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Brett Miller – ‘Oath of Dagon’

oathofdagon

H.P. Lovecraft and metal have been in a serious relationship for decades – probably since Metallica wrote “Call of Ktulu”. From the alphabet soup incantations of Morbid Angel to the noise rock of Rudimentary Peni’s all-Lovecraft album Cacophony, the misanthropic wizard of old Providence still hovers over underground music like an eldritch miasma. It seems that long-haired dudes with electric guitars just can’t get enough of Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and the idea that somewhere in a Cajun bayou naked people are dancing to the dulcet tones of Cthulhu’s snoring.

Brett Miller, an axeman from the Hudson Valley Region of New York and a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, is one of these long-haired rockers, and Oath of Dagon is proof.

This ten-track record began its life as a Kickstarter campaign. In less than one month it netted 150 backers and $4,911in funds. One could either look at this and groan, “Man, anybody can make a record these days,” or smile, put the thumb up, and wink, “Man, anybody can make a record these days.”

In listening to Mr. Miller’s record, I was reminded of my interview with Claudio Simonetti, one of the bigger brains behind creep prog heroes Goblin. In it, Simonetti suggested that the golden era of Italian horror filmmaking came to a close because Italian directors never figured out how to make movies for less than a million bucks. Well, Oath of Dagon cost less than your grandma’s medical bills and it rips.

There is a certain redundancy to this record: it’s all guitar work all the time. “House of Jermyn,” which takes its name from “Facts Concerning the Later Arthur Jermyn and His Family,” a Lovecraft short story about a WASP who goes ape when he finds out that half of his DNA is pure monkey, is not too terribly different from “R’lyeh.” Similarly, scale-o-rific solos are present and accounted for on “Plate XII” and “Al Azif: The Howling of Demons.” For the most part, each track on Oath of Dagon has a healthy dose of cinematic bombast spliced with digestible prog metal.

Oh, about that prog metal. If you don’t dig it, don’t spend too much time with Oath of Dagon. Simply put, Miller’s record beefs up prog metal musicianship without all those unnecessary lyrics.

Of course, Oath of Dagon is not without its weaknesses. Although it’s obvious that Miller is a fine musician, his latest record does leave a little to be desired. First and foremost, I tend to like my concept albums to have actual concepts. While Oath of Dagon isn’t specifically a concept album, it’s clear that this instrumental odyssey is supposed to channel the abnormal netherworlds conjured up by Lovecraft. That’s fine, but after multiple listens, Oath of Dagon becomes a blend—a musical abstraction dealing with the sheer intellectualism of Lovecraft’s work. Many metalheads may find this all to be too brainy, and they may have a point.

Still, Oath of Dagon is a musician’s record, with excellent soundscapes replete with monsters and monster scaling. On a shoestring budget Brett Miller managed to create one of modern music’s best tributes to H.P. Lovecraft, which is just cool. Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

—Ben Welton

Oath of Dagon is currently available at his website. Check him out on Twitter @nyarlahotep.

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