A review by The Buried Herald
👁️ Lovecraftian horror reaching through the speakers 👁️
We can all recall at least a handful of visionaries whose creations, art or thoughts were never fully acknowledged until sometime after they died. One of them was Howard Phillips Lovecraft who during his relatively short life managed to craft a universe so rich yet twisted at the same time that it proved to be perfect breeding ground for art of any shape to come. Revolving around themes of religion, forbidden knowledge or humanity’s insignificance, Lovecraft’s stories convey emotions of dark and unsettling nature. Timeless in its obscurity.
Deities is a second LP released on 01.01.2020 by Tortuga and it so happens to be an intricate homage to no other than Lovecraft himself. Almost all tracks here are devoted to a different deity from the Lovecraftian Mythos. All soaked in this cryptic tone that lures you further into the darkness with each passing minute. Call it a concept album, call it a tribute album or simply call it doom done right. Seriously, let’s just get down to it.
Shining Sphere begins with a gentle wave of synths that are quickly extinguished in favor of some ethereally delayed guitar chords. This short instrumental opener pays respects to Juk-Shabb, one of Lovecraftian deities referred to as the Great Old One. Resembling a massive ball of incomprehensible sentient energy, this deity is said to be powerful yet not all so malicious. And I can fairly say that Tortuga did a good job portraying this mysterious contrast as suddenly midway through the track things take a more sinister turn. Tuned low, burning slow…
The second track comes right after with similarly timid bass work as in Shining Sphere and is immediately joined by distant vocals chanting ‘Wrong place… You’re in a wrong place…’ The title, Esoteric Order, takes its name from The Esoteric Order of Dagon which according to the lore is a cult that worships gods residing deep in the aquatic realms, with Dagon being the highest in the hierarchy. It’s a decent cut that seems to have all the essential stoner doom metal components. The heavy, repetitive yet simple riff is the foundation here and while I couldn’t dig much substance out of it, I do respect how it’s being gradually expanded and played with as the track enfolds. The other half of the song is dominated by the ravaging guitar solo that heavily reminds me of the early works of Dopelord. Be wary, it’s pretty contagious!
And there comes the third track, For Elizard. Yig, the Father Of Serpents is yet another Great Old One that according to Tortuga’s imagination, holds quite a grudge towards Godzilla. The story is told from Yig’s perspective and is filled with outbursts of anger, mockery, curses and even holds a short sample from the actual 1998 Godzilla movie. Yet frankly speaking, I find this track quite underwhelming. Some cuts here sound bleak and some are almost identical as ones we’ve heard earlier on. But there are moments when things become interesting again, riffs crack down, solos appear and the track gains overall momentum. The last few minutes are in fact some of my favorite moments on this record where all instruments dance and swirl only to be heated up again by the bellowing vocals. Unfortunately, the track closer broke the spell for me as the sudden “Thank you, for your attention” just felt anticlimactic.
Defective Mind Transfer is the only track on Deities which is not devoted to a deity but instead draws inspiration from the novel written in 1920 titled ‘From Beyond’. Fully instrumental, it gradually leads us through the dark planes of our imagination towards the imminent oblivion. Yet again we got a heavily riff-laden track which takes its time to evolve but is interwoven with quite some sonic treats in the shape of delays, saturated guitar solos or horror movie samples. I told you, it’s all there and it’s good.
Moving onto Black Pharaoh now... It’s a tribute to Nyarlathotep who as you’ve probably guessed, is yet another higher entity in the Lovecraftian universe. Said to be the most human-like of all the gods, he is deceptive, manipulative and just likes to fuck with the world. The instrumental atmosphere here is gloomy and tense, vocals have this characteristic evil tint to them, and the vibe is anything but comforting.
Next comes Trip which simply speaking tells a story about a guy whose acid trippin’ took him to wrong places. By wrong I mean the realm of Azathoth, the Outer God residing in the center of all chaos. The track is composed of three parts where each has a different feel to it. First couple of minutes are a journey through space and haze with sweet-sounding guitar that rings until the whole thing gets out of hand… You’re suddenly thrown on a supersonic speeder, you talk to yourself and try to escape this madness building up around you. But then comes the last segment of Trip, slowing down again and opening up with an easy-going bass line that is supported with a sample taken from an old American documentary advising against the use of LSD. And so the mellow vibe continues until the tempo accelerates and instruments raise fire one last time.
And with Galeón de Manila we reach the end of the album where no other than Cthulhu himself awaits us. Interestingly enough, the song lasts for 15 minutes and begins with an eerie Spanish monologue telling the story of a XVII century galleon sailing from Acapulco to Manila. The vessel’s captain gradually turns mad as his dreams are being haunted by Cthulhu, the Great Old One. Music-wise the song is tense, dire and unsettling. Blackened growls appear as do evil Spanish chants. You don’t really know what’s going on and what is the growling voice trying to say. What you do know is that the track feels tangible, there is a sense of direction that you can follow. I could only wish the outro was shorter in favor of a longer instrumental segment earlier on. One can assume the galleon didn’t make it to Manila and this oblivious, synth-drenched outro paints the picture grievously well.
I must say it was quite an experience going through and analyzing Deities by Tortuga. It’s an album where moments are key. On one hand it feels cohesive but on the other the discrepancies between various tracks makes the experience uneven. The production might seem a little rough around the edges but it surely did add to the general spooky vibe. You got a balanced use of movie samples, some amazing riff worship and the on-point addition of synthesizers. But then some instrumental parts felt disturbingly flat and without much variety to them, especially in the first few tracks.
Though to be honest, I don’t mind as Deities show that Tortuga fear not to embark on new quests and embrace their DIY approach. This record brought me joy as it prompted me to expand my knowledge on the Cthulhu mythos and it infested my mind with some twisted heavy music. On Deities there is trial, there is error, there is doom and there are lethal riffs. Spin it if you dare.
And out there somewhere sit Lovecraft and Cthulhu together, ripping a fat one and nodding their heads in approval.
👁️ 👁️ 👁️
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