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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Musica Cthulhiana


Review by Gary Hill

While this is really more like dark electronic music, I’ve included it in the progressive rock section because it really isn’t that far removed from some stuff by other electronic groups that get set in prog. This music is intended (as advertised) to be soundtrack music for role playing gaming. As such, one might expect it all to be monolithic. The truth is, it’s not – by any means. This is quite a diverse set of tracks with each one having a unique identity. Yet all are dark and ominous. This is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys dark instrumental music that’s rather ambient. Of course, it would be great for a session of “Call of Cthulhu,” too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Dr. Gorgo

Ambient, yet dark and foreboding, this is both atmospheric and electronic. It is much like soundtrack music with sound effects added. It’s also very creepy. Parts of this almost make me think of Black Sabbath’s “E5150.”

This seems to come straight out of the previous piece and feels laden with feedback and weird waves of sound that rise up. Later screaming join and it takes on an almost jazz like sound with the addition of some horns later. Some odd whispering shows up near the end of the piece.
A keyboard sound, like pulsing waves of movement starts this. They build on it from there. As this continues there are some cool rhythmic elements added to the mix. Some seriously dramatic sounds are added later, sort of skating across the backdrop.
Avril Noir (Exposition)
Weird sound effects bring this out of the previous one. It feels like a nightmare that’s building to an explosive point. There is definitely a dream-like quality, but this is not a happy dream. We never really move past the sound effect stage with this and a weird thumping, a bit like a heartbeat, takes it later to end it.
Arkham Sanatorium
The beating from the previous one starts here, but then weird keyboard sounds rise up creating a dark and frightening tapestry of sound. There is certainly a dream-like characteristic to some of this as waves of sound seem to intrude on reality, like little bits of dream popping in over the top of something else. More energy emerges later as this becomes a pounding sort of sound, but still somewhat understated and dreamlike.
The Bell Fragment
Much noisier and raucous, this powers in with a lot of cymbals and other elements. It shifts out to darker ambience, though. As one might guess from the title some bells emerge later and this really feels like a soundtrack piece, to a very weird segment of a film. It’s got an almost science fiction texture to it, but very dark. Something that feels a bit like a cross between the wind and a siren comes up out of it later. A new section enters from there and we hear more of the bell. It turns a little more melodic later and almost feels like it’s ready to jump out into a real song for a moment, but then shifts to more dark atmosphere instead to segue into the next number.
Pale Palace
Atmospheric and very dark, this comes out of the previous piece. A little percussion, sounding basically like drum sticks clacking together, is heard in the background as waves of sound rise and fall in the foreground. A repeating melody line, a bit like some kind of distant pipe or bell comes in further down the road.
Kaventsmanns Tod
There are some pretty, but dark, piano like melody elements on this over the top of some dark and menacing sounds in the background.
More sound effects driven, this is a little noisy, but equally atmospheric and dark. There are bits here that feel truly monstrous in a lot of ways. as if there is some unknown terror lurking just outside the range of vision. It can be heard, massive and alien, but just not seen.
Einschlaf Path
More melodic and pretty, this moves very slowly and while beautiful, it’s also very dark and foreboding.
As this comes in it really feels like a continuation of the previous piece, rising up a bit higher in volume. Then it becomes more effects oriented and rather noisy. It drops to effects driven atmosphere and moves on from there. As it continues we hear hints of something truly monstrous in a sound that feels like a processed voice a bit like Carol Ann in “Poltergeist,” when she was in the TV.  A cool new melody emerges at the end to segue into the next number.
This is more melodic than some of the other music and rather pretty. It moves slowly and is a little less foreboding, too. It turns to a pounding sort of movement later and really works nicely. Some sounds that feel like backwards tracked bits come in at the end to take it into the next one.
Jack's Method
Coming out of the sounds that ended the last one, this moves to more ambient territory as it continues. It gets some different musical elements added further down the road. This works through some changes and alterations, but does it all slowly and remains dark and ominous throughout.  A cool, echoey booming section takes it at the end.
Disc 2
Bouncy keyboards open this and hold it as it moves forward. It grows very gradually upwards from there feeling kind of like a signal sent out by a satellite in deep space.
Avril Noir (Ouverture)
The noise that pulls this in feels like explosion type sound effects Hawkwind might have used. I’m thinking of the Hall of the Mountain Grill album. Something sounding like chorale voices comes in along with that sound as the track moves forward. It’s dark and ominous. Although this is certainly darker than anything Hawkwind ever did, there are moments later that call to mind some of the tribal chanting weirdness common to early Hawkwind. A different texture takes it at the end to close     
This has a more organic element to it, but also there’s sort of a machine hum ebbing and flowing here. It grows gradually, transforming as it continues. This is more musical than some of the other stuff, and less dark.
Deep Orbit Anvil
Coming in dramatic and suitably spacey, this is cool stuff. A darker Tangerine Dream, merged with early Pink Floyd might make a good description. It works into some cool space textures as it continues.
Prypial Debris
As this rises out from the previous number there are echoey backwards tracked bits. This is far more ambient, but also noisier in some ways.
Little stabs of keyboards rise up out of the ambience left behind in the previous number. That motif, with other elements added, remains the driving force behind this piece.
Omnium Void
Coming in mellow and atmospheric, this grows gradually. It really feels like a piece of deep space, but with some kind of strange, alien life floating about. It is a piece with a rhythmic texture rather out front and a lot of space built into the arrangement in terms of empty area.
Das Schauhaus
Noisy sound effects and other oddities make up this cut. It’s another that really calls to mind deep space. It works through some different sections, but remains virtually unchanged in terms of musical territory. Although there are some more musical moments that come to play later. In fact, there’s a keyboard bit near the end that seems almost symphonic in nature.
The sound effects that start this feel a bit like a storm or a spaceship launching. Those sounds hold it for quite some time, with other sound effects coming and going (including some that seem like voices). Then a melody begins to emerge amidst the noise. The sound effects really dominate the piece, though.
Moriarty’s Ruins
Ambient and more melodic, this rises up from the noise of the previous number. It evolves more towards sound effects and weirdness as it continues, though. As it continues it becomes very spacey and very alien in nature. A cool humming sound takes it at the end and moves it into the next number.
The humming that ended the last one opens this and the track begins to gradually build out from there. Eventually slow moving, glacial waves of sound ebb and flow. Although everything about this piece happens very slowly, it has some of most melodic sounds we’ve heard for a while.
The Ascent
There is much here in the form of weird sound effects and other types of atmospheric but dark and disturbing elements. A drum beat emerges and carries forward. Then a rather symphonic musical arrangement joins with this becoming one of the most “musical” cuts on show here.
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