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DARKEST OF THE HILLSIDE THICKETS



THE DARKEST OF THE HILLSIDE THICKETS

The Strange Testament of Dark Starr

(The following manuscript was delivered to me by Inspector Dunwich of the Huntley Police force following the mysterious disappearance of Dark Starr. Apparently it was his wish that I alone possess it, to publish in case of his death or disappearance. In accordance with his wishes, I now present this strange chronicle....Dr. Mality)

I have always had a definite attraction to the macabre, the darker reality of life¹s mysteries. There has always been an innate curiosity inherent in my personality... one that often overrides the survival instinct that produces fear responses in the human being. Although I consider these factors to be for the better, many who know me have warned me that these things might be my undoing. Until recently I scoffed at such beliefs. Now I have begun to wonder if they might be right.

It all started innocently enough. While doing a web search for the author H.P. Lovecraft (long my favorite) I came across the website of a band called The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. That site, located at http://www.holycow.com/thickets, really piqued my interest. Here was a rock band that looked as if they understood that which few people do... that the works of Lovecraft, they are not fiction, but actually a reality that few seem to be ready to accept. This group, from what was presented at that site, created a type of music based on these writings. I had to know more. So, looking through their merchandising I found that there was an album entitled "Cthulhu Strikes Back" for sale.

I immediately ordered a copy for myself. The CD came by regular mail. There is a certain irony in something so arcane coming by such mundane methods. Listening to the CD I was further enthralled. These musicians created an off-kilter combination of punk and heavy metal that had for the most part lyrical content derived from the master writer Lovecraft himself. To say the least I was hooked. Indeed, for a true fan of the dark side who could not be captured by such tracks as "Goin' Down to Dunwich", "Shoggoth's Away", "Unstoppable" and "Cthulhu Dreams"?

The lyrics to these pieces did not disappoint either. As an example, here is a snippet from "Shoggoth¹s Away" - "While on a flight one day I passed over the polar city, And curious set down to see what I could glean, Behold a nightmare pit that splashed with piping shapeless monsters, I packed them in the bay of my B-17, Shoggoth's Away!" ... sheer brilliance, and I surmise fact rather than fiction.

"Unstoppable" says, "I¹ve elbowed with the Old Ones, Khai of ancient Khem!, They sent me little prezzies, and you¹re my gift to them." Little did I realize that these words were the ones that would predict my doom. That CD began my descent into the unholy, unnamable future.

The other intriguing thing about the purchase of the CD was that with purchases of a certain amount you also received a subscription to the band¹s newsletter, "People Of Innsmouth". Since I had bought a T-shirt along with the CD, I qualified and began receiving this missive. It seemed innocent enough. To the unknowing, it was a clever paper covering various sections of the Cthulhu tales, news of the band, merchandising, and various other insanity. How was I to know that it would be my ticket to the further depths of hell? Such is the lure of Cthulhu and the Thickets. They draw you in one bit at a time until before you know it it is too late.

An interesting thing to note is that the various albums by the Thickets seem to come in and out of availability regularly. I surmise that this is part of their plot, or a function of their ties to the Old Ones. I really have not been able to decipher it for sure, but there must be some darker reasoning than sheer supply side economics. I have come to realize that nothing in this unholy union happens by accident. There is a dark master plan at work.

I mention this because it explains the events that happened next. I reviewed "Cthulhu Strikes Back" for my webzine, and contacted the leader of the band, Toren MacBin to inform him of the coverage. In his response he mentioned to me that the album was now unavailable, but that the other one, "Great Old Ones" was now in print again. Well, they had me. I had to get the CD. So, I ordered my copy and again the U.S. Postal service brought it to my door.

Sometimes, I wish that it had been anthrax (the virus not the band) instead, so insidious and addictive is the evil that is the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets.

The music on this CD represented more of the same oddly infectious punk/metal hybrid. They even included a Thickets rendition of the song "Walking on the Moon" by The Police. No doubt it was in an attempt to pull in unsuspecting fans of that group. One song in particular on this collection serves to show the world what fate has in store. That track is "Flee". The lyrics contain the following not so cryptic warning, "Flee, mortal, flee in fear/ Cthulhu¹s coming, the end is near/ All his children make their way/ Across the ocean to claim his day/ Flee, mortal, soon you¹ll know/ Cthulhu deals the final blow/ We are his voice and it¹s our due/ To sing of what¹s in store for you/ Pain, death, insanity, death". The truth certainly knows how and when to rear its many tentacled head.

By this point my place in the grand scheme was set. I was to be an unwitting minion. I was hooked and craved more from this band. They would eventually fill my need. This time the release was "Spaceship Zero". It was the soundtrack to a film that is still to come from the band. Their plot was certainly becoming more insidious. Firstly there is to be a film. That will certainly be the way that the group will capture far more fertile minds and souls. Add to that the fact that the music was becoming far more polished and catchy, and one can certainly see that the group are truly setting their sights on the bigger fish in the sea.

