A Troubled, Dream-Infested Slumber
Return to Innsmouth
The Esoteric Order
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
We Shall Dive Down Through Black Abysses
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
- H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu (1926)
Deciphering Poisoned Dreams
In 2000 I read the S.T. Joshi H.P. Lovecraft biography, Lovecraft: A Life. At the time I was having a bout with my own personal darkness and the pieces came together. I knew I wanted to do a third album and I knew it was going to be inspired by Lovecraft, but that's all I had. It was in 2001, when I saw the Stuart Gordon film Dagon, that I realized the structure for my project.
In Gordon's film, screenwriter Denis Paoli integrated two of Lovecraft's stories: Dagon (1917) and The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1935) as if a prophecy were to unfold. I realized that Lovecraft might've been painting a much larger picture rather than just penning short stories. I wanted to tell the unfolding of events which would set in motion that which cannot be undone.
Firstly I needed to establish what said prophecy is - the reawakening of Kutulu (Cthulhu). Then I needed to establish the means to the end, the who, what, when, where and why of it. So again, I turned to the written page and did not stray from it - the material was far too rich and substantial to substitute any part of it. So I will now detail the process with which Poisoned Dreams was realized and crafted:
WHO: Captain Obed Marsh
Reading Dagon, there's a soldier during WWII who has evaded Nazi capture and finds himself stranded upon the shore of some uncharted volcanic landmass heaved up, somehow, from the ocean floor. So right off the cuff I knew this soldier, whomever he was, would be my starting point. But then a thought began nagging me, who is this soldier? How is this character going to move and deliver the narrative?
Upon re-reading The Shadow Over Innsmouth there is a man, Captain Obed Marsh, who had founded the town of Innsmouth and who was very much a part of its secretive and inhuman decay. The connection was drawn immediately, this would be Obed Marsh - it made perfect sense. Marsh would be the protagonist for this project and his transgressions would be the stones to begin the avalanche. So I now had the 'who' of the process, all I needed was the what, when, where and why.
WHAT: Nightmares and Landscape
So what sets this all off? Actually, a few things are responsible for the story arc to reach the end game. Firstly, the character in Dagon is prodded onward toward a hummock in the distance by increasingly worsening nightmares. These nightmares grow worse each night with the progressing phases of the moon. Secondly, having finally reached the mound and descended into a chasm, is the sight of a strange cyclopean monolith which serves as the reason for this man's encounter with Dagon itself.
I began putting pieces together.
What if these nightmares were actually the only means of contact that Kutulu has with mankind? After all, the quote that Poisoned Dreams so distinctively embodies the essence of (see above) says - "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. " So if human beings simply weren't created to withstand the ramifications of having knowledge of these alien beings... then the means of communication with humans would have to be indirect.
So as I began realizing the motives to my project I, again, made absolutely certain that every piece to comprise this puzzle was directly from Lovecraft's written page. The further along I got with my research of Lovecraft himself and his work, the more adamant I was that this was going to be a faithful adaptation. The nightmares, the communications from Kutulu... these 'poisoned dreams' became the project title. It is the nightmares that move the character along in the story of Dagon and thus begins the process of prophecy fulfillment.
"The change happened whilst I slept. Its details I shall never know; for my slumber, though troubled and dream-infested, was continuous. When at last I awakened, it was to discover myself half sucked into a slimy expanse of hellish black mire which extended about me in monotonous undulations as far as I could see, and in which my boat lay grounded some distance away."
The above quote from Lovecraft's Dagon became the first phase in the journey; both of mine in crafting the project and also of the progression of the character in it. The title of the first track on the album came directly from the old gentleman's prose - A Troubled, Dream-Infested Slumber. I designed the album cover with a ceramic mask I had custom made which visually signifies the album title.
In fact, to prove how literal a translation this project became, the first track begins with sonar pings (a time period reference circa WWII) and dark ominous synth swells and cacophony (nightmare). I recorded the track in 2001 at my friend Michael's house and he provided the agonized guitar wailing. The track ends with an explosion as to indicate the dreamer has been violently shocked awake from sleep to sounds of the ocean. Track one flows seamlessly into track two - Cyclopean Monolith. Track two details the cavernous descent into the chasm as well as the encounter with Dagon.
"Then suddenly I saw it. With only a slight churning to mark its rise to the surface, the thing slid into view above the dark waters. Vast, Polyphemus-like, and loathsome, it darted like a stupendous monster of nightmares to the monolith, about which it flung its gigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous head and gave vent to certain measured sounds. I think I went mad then."
