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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.
TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW
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 Necronomicon - Childe Roland: If the last cut felt a bit like the weird Hawkwind, 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 dissonance. 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.
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 draft 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.
Unknown website by C.J. Henderson - May 7, 2003
"Strange Aeons," by Ramsey Campbell, Michael Cisco, Simon Clark, et al (Rainfall Records Cloud 004; unabridged fiction; two CDs; two hours and 18 minutes; $23; performed by the authors).
All right, it should be noted right up front that this is a very different kind of beast.
First: it is a spoken and musical tribute to H.P. Lovecraft and his ever-growing creation, the Cthulhu Mythos.
Second: this is not a story, but a collection of dozens of poems, incantations and ultra-short rambling horrors. Some are spoken, some are sung. Some are accompanied by music; some by energetic, disturbing special effects and some by both.
Disc one is the album proper, holding 23 tracks. Disc two is a bonus collection of outtakes, demos and alternate mixes. But, in true Lovecraftian fashion, there are tracks on the second disc that don't appear on the first.
This is such a wild and wooly collection of Mythosian pieces that it is hard to imagine it will ever be duplicated. Several of the authors here are top names in the sci-fi/horror field. In addition to writing pieces for this endeavor, many of them read their own works – and amazingly well. Many authors don't have enough showmanship to make it through a reading without boring their audience, but not this bunch. The contributors are: Ramsey Campbell, Michael Cisco, Simon Clark, John B. Ford, Joel Lane, Tim Lebbon, Thomas Ligotti, Brian Lumley, Susan McAdam, Robert M. Price, Joseph S. Pulver, Jr., Ann K. Schwader, Richard L. Tierney, Astral Weeks, Black Monolith, Kevin Broxton, Childe Roland, Fireaxe, Rod Goodway, The Gugs, Steve Lines, Lorretta Mansell, The Petals, Spawn of Chaos, Stormclouds, Thunderhead and the Zoogs. This is, for H.P.L. fans anyway, a wonderful collection. Many different crews recorded in numerous studios around the world, so sound quality varies from track to track, especially on the bonus disc. This is not to say that any of the tracks are lacking, for they aren't. But, it is somewhat obvious the same crew didn't do the entire recording. This is hardly a drawback.
Fans will love this one. Of course, it's the kind of product to which one listens a few times and then puts away. But, how often do we read or listen to any of our books? "Strange Aeons" has the advantage of being fun, which means it will often get pulled out to play for friends (at least, for favourite tracks). It's also got high replay value for Halloween.
This is something designed basically for fans of H.P. Lovecraft, no doubt about it. Still, it is remarkably well produced (considering the obstacles to getting all the assembled talent onto one set of discs). The sound quality is clear, the readings are all superlative and the special effects grim and chilling. The adventurous are certain to have fun with this one.