Lovecraft and death metal, it’s like chili powder and cinnamon. Two things that you think don’t really have anything to do with each but when you actually experience them you wonder how you ever doubted. In my experience over the last decade or so listening to all strata of metal, I have found that of all the metal that uses Lovecraft as lyrical inspiration, death metal does it the best. There is something about the bombastic, thick sound and the guttural vocals that fits better with Lovecraft. Madness and cosmic horror seem to be an easy fit within the genre of metal that most glorifies horror films. While I have never been a huge body horror fan, or an enormous death metal fan to be honest, I have found the niche of “Lovecraftian Metal” to be one of the ones I go back to time and time again. From bands like Nile and Morbid Angel to Noir, a band I found only yesterday, there is something in the catchy riffs and the madness inducing subject matter that’s magnetic.
Noir, a technical death metal band out of LA, released an EP earlier this month entitled “Rise of R’lyeh.” It’s a short, four song album that doesn’t quite reach the thirty-minute mark, but in that amount of time I found myself pleasantly surprised. Noir is a one-man band at the moment (and you know how I respect the guys that can pull that sort of thing off) that, according to the bandcamp page, is in search for a full time drummer. The brand of death metal that Noir plays on Rise of R’lyeh is more atmospheric than I was expecting, I have a certain image in mind when I think of technical death metal. Of course when Lovecraft is involved you have to throw a lot of preconceptions out of the window. Noir mixes a lot of ambient noise into the metal, lowering the overall volume of Rise of R’lyeh. Some of the intensity is lost, but I think the album gains more from the background noises and narration than it loses with the sound.
The quality of the sound is pretty good too, considering the limitations on one-man bands like this. The riffs are full and rich while the drums (arguably the weak point of the album but still pretty good) lay down a good asymmetrical foundation. The ambient noise is pretty good too, I would say it falls somewhere between industrial and field recordings. The narration in “Cthulhu” is taken, of course, from the epic short story itself, describing (as best as we mortals could understand such things) the Old One. Even though I’ve read the story a few times and heard narration of it before, it seemed richer on Rise of R’lyeh, it felt more atmospheric and foreboding.
Without the benefit of real vocals, the narrations on the album are important, in the same way that the music and art direction were important on the “Call of Cthulhu” silent film from a few years ago (a film that I highly recommend by the way). The narration picks up the slack from the music and carries a lot of the story telling weight. Death metal creates a pretty good atmosphere but it’s not as good as black metal in telling a story. That’s why the narration is important, it directs the ship, as it were, around the dreaded city of R’lyeh.
This is a pretty good starting point for Noir. They have some ways to go before they reach elite status with the “Lovecraftian Metal” realm but the talent and the artistry is there, they have the ability to progress their sound, try out new things, and experiment. I look forward to seeing what comes of this project.
Listen and support!