I used to work in a game store; one day the store got solicited to sell a music CD by a virtually unknown Canadian band described as “Cthulhu Punk.” The band was called The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets; it was their fourth album, but their first CD. The album was Cthulhu Strikes Back, and it became one of the best additions to my CD collection. I mean, hey, if it had anything to do with Cthulhu, it had to be cool!
Their recently released fifth album, Great Old Ones, is primarily a compilation of songs from their second and third albums, Hurts Like Hell! and Cthulhuriffomania!, but it does have three new songs, as well as two live recordings from Cthulhu Strikes Back. Included in the jacket are the lyrics, which show the range of lead singer Toren Atkinson’s humor and talent for Lovecraftian style. Twenty-two tracks of sanity losing fun!
The first seven tracks are the earliest recordings still around; from them, it is very evident that these guys were never just another garage band. All of these tracks are pretty straight-forward punk music. My personal favorite is track one, “Tarred And Feathered.” It’s a song about someone who digs torturing people, and although I don’t condone torture (to say the least), it has a rhythm that’s very catchy.
The next ten songs are from Cthulhuriffomania!, and represent the very best The [Darkest of the Hillside] Thickets have to offer. My personal favorite here is “Colour Me Green,” a Cthulhoid outlook on life using color as a metaphor. This is one song that deserves some serious radio air play. However, it only overshadows other greats like “A Thousand Fists,” “Big Robot Dinosaur,” “Rocket Science,” and “Mustard Gas” by a very fine line.
The remaining five songs are the live tracks and new stuff. The new ones prove that The [Darkest of the Hillside] Thickets have added endurance to their talent, displaying depth and versatility that goes beyond mere gimmicky. “Please God No,” “Six-Gun Gorgon Dynamo (a song about Shub-Niggurath),” and a faster, more punk cover of The Police’s “Walking On the Moon” all have a quirky style that grows on you the more you listen (much like fungus on the wall).
The biggest difficultly The [Darkest of the Hillside] Thickets have is people taking them seriously. Their look and focus suggest a gimmicky garage band, throwing out one-note songs until their schtick is beaten into the ground. But nothing could be further from the truth. Musically, these guys are very talented, and the quality of their playing is nothing to scoff at. Although the guitar (Warren Banks) and bass rhythms (Bob Fugger) are as basic as any other three chord rock song, their work has very bouncy tempos, which goes a long way. A consistent tempo is a refreshing change from the usual broken tempo of the generic “alternative” music that saturates the market these days.
The drumming (Jordan Pratt) is solid, tight, and guides the flow of the music tremendous- ly. As for the singing, don’t expect Toren Atkinson to do Man of La Mancha, but he and his brother Merrick (back up singer) have great voices. They’re better singers than most of the “alternative” garage screamers out there, that’s for sure. Their voices blend beautifully with the music, and create an overall impression that is both engaging and professional. Lovecraft fans in particular will get a groove from their work, but any music lover can find something to like about them.
I consider myself a music aficionado, and own a fair number of CDs, but if I were stranded on a desert island with only a few, I would want Great Old Ones with me. This is the greatest band you’ve never heard of, and they should age very well as time goes on. The back of the album says, “in this incarnation we can rest assured that the bulk of human fodder will not take us seriously, nor pay us undue heed.” Prove The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets wrong. Add this CD to your collection. Cthulhu says so!
– Marcelo A. Figueroa SHADIS The Independent Games Magazine, Issue 35/36 Volume V Number XI 1997