_ H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon (1917)
WHEN: 1917 - 1926 - 1935
I was drawing inspiration from Lovecraft's stories Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the former is from 1917 and the latter 1935. I began thinking about how I would get Marsh from Dagon to Innsmouth. If we're talking years, there's a big gap between 1917 and 1935. If we're talking story line, how does Marsh return to Innsmouth and begin my venture into that story? The answer to that question is - this would be the first time I'd read The Call of Cthulhu (1926). This was the missing piece to bridge the gap, there is quite a bit regarding Kutulu induced nightmares as well as an introduction to the Necronomicon.
I began to meditate on that. The Necronomicon is a book and giant alien fish creatures can't read - so the nightmares would serve as mental transmissions, premonitions if you will, to fulfill this prophecy. The Necronomicon seems like a fairly neutral object to me, one that is capable of the unspeakable. However, it takes a broken mind and an unprecedented level of insanity to want to seek it out and use it for that purpose.
So what if Marsh were to discover the Necronomicon after his encounter with Dagon? Is that so far fetched? And what if he opened the book and began the entire process and discovered truths so unbelievable that it began to physically change him? So all of this merely pointing him in a direction to place the very existence of the human species on a downward trajectory. THAT is exactly where I went with the release conceptually. So even as I began rendering my own interpretation, it's still completely within the realm of Lovecraft's work.
In the 1994 anthology film, Necronomicon, the wrap-around story tells of how H.P. Lovecraft sneaks into a library guarded by monks and begins reading the book. As the book is taken from its resting place and as each story is read, there is a mechanism that begins opening sealed doors. I thought that was an interesting concept, almost like a countdown, a clock-like mechanism that begins opening these doors which eventually unleashes a hideous guardian of the book. So when it came time to create the third track on the album, Necronomicon, that concept was used to create the rhythmic component of the piece. The metaphoric mechanations turning and moving toward something... opening. And if you listen closely, toward the end of the track you can hear a (sonogram) heartbeat of something stirring.
WHERE: Innsmouth, Massachusetts
"Of my frantic ascent of the slope and cliff, and of my delirious journey back to the stranded boat, I remember little. I believe I sang a great deal, and laughed oddly when I was unable to sing. I have indistinct recollections of a great storm some time after I reached the boat; at any rate, I knew that I heard peals of thunder and other tones which Nature utters only in her wildest moods."
- H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon
I saw the image, to the immediate right, of a man in a rowboat during a storm being attacked by Deep-Ones, and it coincided with a passage from The Call of Cthulhu, more of a newspaper headline:
"MYSTERY DERELICT FOUND AT SEA" Vigilant Arrives With Helpless Armed New Zealand Yacht in Tow. One Survivor and Dead Man Found Aboard. Tale of Desperate Battle and Deaths at Sea. Rescued Seaman Refuses Particulars of Strange Experience. Odd Idol Found in His Possession. Inquiry to Follow. The Morrison Co.'s freighter Vigilant, bound from Valparaiso, arrived this morning at its wharf in Darling Harbour, having in tow the battled and disabled but heavily armed steam yacht Alert of Dunedin, N.Z., which was sighted April 12th in S. Latitude 34°21', W. Longitude 152°17', with one living and one dead man aboard."
- H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
The two quotes above seemed to flow seamlessly together for me. Since Marsh wouldn't remember the manner or particulars of his return the track would reflect the chaos of the storm and burgeoning madness of the journey home whilst hinting at what is to come. "Return to Innsmouth" was the obvious title, for me anyhow, for the fourth track on the album and moves the narrative forward increasing in intensity. The crux of the progression of the project was to get Marsh from Dagon to Innsmouth by means of The Call of Cthulhu. The tracks became longer to insinuate the passing of time. It would have been a lengthy journey back to the United States, to Innsmouth, and then for the unthinkable to begin a slow and steady and silent change.
Another reason Obed Marsh seemed the appropriate choice for the narrative for this project is the mention of "The Esoteric Order of Dagon Hall" in the town of Innsmouth. The kind of insanity and devotion required to return to Innsmouth and begin a religion worshiping Dagon makes sense with Obed having actually encountered the creature. The change, the 'Innsmouth Taint', is essentially the town's population devolving into amphibious fish creatures referred to as "Deep-Ones." I thought of how God is said to have created humans in his own image and how this change is an example of just that.
