From among the vast numbers of horror and sci-fi authors, none is probably more known, but then also unknown in some way, than the famous Providence man, Howard Philips Lovecraft. We might discriminate against some other great authors with this statement, but Lovecraft has created something which inspired not only his friends and later followers with their literary outputs, mainly in the now well-known Cthulhu Mythos, Lovecraftiana reached to almost every cultural area known to a man. In this article we will look into Lovecraft’s influence of the extreme music.
For that purpose I have contacted several bands which in their works are influenced by Lovecraft’s work. Of course, the band list is not exhausting, some bands didn’t respond, some I might have missed…anyway, enjoy the Lovecraftiana in Music!
DUSTY TOMES OF LITERATURE
“It was September 1st. For the first time we met a good friend of us at home. We didn´t know that he got a library with ancient books. And there we saw it: the one and only book written by Abdul al Hazred: The Necronomicon!” relates Daniel (TULZSCHA). “Back to reality: Most of us have been very into literature, especially dark/horror/fictional literature. You cannot be fan of horror literature without knowing H.P. Lovecraft, that’s impossible. To all of us, he has been one of the first and best authors in horror literature.”
Ways to discover Lovecraft’s literary output are various and different. Those interested in literature took sometimes very varied ways to discover the genius of horror. Matti (CORPSESSED) explains: “H.P.Lovecraft’s writings have had an impact on me since a very early age when I stumbled upon his novels when I must have been no more than 10 years old. I probably did not get the whole gist of his writings back then, even his use of language and adjectives is very characteristic and peculiar. But his writings have grown on me immensly during the years and dare I say even influenced on how I view the universe and humanity…. Lovecraft paints a cold and Nihilistic world, where morality is very subjective, perhaps even meaningless and the whole existance of mankind is rather indifferent. Or atleast very insignificant in the face of Cosmic horrors lurking beyond the reaches of our perception.”
From one classic author to another, that’s the case of Carlos Zea, guitarist from Columbian bestial death metal act Yog-SOTHOTH: “The approach to the work of Lovecraft was by coincidence because at first I was very inclined towards literature of Edgar Allan Poe, then discovered H. P. Lovecraft. And then I started joining matches with lyrics of bands which already was a fan as King Diamond, Morbid Angel or Metallica.”
Similar experience comes from ACEDIA: “Lovecraft has got to be one of our biggest influences. I first discovered him through my local library looking for authors similar to Edgar Allen Poe. The first story I read was Shadow Over Innsmouth.”
Or, as ALHAZRED puts it: “I first discovered Lovecraft many years ago, when I was in high school. I’d been a fan of fantasy, SF and horror many years prior to that, especially with writers like Asimov, Poe and Tolkien. In fact, the first things I read by Lovecraft were his ‘dream fantasies’ rather than his more famous SF/horror works, and this aspect of Lovecraft’s fiction is still my favorite. In a similar vein, the writings of other late Victorian or Edwardian writers like Lord Dunsany, William Hope Hodgson and RW Chambers have had a significant influence on my music.”
Basically speaking, if you are into horror literature, sooner or later you will discover Lovecraft (if not, there’s something wrong, obviously). It might even be an accident: “I came across one of his stories by accident and I immediately felt attached to it. There was something peculiar about his works and the odd feelings it transfers to the reader that inspired me to search for all of his works and read them.” (Daemon, INNZMOUTH)
Not unlike the experience of Alec (GODS OF HELLFIRE): “I was actually introduced by my brother, who came back from university around 12 years ago and slapped a mystery book into my hand and basically told me “you’ve got to read this!” Well, I did…and then I went out and got another, and another until I’d read just about everything there was. In the meantime I started to see the name cropping up everywhere… societies, films, people who wrote on in his style, all I suppose continuing his work where he left off. I began to realise what a big impression Lovecraft had left behind, and also to kick myself that I hadn’t began reading his work earlier.”
Experience by the member of BEAST CONJURATOR nicely describes this journey through horror genre in literature: “My passion for the Lovecraft work started when I was a teenager. I was a enthusiast of the Fantastic Literature and used to read writers like E.A. Poe, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Arthur Machen among others. I always saw names like “H.P. Lovecraft”, “Cthulhu” and “Great Old Ones” printed in numerous places but I only “got the call” when I bought a old compilation with some short histories from the Horror Master. Then it was COMPLETE fascination! I just couldn’t stop read about the Mythos and its author. It became a true vice and since then I have dedicated some years of my life in the search of all kind of edition in Portuguese (and some in English). Lovecraft work just became part of my life, living under the Necronomicon’s influence, and would be impossible if it did not take a important place in my artistic work as musician and lyricist.”
Asmodevs Draco DVX (AZRATH-11) relates his encounters with the weird tales of Lovecraft: “My first approach with Lovecraftian themes was at the high-school, since the very beginning I felt his works were extraordinary masterpieces, his skills to blend the reality and history in a unique ingenious formula is astonishing and at every reading totally blown my mind away introducing me in another darker dimension where I drowned my fantasies and ideas later took form unto the music for Azrath-11!”
