Have We Reached Peak Cthulhu?
Cthulhu the plushie. Cthulhu the board game. Cthulhu the Tiki mug. Cthulhu the slipper. Cthulhu the My Little Pony. Cthulhu the electric guitar. Cthulhu the leggings. Cthulhu the Christmas ornament. Cthulhu the air freshener. Cthulhu the inflatable arm for weeaboos. Cthulhu the battle jacket patch. Cthulhu the cropped hoodie. Cthulhu the earrings. Cthulhu the bumper sticker. Cthulhu the flask. Cthulhu the pinky ring. Cthulhu the satchel. Cthulhu the bell. Cthulhu the useless currency. And now, Cthulhu the Lovecraftian surfer metal guitarist?
Friends, this is too much Cthulhu. Surely this is not the nihilistic, amoral vision of Great Old One conquest Lovecraft imagined when he first penned The Call of Cthulhu in 1926, but here we are. If there’s anything we as Americans love, it’s pointless commercialized kitsch to drive the capitalism machine. Merchandising, it would seem, is an insatiable elder being far mightier than even old Cthulhu himself, and not even metal can escape the grasp of the great green tentacle of greed. Don’t believe me? Just take a stroll down to your local mall’s Hot Topic (and grab an Orange Julius and an Auntie Anne’s pretzel while you’re at it, you consumer whore) and count the number of all-over print tees featuring some cephalopod monstrosity and band name. I’m certain the number is greater than one.
It would seem metal bands are not content to simply name themselves after Lovecraft’s eldritch horrors or to invoke their extradimensional powers in bizarre, angular riffs. No, the self-titled album from Stars Eat Worlds proves that in the end all things must be subsumed in the gooey brandability of Cthulhu’s surprisingly marketable visage. The 2014 release, however, bills itself as not just another Lovecraft-themed metal band, but rather a Lovecraftian Surfer Metal band. By my count that seems like one too many gimmicks for a single band. How well does it deliver on that premise?
1. Lovecraftian – The riffs in this album aren’t particularly strange or angular, the two qualities I associate most frequently with the term Lovecraftian. That said, the first two tracks, particularly “That Is Not Dead,” feature some nebular tremolo riffs that bleed down from the processed emptiness of the machine-like drum patterns like a color out of space, and paired with the Great Old One’s goofy mug adorning the cover, the music does a decent enough job living up to the apellation.
2. Surfer – The surf riffs don’t really pop up until third track “And With Strange Aeons,” and though Cthulhu certainly is no Dick Dale, the evil, jangly chords work well enough when they’re employed with that steady beach rhythm. Stick with Howls of Ebb or Grey Heaven Fall if you really want your absurd, inhuman beach riffs.
3. Metal – Some of the tremolo riffs are actually pretty cool, but the stock drum patterns and lack of vocals are a distraction. The emphasis here is clearly on the guitar, so if you like instrumental black metal, you may dig this. You can do worse than Name Your Price too.
To answer the question posed in the headline, yes. Yes we have. With all the excellent, weird, unorthodox, and engaging metal being made today, this odd little EP from 2014 seems both a garish blend of disparate elements and a bit of a soulless cash grab. Stars Eat Worlds sets out ostensibly to tie a few gimmicks together to create a unique experience, but it ultimately just feels like a knowing wink and nod at the gullibility of some metalheads to plonk down cold cash for anything marketably outré. But hey, I’m the sucker who clicked play, so I guess the branding strategy worked. Well played, Cthulhu. Well played.
If you dig what you hear, you can purchase the EP for any price on Bandcamp.