Ctulu - Sarkomand (Black Blood Records/Human To Dust)

Lovecraftian black metal! What more could you want?
Release Date: 
5 Dec 2014 (All day)

The stories of H.P. Lovecraft have had not only a dramatic impact upon horror and science-fiction literature, but also upon the wider cultural world. His powerful fiction has wielded a substantial imaginative influence on heavy metal, most notably with Metallica, but also upon numerous other heavy metal bands who have turned to Lovecraft for inspiration. Hell, Trey Azagthoth from Morbid Angel derived his nickname from a deity in Lovecraft’s tales. A German band, appropriately named Ctulu after the most famous creature of Lovecraft’s invention, derive their entire thematic approach from these stories, and manage to pull it off without becoming tacky or repetitive. Their recently reissued on vinyl album, Sarkomand, is a fine example of contemporary extreme metal that although not wildly original, ticks all the right boxes. 

The album kicks off perfectly with Arckanum Der Tiefen, one of the best opening songs of any extreme metal album, starting with a scything guitar tone straightaway cutting through that is wonderfully pleasing to the ears. The song is immediately gripping, full of catchy guitar melodies, cacophonious drums and thrilling bass lines. Sarkomand begins thunderously loud, an unknown, inhuman presence bellowing evil out into the world - perhaps it is the call of Ctulu itself? The vocals are doubled tracked for a short time near the start, and sound particularly menacing as a result, like you are being cornered by some Lovecraftian monster. Speaking of the vocals, which appear to be shared by Mathias Junge and Arne Uekert, who are also the guitarists, they absolutely nail it when it comes to croaking and screaming. Clearly influenced by Tom G. Warrior in particular with their ‘Ugh’ and black metal in general with their ‘Bleh’, Mathias and Arne give a solid performance, even if they lack the immediate distinctiveness of the ‘I just got stabbed in the guts’ vocals of, say, Obituary’s John Tardy. On Blindes Chaos, there is a distorted vocal part that would not be out of place on an early Deicide album. That song also features a brilliant acoustic guitar section that heightens the epic mood of the album. Last song Mondsucht introduces itself with driving rain and piano that sets the scene. There is a very creative interplay between the rhythm and lead guitar. A gorgeous clean guitar tone gets to breathe largely on its own at times, and ends the last forty seconds or so of the song on a beautiful note reminiscent of one of the more gentle Xanthochroid songs.

Featuring epic and progressive songs that rarely dip below the five minute mark, but are imbued with an energy and rock n’ roll rebellion reminiscent of Watain’s last album and three minute punk rock, Ctulu have crafted an album in Sarkomand that will be listened to again and again. Ctulu describe their music as ‘Seastorming Extreme Metal’ and that is definitely an accurate description, as some of the songs have a swaying feel that gives the impression that they are black metal sea shanties. This is the most unique and original aspect to Ctulu’s music, and something they should continue to explore. Otherwise, they will continue to write extreme metal songs deeply influenced by classic black metal like Dissection, and melodic death metal like early In Flames, that are excellent 21st century versions of songs that have been written before. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it has been done before. Special mentions must go to the propulsive rhythm section, the tight songwriting, and the production which ensures that every instrument is heard with clarity and warmth. Great music to listen to when you are confronting Ctulu on the high seas.