Horror genre is not just a men’s thing, certainly we can find great horror writers – and their followers in the form of female artists, as Esmee Tabasco (TYRANT’S KALL) unequivocally states: “I am someone who loves to read. Even as a child I was always with the nose in the books. I also had a big fascination for anything that was associated with horror and the supernatural. I guess I was a weird kid. And I was also much more mature than others when it concerned these kinds of subject. I was 7 when I saw my first horror movie. When I was 12 I kept a big file with newspaper cut-outs and all the information I could get about serial killers. Not that I wanted to kill people or anything, but this was just something that fascinated me enormously. When you add things up (the books, the movies, …) it was only a matter of time before I would come across the work of Lovecraft. As a matter of fact, I read my first book for adults when I was about 11 of 12 years old, and it was a compilation of Lovecraft stories. And I swear it was love at first reading! Of course I was way too young to fully grasp the whole idea Lovecraft was hinting at, and I didn’t realise that there was quite often a link between the different stories. That realisation only came with the many years. I know that there are organisations like HPLHS, with members who almost dedicate their lives on studying Lovecraft’s life, stories and everything around it. They are admirable, but that is something I couldn’t do. There are still many other authors in this world that also deserve reading and so many other things to be interested in. So I am certainly honest when I say that there is much more for me to learn about the Lovecraftian cult. It’s more some kind of inert fascination that makes me come back to the same subject again and again. When I came in contact with the band, they were having some trouble finding a singer that fitted the band and the whole atmosphere they wanted to create. The singer before me was the first one who introduced the Lovecraftian cult in the music. Next to the music, this was also something that interested me in the band. One thing led to another and now I am the singer and I get my inspiration from the great Howard Phillips and everything that could have ever inspired him, or what he even might have written.”
“I can’t actually remember when I discovered Howard Philip Lovecraft the first time,” relates Christoffer (SMOTHERED). “It feels like he’s always been there. Like this safe place in my (sub)consciousness that I’ve always fall back on. I’ve read his novels every odd years since I was a teenager. But I think it must have been when I stumbled upon an Audiobook read by a famous Swedish actor named Ernst-Hugo Järegård who read stories like “The Hound” and “The Rats in the Walls” to name a few that I came in contact with Lovecraft for the first time. Must have been in 1993-94.”
“As a teenager, I wanted to try to read something else than what we were forced to read at school,” says Bertrand (DYLATH-LEEN). “So first, as a lot of french teenagers, I tried to find a horror book and my first try was Stephen King… in fact that was not my cup of tea (or my bottle of wine – say as you want for a french guy like me ;)) but in the preface of this book, the author described some kind of secret meeting of all the jet-set of this kind of literature in the house of the master of Providence… The mistery around this gave me the need to discover more, I searched for a book by Lovecraft and found “The call of Cthulhu”. I understood that Metallica was loving this and it increased my curiosity ! That book changed my life : first of all it was a great moment to read for the first time in my life and after that I read more and more different things about Lovecraft, who was seeing the world as I did very often… it was a weird and disturbing feeling. I found a spiritual father …”
As mentioned previously, readers of weird fiction, sci-fi and macabre sooner or later stumble upon Lovecraft, it’s almost inevitable, as witnessed by Sotiris V (SEPTICFLESH): “As I am a big fan of science fiction, I always enjoyed reading books of that genre. So eventually I stumbled upon the work of Lovecraft. I was immediately captivated, both by the thematology and the intense writing style.”
ZIGGURAT‘s D. Boyd has this to say on the topic: “I discovered Lovecraft when I was about 16 years old. Had always been a big horror reader and eventually stumbled upon his work. To say it changed my life is an understatement. My original musical goal was to base my lyrics around theology and history. But after really digging in the Mythos, the band took a whole new direction. Eventually culminating in the only band that IS “MYTHOS METAL MADNESS”! We are listed on HP Lovecraft.com and premier Lovecraftian artist, Dave Carson, has graced our shirts with his artwork. His art will also be our next album cover.”
First encounter with Lovecraft? “It was so long ago that it is almost impossible to remember. The Dreams in the Witch House must have been one of the first stories, and after that the ball started rolling,” (ASA-NOIR)
Nenad’s experience is similar: “Reading. I love reading especially of the criminal macabre, once u outgrow EA Poe u kinda stumble on HP L, and once u read it your hooked. Some old video games influenced since I was a child too but mostly books.” Nenad (DAGGERSPAWN)
FROM MUSIC TO LITERATURE, FROM LITERATURE TO MUSIC
The impact on earlier bands is clearly seen in older records and few artists found Lovecraft through them, let Tim from BURNING SHADOWS explain: “I discovered Lovecraft through Metallica’s “The Call of Ktulu” and “The Thing That Should Not Be.” Upon learning that these songs were based on HP Lovecraft tales, I picked up a collection of his stories from the bookstore and was instantly hooked. I have checked out a handful of the stories and movies based on his work (Reanimator, for example), but there’s simply nothing as good as the real thing.”
