ltd., 1987), p. 144.
4
David Gates, “Let’s Do Naked Lunch.” Newsweek (September 6,
1993), p. 50.
5
William S. Burroughs, The Ticket that Exploded. (New York: Grove
Press, Inc., 1968), p. 59.
6
Robert Bloch, Strange Eons. (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Whispers
Press, 1978), p. 41.
7
James Hetfield, “The Thing that Should Not Be.” Master of Puppets
(Creeping Death Music, ASCAP, 1986).
8
Richard Proplesch, “Between the Hype and the Horror Lies Glen
Benton’s Death Wish.” Music Players Magazine (September
17, 1992), p. 17.
9
Schaus Fred, Apocalyptic Things, Volume One. (Privately printed,
Belgium, 1991), p. 12. This was a booklet of Lyrics that
accompanied a compilation of recorded music.
10
Max Otero, “Forgotten Fragments.” Coloured Funeral (Magic Arts,
1993).
11
Kenny Hakansson, “Stranger Eons” and “Chaos Breed.” Clandestine
(Earache Songs U.K., 1991).
12
Schaus Fred, Apocalyptic Things, Volume One. p. 7.
13
Ibid., p. 7.
14
Richard Proplesch, “Between the Horror and the Hype Lies Glen
Benton’s Death Wish.” p. 17.
15
Trey Azagthoth, “Angel of Disease.” Covenant (Earache Songs U.K.,
1993).
16
Richard C. Ellis, “Dear Wild Rag!” The Wild Rag! No. 26 (January,
1994), p. 3.
17
Russel Sauer, “Gammacide Interview.” Static ‘zine No.4 (October,
1990), p. 11.
18
Allen Mackey, “Gammacide Interview.” Mucus No.2 (January, 1992)
p. 32.
19
Joe Sputnik, “Nuclear Death Interview.” A Mortician’s Diary No.3
(January, 1992), p. 22.