As to my personal spiraling descent, this much is certain. I have given myself up to my destiny. I went so far as to conduct an email interview with Toren MacBin to run at my site. I am certainly powerless to do anything but assist in Cthulhu¹s grand scheme. I can do nothing but help to further the cause, but perhaps it is not too late for the rest of you. Maybe you have not gone to far just by reading this horrific account, but probably you have. More than likely you will be drawn in just as I have been. If so, I have pity for you, for your road is a dark and terrifying one, just as mine has been. Praise Cthulhu!

As to that interview? if you are still with me I shall attempt to reveal the frightening truths that I discovered in its course. Firstly, I found that the band are innocents just as I am. MacBin himself first began his interest in Lovecraftian tales when a friend introduced him by giving him a book while he was the impressionable age of 19. The group became infected eventually as a result. In MacBin¹s own words, ³It was the call...the call of Cthulhu...which we heard collectively in 1992 and knew it was our duty to spread the will of Cthulhu throughout this world via sympathetic vibrations known only through our unclean instruments of rock. And the monster costumes helped too! ³

The monster costume question threw me just a little, since I have as yet not had the opportunity to make one of the band¹s performances. I asked him to describe the show for me, and what he said was both frightening and told me that I must see them soon. ³Indescribable. Unnameable. Unspeakable. Unthinkable!!! ... all with guitars. All I can say is that at our last show, one onlooker was heard to murmur Œit was worth the five dollar cover charge just for the synchronized jumping¹. I found upon digging deeper that MacBin¹s personal journey down the dark corridor into the mythos has taken him to other venues. When I asked him if he had read Mythos articles by other authors he said, "Yes, mainly Robert E. Howard's stuff, and just whatever comes my way that I have the time to read."

My next question was one which is near and dear to my own heart:what are your favorite Lovecraft stories? MacBin listed his as "Rats in the Walls, Dunwich Horror, Colour Out of Space, Shadow Out of Time...and all the rest!" I know how hard it can be to narrow it down. Once you are hooked, not much else can be said. MacBin did go on to reveal his favorite non-Lovecraft mythos tales.

Those were "Besides the actual Lovecraft source material, I really like the short stories of Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire. Seek his stuff out if you can! He's got a couple published collections available through Mythos Books at http://www.mythosbooks.com/" Apparently his recent reading list has been a bit more eclectic, though. For when I asked him about what he had been perusing his response was, "Oh, you know... the Necronomicon, De Vermiis Mysteriis, and the Dungeon Masters Guide." I¹m not sure what that Dungeon Masters Guide is, but the other two never leave my bed stand.

There were other areas that I was dying to pursue with him. Of course the music, I had to know about the music. First I asked him if he could describe the Thickets¹ particular style, but the answer I got was that he wouldn¹t dare do so. So, I took it from a different angle, asking instead what their musical influences were. This response was far more revealing. In the words of MacBin, "Erich Zann, Nomeansno, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Sabbath, and to some degree Helmet and Tad." Ah, Erich Zann --- of course, that answer should have been so clear.

I next turned to MacBin¹s art career. Although he is not a household name he, under the pseudonym of Toren Atkinson has done a lot of work, particularly for the Chaosium Call Of Cthulhu game. In the artist¹s own words, he was "Inspired by the works of Richard Upton Pickman. I too, do a lot of research. You can see some of my art online at my webpage www.toren.net/thickets."

My next line of questioning took me to what he thought the future of the Thickets would be, and as it turns out, his feelings about their future are quite similar to my own predictions for myself. He said that he would like to see them five years from now "Bobbing up and down in the reservoir...if we're lucky!"

I rounded out my interview with certain questions that I pose to all musicians when I get the chance. Firstly, what has been the biggest Spinal Tap moment in the group. Theirs is certainly one of the biggies. According to MacBin it was ³When Jordan exploded.² My next question was in regards to the last CD that he had bought. He said that it was ³Wheatus! It's great! Hardly eldritch but still well worth my time.² I also asked about the last concert, not Cthulhuian ritual, that he had attended. He said it was "You mean besides our own? I would have to say Ween."

To fully close out I gave him the opportunity to really recruit followers to the group and Cthulhu by asking him if there was anything he would like to tell people about the group. Read his response with a word of caution. It, like the rest of this article may transform you. Assuming that you still have the chance to turn back, and after reading this far it is doubtful, this could truly be the point of no return. ³What if I said it's impossible to keep it down to only one thing? Because it is. Firstly, the Spaceship Zero role-playing game that we've written and illustrated will be published this year from Green Ronin Publishing (www.greenronin.com) - it's the perfect compliment to our new album "Spaceship Zero - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". Secondly, we've got a new CD coming out that is a great sampler of our material. It's called "Let Sleeping Gods Lie", and it's being produced in concert with the new Call of Cthulhu role-playing game rulebook from Wizards of the Coast. It's the perfect introduction to our band, I would say, and ALL the songs are Lovecraft-related. You may ask - how do I get my hands on a copy? Easy! Just order it from us directly at our website www.holycow.com/thickets!"

There you have the full telling of my strange and horrific tale. There may still be a chance for you to flee. As for me, I have been hearing the strange sounds in the walls now for weeks. Soon they will come for me. I am ready.

(Thus ends the manuscript. Of the fate of Dark Starr, there is no clue save the noxious green stains found in his apartment. I can speak no more. May God have mercy on his soul!)