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The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

The Dukes of Alhazred

Review by Gary Hill

I've been a big fan of this band for years. Their tongue-in-cheek, H.P. Lovecraft dominated brand of punky hard rock is always fun. They got a whole chapter in my book The Strange Sound of Cthulhu: Music Inspired by the Writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and will have an even longer chapter in the expanded and revised edition I have in the works now. So, when I got this disc, I was excited. The excitement paid off with a set that is arguably their best. This has all the things I have always loved about the Thickets, but somehow seems more polished (in a good way) and effective.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
You Fool, Warren Is Dead!
Screaming hot punk rock is the idea here. This is high energy and so much fun. It's actually based on one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, too. I dig the percussion breakdown on this. They bring it back in from there in style.
Arachnotopia
With a healthy helping of the Ramones in the mix, the vocals bring more of a grunge sound to it. This is another high energy fun rocker. The bass guitar takes over at the end in style.
Shhh....
Pounding in quite heavy, this is very much in a hardcore punk kind of arrangement. It's driving and powerful. They turn it almost prog rock later in the cut with a cool melodic movement. This is a great rocker. The acapella section is a nice touch, too.
Coelacanthem
The opening modes of this have almost a mellow old-time rock and roll vibe. This is more of a melodic rocker. It manages to rock out with a punk energy later in the tune, though. This brings some variety to the proceedings and works well. I dig the bass driven break later and the cool guitar sounds that rise up after that.
The Great Molasses Disaster
Fast paced and screaming hot, this is a killer rocker. It's still got some punk in the mix, but also plenty of classic rock texture. Then again, punk was built on that sound in a lot of ways. I love the riff that drives this thing.
A Little Late
That classic rock vibe is all over this. I love the guitar fills on the cut. The whole tune is one of the catchiest things here. Sure, there is still some punk rock edge here, but this is probably more power-pop than it is anything else.
Welcome to the Island
Now, this is a huge change. It's a trippy kind of artsy number. It has spoken vocals over a stripped back trippy arrangement at the start. The bass drives it forward from there, and the vocals start to lean toward the sung end of the spectrum. The cut gets killer guitar added to the mix, and the singing comes into being. This is a smoking hot rocker that is very effective. It's one of my favorite cuts here. It is dynamic and just so tasty.
I Want to Live!
Drums bring this into being. It powers out from there with fast paced punk rock fury. It drops back for the vocals. I like the multiple layers of vocals that emerge later as the arrangement gets more full. This is another with a lot of catchy elements amongst the cool punky sounds. There is another drum solo section later in the track.
Erich Zann
With drums and a sound like a viol at the start, that arrangement is very much in keeping with Lovecraft's story. This is art-rock like in a lot of ways. It works outward after a time to more of a folk rock kind of vibe to continue. The strings really bring some seriously symphonic elements and emphasize the proggy edge to this piece. I love the guitar fills on this, too. The dramatic building on this is so powerful. Around the two and a half minute mark the bass takes over for a time. Then the strings return and this powerhouse instrumental continues to evolve. This is one of my favorites here, really. It does a great job of capturing the essence of the story and doing so in an arrangement that is very much a progressive rock kind of thing.
It Must Be the Wind
Trippy sounds start this. Then an insistent, driving punk rock styled guitar line enters to move it forward. This manages to be both edgy and catchy. There is a cool punk rock vibe to it, but it also has some power-pop and more.
Shoggoths Away
Here we get a new version of a classic Thickets rocker. This is a killer rendition. It is perhaps a bit more polished than the first version, but it loses nothing because of it. The guitar soloing on this is so cool. The jam that emerges from there takes on a bit of a classic-rock-meets-psychedelic vibe.
Varcolac
The riff that opens this is so cool. The whole tune has a great sound. It's catchy in an unusual way. There are some world music elements to it in some ways later. The guitar solo is quite tasty. This is another smoking hot rocker on a disc that's full of them. It ends with a bit of whistling.
Kill the Chupacabra Tonight
The bass starts this off in a fast paced pattern. Drums join next. The guitar enters as it continues to build. This is a cool punk-edged rocker with some echoey vocals. I love the chorus on this. It's catchy and so meaty. There is some theremin in the mix later. I'm a big fan of theremin so that's a good thing. This feels a bit more like earlier Thickets than some of the others do. It's a smoking hot number and a great way to end the set.
 
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