Their was a time when the fant of heart or tender of ear could play off the accomplishments of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets with a laugh. “Oh wow, a rock band from Canada that plays songs about the Cthulhu Mythos, that’s really amusing.” As of the release of their new Cd, Cthulhu Strikes Back, that time has passed.
If you have never experienced The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, this album will shock you, guaranteed. Cthulhu Mythos disciples who have heard about the band from publications like this one will be amazed that such die-hard cultists would take so much time away from their orgies and ritual sacrifice to learn how to really play their instruments. The [Darkest of the Hillside] Thickets CAN play, and their song-writing skills have advanced considerably since their last album, Cthulhuriffomania! (now out of print). Those who have discovered this band because of their music instead of their ethos will be equally dumbfounded by their relent- less dedication to the noble purpose of preparing the Earth for Cthulhu’s glorious return. For listeners who are enthralled both by Lovecraft’s stories and by catchy pop- punk noise-rock, Cthulhu Strikes Back might be sufficient impetus to run screaming naked into the street to light things on fire.
Lyrically, the overriding message is: They’re serious. Humor is, of course, still a major ingredient in The [Darkest of the Hillside] Thickets’ mix: there’s a song about dropping shoggoths from a B-17 onto an unsuspecting public, and singer Toren Atkinson does an all-out Elvis impression on “Yig Snake Daddy.” However, the album also contains several moments that are genuinely disturbing. In “Unstoppable,” Toren rants about having his mind forcibly opened by the Great Old Ones; “Cthulhu Dreams” is as earnest and inspiring a sermon on the Cthulhu Mythos as I’ve ever heard; and “HVW,” well, you’d have to hear that one to believe it. The lyrics really are what sets this band apart, and they are printed on the inside of the CD package, making this album worth buying even if you don’t enjoy the music. My favorite rhyme is “invisible mass” and “fissuring gas.”
The packaging is professionally slick and the cover art is very humorous (I won’t spoil the surprise) but the production, also professionally slick, is perhaps my only complaint. I’ve heard that this band is a truly awesome spectacle in live performance, but it’s kind of hard to tell from the smooth, radio-friendly way in which Cthulhu Strikes Back was recorded. I admit that this is a matter of personal taste, and the songs themselves are so intense that in my opinion they overcome this fault throughout most of the album anyway.
Buy this CD, support this band. You’ll wonder how you worshipped Cthulhu without it. 10 screaming, itching phobias [out of 10] for this puppy and a quote from “Protein” to wrap this review up:
“I had a dream the crawling chaos said. ‘I need for you to fill everyone with lead’ He filled me up with protein, I gave the magic sign He gave me x-ray vision and now the world is mine
Yes, yes yes
— Christian Klepac, THE UNSPEAKABLE OATH, Issue 14/15 1997