And speaking of The Esoteric Order of Dagon, in Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth it is merely mentioned that there are clandestine gatherings underneath the hall. I began thinking about what an Esoteric Order of Dagon ritual would be like, what would it entail? I wanted to depict the townspeople worshiping Cthulhu and accelerating the process of resurrection. I wanted to explore this as a necessary phase in the transition of bringing Cthulhu back from R'lyeh.
When you hear the CD there is a thread of rain and thunder loops throughout - and when we arrive at track 5, The Esoteric Order, it fades to the background as though we've traveled inside the caverns with the inhabitants of Innsmouth. I wanted to use some of the translated alien text in the stories to serve as the means of worshiping these creatures. The piece is littered with chanting and reciting during the ceremony (brilliantly executed by Bryin Dall). There are also strange instruments being played along with tribal drums. This is my interpretation of what a ceremony might be like in Innsmouth.
The image to the right by my friend Paul Carrick was a direct inspiration for the piece as I was very taken with the image of the cultist mask in the painting. The mask seemed incredibly simplistic and extremely appropriate.. the whole less is more concept. The image put all kinds of visions in my head inspiring all kinds of strange feelings within me which eventually came out in the piece.
Back in the early 90's a friend of mine introduced me to some of the bands on The Order of the Suffering Clown label (a sub-label of World Serpent) owned and run by Bryin Dall. I had met Bryin before a show back in 1991 or 1992 and for several years we lost touch. When I got signed to Middle Pillar Presents in 2000 we became reacquainted and have remained friends since. When I was planning this track I tried to execute the chanting but I didn't like the way it sounded. I wanted someone with power in his voice to do the chanting and I remembered back to a band called Golden Dawn whose CD contained the rituals of Golden Dawn set to music. I also remember being impressed with the vocal performance so I asked Bryin to do the chanting. I sent him the phonetic spellings of the words to be chanted and he went to work.
The ambient beat configuration to The Shadow Over Innsmouth was constructed by Jesse Sola after many hours and e-mails of description and guidance as to what story the track involves and the concepts therein. Jesse brilliantly managed to understand my vision and Lovecraft's vision for the story and the piece and hammered it home. It is a fairly unsettling track full of strange sounds and goings on that you really have to be with the recording in order to hear. The synthesizer work I perform towards the end of the piece is an almost processional testament to the fact that Lovecraft suffered horribly, in seclusion, of intestinal cancer when he wrote Innsmouth which is an unsettling nod toward an inevitable end both in the story as well as Lovecraft's own life.
WHY: Prophetic Resolutions
"I shall plan my cousin's escape from that Canton madhouse, and together we shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y'ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory forever."
- H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth
We Shall Dive Down Through Black Abysses: Named after the last line in The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the release leaves off at the notion that, one way or another, human life will disappear forever. It also concludes the Innsmouth portion of the story line as this particular story does fork... the other path leads to the second release in my Lovecraft series entitled, The Shadow-Haunted Outside, which actually extends from both: Necronomicon & The Esoteric Order. The resonance of the magicks from the Necronomicon will pass over into the next release and the consequences will be dire as the "outer gods" re-awaken after eons of slumber.
Anyhow, the inhabitants are swimming down to dwell in the lair of the deep ones for eternity... and we follow them down to the point where no light exists, the threshold, and we see them off into the cold and the darkness. I have the image in my head of watching their dissolving human forms fade into the blackness. The haunting melody of this track was written back in 1996 and never recorded until 2004. It definitely feels like something is being lost, something sacred and familiar... our humanity. It also has a bit of duality as well because despite its obvious darkness and heaviness it is somewhat soft and beautiful. They are going home to live with their masters, "fleeing from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age." - H.P. Lovecraft
I decided to have Cthulhu re-awakened as the close of the release to leave a good deal open to the imagination. The stars are right and the human race will now begin its inevitable and forced attrition. With R'lyeh Rerisen, The track is extremely aggressive and dark, I definitely get a sense of Cthulhu rising enabling the deep ones and the devout townsfolk safe passage. There is a duality in this track, a sense of both sides of the coin. On one hand you have the human perspective which is that what is transpiring is a horrifying occurrence, and on the other hand from the creatures point of view what is happening is a glorious occurrence. So each of the tracks on the album evolve and resolve in their own rights whilst forging a grander arch which is also achieved - that was essentially my goal in taking on this project.