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Various Artists

Strange Aeons

Review by Gary Hill

According to the liner notes, Strange Aeons is "a musical tribute to H. P. Lovecraft and the ever expanding 'Cthulhu Mythos'". Steve Lines "directed and produced" the disc, but there are a number of artists who contributed to it. Disc one is described in those same notes as "the album proper" and disc two is "a bonus collection of outtakes, demos and alternate mixes. It also includes several tracks which would have been included on disc 1 if there had been enough room so their inclusion here should not infer that they are in any way inferior to those recordings on disc 1." Like any various artists compilation this one has both strong and weak material. Personally I am quite fond of the contributions from Childe Roland, and less taken by those by Stormclouds.

The format of the CD is to alternate between a poetry/prose reading and an actual song. This, while intriguing seems a bit strange after a while. Frankly, I would have to also say that the disc might have benefited from being cut down to one CD. However, there is plenty here to like, especially for fans of the writer whose work inspired it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Strange Aeons - Steve Lines
Weird sounds create a creepy sci-fi texture over which a narration is delivered dramatically. This is a powerful start to the disc and ends in dark Hawkwindish noise.

The Necromonicon - Childe Roland
 If the last cut felt a bit like the weird Hawkind, this one comes across as a solid rocking take on their more straight forward sound. This rocker is a bit more raw and stripped down than a lot of Hawkwind, but features a couple very tasty guitar solos.

The Telegram - Ramsey Campbell
This cut is another spoken word piece with sound effects at the ending.
Midnight Sun - Stormclouds
A slightly rough around the edges ballad, this one doesn't do a lot for me, feeling a bit amateurish. It features a noisy guitar solo that doesn't seem to fit the backdrop.

Tindalos - Brian Lumley
More atmospheric Hawkwindish waves of keys serve as the backdrop to the narrative of this one. It evolves up in intensity and weirdness as it carries on.

The Hounds of Tindalos - Childe Roland
This rocker again has a slight Hawkwind feel, but actually links more closely to a '50's sound mixed with elements that lean towards Jamaican grooves at times. This feels quite "cheery" and has some killer moments in its arrangement.

The Shore of Madness - Susan McAdam
Windy sounds create the backdrop for this poetry reading.
Dreamhound - Fireaxe
Weird spoken words start this, then a smoking metal texture takes the piece. This cut feels a bit like a rawer Iron Maiden meets Dio and Rush. Its high-energy approach is a great change of pace here. It is quite dynamic and ends with a bluesy nearly acapella verse.

Home - Simon Clark
This processed narrative feels very sci-fi oriented.

Call of the Whippoorwills - Stormclouds
An acoustic based ballad cut, this is also a bit rough and rather weak. It feels rather like a bad '60's folk group.

The Maze of Maal Dweb - The Petals
A competent psychedelic jam is the basis to this cut. This is not spectacular, but for fans of '60's psychedelia it should be a treat. The vocals are a little hard to take at times, though. A false ending gives way to a nearly acapella section. They do get bonus points for the sitar usage. This one definitely goes on a bit too long.

The Manuscript of Emily Zann - The Zoogs
Violin starts this. This is quite appropriate as Lovecraft's tale "The Music of Erich Zann" focuses on a man (depending on interpretation) either calling or holding at bay unknown creatures with his violin. In the case of this piece, the violin carries through a pretty melody unaccompanied for a time, then weird keyboard atmosphere enters, and the melody twists into a creepy cacophonic minor key with a lot of disonsance. The sound effects eventually gain control with monstrous tones, infecting it. A frightening burst of sounds ends this.
Brown Jenkin - Childe Roland
This cut instrumental feels a bit like a harder rocking version of early Pink Floyd. It resolves to an almost Bowieish segment before a nice break. The Bowie-like section comes back, extended this time.

Down To A Sunless Sea - Rod Goodway
This is one of the creepiest of the poetry readings here. At times it feels a little like Alice Cooper, while other segments bring just a small Hawkwindish texture. As it moves through its midsection those Hawk elements create a full early Hawkwind like section. Later a texture like a cross between Hawk weirdness and dark psychedelia takes the track. Sounds of wind and sea end this.

The Midnight Sister - Stormclouds
This has a garage band, neo-psychedelic texture. An instrumental break is both progish and quite strong.

Pickman's Painting - Kevin Broxton
This creepy reading has sound effects as its backing. An echo on the voice is a nice touch.

The Black Pharaoh - Astral Weeks
A slightly metallic, almost progish style works nicely here. A killer eastern tinged break is included later.

