Purchase Oath of Dagon here.
My dear unknown friend,
What I love most about our little corner of the multiverse is the unbridled creativity running rampant throughout. I feel this is only fitting given the importance Lovecraft himself placed upon the artistic within one of his crowning achievements, “The Call of Cthulhu”.
Extreme music and Lovecraft have a long and involved history, one explored earlier on this very website by Benjamin Welton. My first exposure to Lovecraftian music came from the Nick Blinko fronted outfit Rudimentary Peni. Seeing the album covers for Death Church and Cacophony, covered with Blinko’s distinctive and cramped hallucinatory pen and ink illustrations definitely made an impact.
Oath of Dagon arrived in my mail as a comic book sized dream journal absolutely overflowing with art by Marcelo Orsi Blanco and a download card with the code for the music files in .wav format. While I downloaded the files (which arrive archived in .zip format) I performed a quick search for Brett Miller and his Oath of Dagon project and found this video:
Upon watching that brief teaser and with a few glimpses within the accompanying book it quickly became apparent a lot of time and care had been placed into the crafting of this object and I felt it best to approach Oath of Dagon with a certain gravity. So I waited until my wife was away for a business trip so as to curtail any interruptions, pulled on my headphones and settled back in my reading chair with book in hand and gave myself over to the experience.
First off this is instrumental progressive metal. You either like it or you don’t. There’s no getting around that and the videos will give you enough of a taste for you to know before you dive in with your wallet. I believe the last prog metal band I saw live was Fates Warning opening for Marilyn Manson’s Jesus Christ Superstar tour so that tells you how long ago that was. Yet I had no problem falling in line with Brett Miller’s carefully crafted creations. Then again with the way metal’s genres twist and mutate in upon themselves these rigid boundaries are hard to regulate, especially with border-hopping figures such as Devin Townsend and Mike Patton around to muddy the works.
“R’lyeh” sets the blueprint for much of the album. A cinematic soundbed, vocal samples low in the mix to add atmosphere and then the guitar. This is a guitar heavy album, no doubt about it. Halfway through “R’lyeh” I had the thought, “Someone attended Berklee School of Music,” and that thought would not let go until I had checked Google to confirm it. (I’m willing to bet Mr. Miller has quite a number of releases from Shrapnel Records in his collection as well. Heads will recognize.)
The production on this album is top-notch. The care taken in the mixing and stereo placement of the instruments stands out to striking effect in songs such as “Al Azif The Howling of the Demons”. This is when the time spent in the headphones truly pays off, especially in moments such as 3:00 in when the track opens up into spectral chanting that raises the hair on the back of one’s neck.
Marcelo Orsi Blanco’s work in the accompanying book is nothing short of stunning. His style has the capability to evoke stunning alien vistas that offer grand scope while still revealing intimate details. There were more than a few times when I thought at a quick glance I was being shown a wide-ranging landscape only to realize upon closer inspection that it was indeed a figure. In combination with Miller’s soundscapes this pairing proves to be an effective one. The interaction between the text and the artwork was another facet of Blanco’s work with Oath of Dagon I particularly enjoyed, a visual reflection of Miller’s practice of mixing vocal samples low in the audio mix.
There are ten paintings by Blanco to match the ten tracks by Miller with a page thanking backers from the project’s successful Kickstarter and an end page for a twenty-two page, lavishly illustrated book. As I said watch the enclosed videos not only to hear what Oath of Dagon sounds like but also to see Blanco working on his paintings. If prog metal is your jam then I encourage Oath of Dagon highly for you. This is a solid release that is obviously a passion project from two artists that eat, sleep and dream Lovecraft. That is a very cool thing indeed.
2. Old Zadok Allen
3. Sentinel Hill
4. Plateau of Leng
5. Al Azif: The Howling of Demons
6. House of Jermyn
7. Mr. Noyes
8. The Gilman Hospitality
9. Plate XII
Purchase Oath of Dagon here.
This review was written by Acep Hale.