From one classic author to another, that’s the case of Carlos Zea, guitarist from Columbian bestial death metal act YOG-SOTHOTH: “The approach to the work of Lovecraft was by coincidence because at first I was very inclined towards literature of Edgar Allan Poe, then discovered H. P. Lovecraft. And then I started joining matches with lyrics of bands which already was a fan as King Diamond, Morbid Angel or Metallica.”
Says Ipsissimus Nihil Magister (BLACK TEMPLE BELOW): “I discovered Lovecraft for the first time when I was a 14-15 years old kid, being a fan of bands like early Morbid Angel and movies like “In The Mouth Of Madness” and “The Thing” by John Carpenter. When we briefly approached the Lovecraftian tales at school, it was done… since then I read any single book or tale by Lovecraft I could get my hands on. The first one I’ve read was “Azathoth.”
Metallica had really big impact on the fans of Lovecraft. No surprise, really. Tim from DAMNATIONS HAMMER reveals his experience thusly: “I think my first introduction to Lovecraft would have been through Metallica in the mid 1980’s with their tracks Call of Ktulu and The Thing That Should Not Be, the latter being my favourite Metallica track, love the lyrics too. Reading interviews with the band back in the day I remember Cliff Burton mentioning he was an avid reader of H.P Lovecraft – although I never understood why they spelt Cthulu as Ktulu? I can’t recall when I read my first Lovecraft book, I’m guessing it was around 1996 – the guitarist of the band I was in at the time lent me a collection of Lovecraft’s short stories as I wanted to read The Call Of Cthulu. Of all the stories in that first book I read At The Mountains Of Madness stood out to me, it’s still one of my personal favourites to this day. I appreciate the way the majority of Lovecraft’s work is interconnected with almost every tale mentioning the dreaded Necronomicon written by the mad arab Abdul AlHazred.”
But not only the older bands, newer generations of musicians get their initial inspiration also from other musical sources, as testified by Nedry (AKEM MANAH): “The way i got interested in HP Lovecraft was from the great band Electric Wizard. The song they did on “Witchcult Today” called “Dunwich” based on Lovecraft’s ‘Dunwich Horror”. Also the band Catacombs and his massive Lovecraft drenched album “In The Depths Of R’lyeh”.”
Tim (DAMNATION’S HAMMER) throws another musical influence in the mix: “When I formed Damnations Hammer the concept of the band was to invoke the same feeling I had when first discovering bands like Celtic Frost with their – at the time – surreal image and fantasy lyrics, obviously H.P. Lovecraft’s stories of macabre horror are a perfect resource for inspiration for Damnations Hammer. Additionally in the same way some of Lovecraft’s stories interconnect I wanted a theme to run through our work – on our demo EP from 2009 titled Serpent’s Wrath we have a surreal soundscape called The Hex, the soon to released album is called Disciples of the Hex and features a second soundscape titled The Hex ii – each subsequent release from Damnations Hammer will feature the next instalment of The Hex.”
EVANGELIST‘s way to discover Lovecraft is also via Metallica: “I owe discovery of Lovecraft to Metallica’s “Call of Ktulu” in the early 90s. There was no Internet, so I just had to go to library and check what this “Ktulu” shit was all about. Mindblowing experience for a teenager, indeed.”
“Really not when i was a child but more or less about 20 years old,” recounts his memories a member of BRUTUS. “I listened Metallica,Maiden and others heavy metal bands with Lovecraft’s lyrics and it has recalled my attention.
“I personally discovered him after hearing the band H.P. Lovecraft and later found out that he was a writer. Came in contact with his works through music (death metal to be exact) and later started to read his short stories.” admits Marko (OAK).
“We made a lyrical concept about lovecraftian themes in our first album Necrogenesis (The Spew records, 2010), but in our new record (our next album “Atonement” will be released by Comatose Music in 2013, and you can hear a preview on the label website, comatosemusic.com) we shifted the focus of our lyrics on the ominous and contradictory sides of human existence,” the member of LOGIC OF DENIAL writes. “Nevertheless, the core of our lyricism and the atmospheres we try to recreate are still influenced by the incredible work Lovecraft did on his writings. All the band contributes to the lyrical concept of our records, but I take care along with our singer Matt of the lyric duties, and we always loved Lovecraft since high school. We loved the dark, odd and, at the same time, epic and sublime atmospheres he instilled in his stories. Now, even if we don’t directly talk about Dagon on our tunes, that kind of feeling still inspires me when I write a new song, when I think about a cool title or when I try to drop some lines for some lyrics. After all, in my opinion there’s a link between the in-human sides of existence and the suggestive style Lovecraft used to depict his characters and his incredible stories.”
(end of 1. part)
Editor’s note: The article was written in 2013, therefore some of the bands answering are no longer active)