Innsmouth Jewelry - Loretta Mansell
The sounds of tides and seagulls mixed with eerier tones make up the backdrop for this reading. The narrative includes severely twisted and altered sound. Extremely weird tones end it.

At the Mountains of Madness - Childe Roland
Eastern sounds start this and run through in a short intro, then silence takes the cut for a time. A "Munsters" theme meets Hawkwind texture creates the main element for the song proper. This instrument is quite cool and ends abruptly.

The Black Litany of Nug and Yeb - Robert M. Price
This reading starts normally, but a weird pairing on sections makes it strange. This is a bit weird for me, and way too long and repetitive.

What Do They Say? - Stormclouds
Backwards tracking and a cool arrangement make this by far the best Stormclouds offering here. I'm a sucker for Eastern tinged music, and touches of those also add to the experience here. Weird processed words overlaid serve another plus. The extended jam, while repetitive, is quite cool.

The Stormclouds of Their Return - Joseph S. Pulver Sr.
Appropriately the sounds of a storm serves as the only backdrop to this poetry reading. The words are delivered in a very unemotional and matter of fact manner that adds a certain horror to their already frightening meaning.

Disc 2
Strange Aeons (Demo) - Steve Lines
This is a demo of the album's opener and still very effective.

The Necronomicon (Demo) - Childe Roland
 An acoustically based rendition of this track from disc 1, this is rougher, but still quite cool.

Invocation to the Void - Thomas Ligotti/John B. Ford
This is a great narration, at least as good a most on disc 1. It is one of the most dramatic. The atmospheric textures that provide accompaniment get quite weird, but are very entertaining.

Dunwich Town - Childe Roland
Roland here provides another rocker that has some Hawkwind like textures. This also almost has a "Mersey -Beat" sound at times.

The Whisperer In Darkness - Steve Lines
Weird horror movie tones with processed narration makes this a very strange piece.

The Ghooric Zone (demo) - The Gugs
Starting with weird textures, as the song proper comes in this feels like a Nik Turner (of Hawkwind) composition. This one is very solid and although a bit rough, one of my favorites on the set.

Home (Different Mix) - Simon Clark
This is another version, less understandable, of the track from the first CD.

Beyond The Fields We Know (Demo) - Stormclouds
This rough take has a fairly intriguing folk type arrangement. They should have fleshed this one out more as it is one of their stronger cuts.

The Ghosts of Cydonia - John B. Ford
This recitation, with its eerie arrangement is a strong one.

The House on the Borderland (Demo) - Childe Roland
I would have liked to hear a finished version of this cut, as even in this rough drat take it is a strong, albeit, underproduced and raw number.

Eclipse - Joel Lane
Sound effects serve as the backdrop to this narrative, one of the stronger ones. The lyrics to this one are awesome.

Midnight Sun - Childe Roland
This is a folky and quite entertaining entry from Roland.

Petition to Tsathoggua - Robert M. Price
This one has Hawkwindish weirdness far in the back. The recitation is a bit weak, though. It is essentially a prayer to the dark one.

The Thousand Young (Demo) - Black Monolith
This is one of the creepiest of the poetry readings here. At times it feels a little like Alice Cooper, while other segments bring just a small Hawkwindish texture. As it moves through its midsection those Hawk elements create a full early Hawkwind like section. Later a texture like a cross between Hawk weirdness and dark psychedelia takes the track. Sounds of wind and sea end this.

E'Ch Pi El - Spawn of Chaos
This punky stomper feels just a little like Hawkwind at times. It is very short.

Y' Golonac - Ramsey Campbell
This narrative has some extreme weirdness for its backing.

Lizzy (Demo) - Thunderhead
This demo is amateurish, but shows promise. The harmonica solo is a nice touch. The lyrics are quite strange.

Rats in the Walls - Steve Lines
This Hawkwindish narrative is based on one of my favorite Lovecraft stories.

Brown Jenkin (Demo) - Childe Roland
Even as a demo this one is still awesome.
Vacant Souls - Tim Lebbon
This is another cool prose reading. The lyrics are great.

Dreamhound (demo) - Fireaxe
This demo comes across as quite rough, but still quite strong.

The City Out of Time - Brian Lumley
This recitation is another freaky and processed sci-fi-ish one.

At The Mountains of Madness (Demo) - Childe Roland
I really like this version at least as much as the finished product.

The Night Music of Oakdeene - Michael Cisco
This weird one is an incantation ritual with weird voices and effects serving as the backdrop.

What Do They Say? (Acoustic) - Childe Roland
This one, performed by Stormclouds on disc one, is another strong entry from Roland.

When They Return - Steve Lines
This is another Hawkwindesque piece of weirdness.

 
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