Lovecraft and Tolkien: Lovecraftian Horrors in Middle-earth?

This post is by John A. DeLaughter, a Lovecraft eZine contributor.

In the twentieth century, some authors rose to greatness, and a handful became household names.


But few writers’ words haunted the hearts and minds of successive generations. Few found their works being reinterpreted from one age to the next, like the mythic traditions that form the mental framework of humanity. Few achieve such accolades in their lifetimes.

When a divine spark catches in the imagination of one man, it catches fire in the multiplied minds of millions. One such author was John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973).

More common are post-humorous ascents to the Olympian heights. Authors become literary gods, as out of the ashes of their deaths, Phoenix-like, they arise to shining new lives and immortality. Such was the belated elevation of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) and his works to the Literary Pantheon. Lovecraft, a pauper in life, became the prophet of the Old Ones in death. His dreams shaped mankind’s nightmares, for his generation and beyond.

And Lovecraft’s cosmicism defined the landscapes of our imaginations. Humanity longs for, but finds no comfort, hopes for, but finds no purpose in Lovecraft’s Universe. To HPL, nostalgia for bygone illusions clouds our ability to perceive reality as it is. A derivative definition of “Lovecraftian” is “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

In this essay, I would first like briefly to touch on how Lovecraft and Tolkien’s rigorous adherence to their literary sensibilities shaped later cultural expressions of myth and the macabre. Second, I would like to sample evidence of whether Lovecraft influenced elements of Tolkien’s grand tales.

My Literary Heritage:

My own journey into the worlds of fantasy and speculative fiction paralleled my journey into all things Lovecraft. I read Clifford D. Simak intensively: Way Station (1963), The Goblin Reservation (1968), Enchanted Pilgrimage (1975), Shakespeare’s Planet (1976), Where the Evil Dwells (1982), and Special Deliverance (1982) to name a few. I also read books with bleak, apocalyptic futures such as Alas Babylon (Pat Frank) and The Earth Abides (George R. Stewart). I sampled Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars) and devoured Robert E. Howard (Conan, Solomon Kane, King Kull, Bran Mak Morn, and Turlogh Dubh O’Brien). Finally, I could not stop reading both trilogies of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever (Stephen R. Donaldson).

From Their Personal Aesthetics grew an Aesthetical Movement:

Inevitably, my reading led to J.R.R Tolkien.

Tolkien was a High God of Fantasy literature (alongside greats like Robert E. Howard). Tolkien’s tales are enjoyed by lowbrows and respected by highbrows alike. He wrote of that experience:

“…Being a cult figure in one’s own lifetime I afraid is not at all pleasant. However I do not find that it tends to puff one up; in my case at any rate it makes me feel extremely small and inadequate. But even the nose of a very modest idol…cannot remain entirely untickled by the sweet smell of incense…” (1).

In the 1960s, Hippies identified with Hobbits. Opponents of the Vietnam War united around the antiwar themes and counterculture they saw in Tolkien’s tales. In the 1970s, before electronics, The Lord of the Rings inspired countless Dungeons and Dragons scenarios, with Tolkien’s orcs, dwarves, elves and wizards heavily influencing the cadre of characters one could role-play or oppose.

Yet, Tolkien did not set out to please a fickle public when he authored The Lord of the Rings and related works. Instead, he sought to give expression and achieve satisfaction of his own personal Aesthetic:

“Nobody believes me when I say that my long book [The Lord of the Rings] is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real. But it is true” (2).


At the same time, Lovecraft began to come into his own. In the late 60s, H. P. Lovecraft was the name taken by an American psychedelic rock band from Chicago, inspired by HPL’s macabre writings. Later, like Tolkien’s Sauron, HPL’s Cthulhu and other gods became the evil Dungeons and Dragons aficionados tried to overcome. And in the 1980s, Lovecraftians like Dr. Robert M. Price began to explore HPLs writings both as scholars and as fans in zines such as Crypt of Cthulhu.

As Tolkien, Lovecraft wrote to satisfy his own aesthetic standards. In his estimation, few people possessed the intellectual and imaginative facilities to appreciate what he tried to achieve in his writing:

“The opinions of the masses are of no interest to me, for praise can truly gratify only when it comes from a mind sharing the author’s perspective. There are probably seven persons, in all, who really like my work; and they are enough. I should write even if I were the only patient reader, for my aim is merely self-expression. I could not write about ‘ordinary people’ because I am not in the least interested in them. Without interest there can be no art. Man’s relations to man do not captivate my fancy. It is man’s relation to the cosmos—to the unknown—which alone arouses in me the spark of creative imagination. The humanocentric pose is impossible to me, for I cannot acquire the primitive myopia which magnifies the earth and ignores the background. Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty. Like the late Mr. [Oscar] Wilde, ‘I live in terror of not being misunderstood’” (3).

How pervasive have Lovecraft and Tolkien invaded culture?

In certain sectors of society, words have been coined to signify when a piece of art, literature, film, etc. contains features that appear to be influenced by Tolkien or Lovecraft. For example, if themes inspired by Tolkien appear in a Fantasy novel, the book might be termed Tolkienesque:

“Tolkienesque – of or reminiscent of the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien, especially with reference to the fantastical characters and dramatic landscapes that they portray” (4).

In the same vein, if a work touches on themes espoused by HPL, it may be called Lovecraftian. There is a lack of agreement on a general definition of Lovecraftian. The best I found states that to be Lovecraftian involves:

“- Terrible beings so grotesque and alien they can hardly be described

– A protagonist who finds himself gripped by madness by the story’s end

– Talk of other worlds or dimensions, generally replete with monstrosities that could break through and annihilate humanity at any given time

– A strong emphasis on the fact that humanity, in general, is fleeting and pointless” (5).

To sum up the impact of Tolkien and Lovecraft on society, Matt Cardin observed:

“The works of J. R. R. Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft…represented a new landmark in the formation of the Gothic Aesthetic. Their works laid the foundations of the contemporary culture of nightmare consumption and facilitated the nightmare’s penetration into everyday life, allowing it to exert a huge influence over the minds of millions. . . The rise of the Gothic Aesthetic in the 1990s occurred through a coincidence of several trends …that had started to emerge in the late 1970s. The birth of Gothic rock coincided with the peak of Tolkien’s popularity due to the translation of The Lord of the Rings into most European languages. These events had clear social consequences: Gothic rock produced the Goth youth subculture…Howard Phillips Lovecraft, whose prose was instrumental in promoting a fascination with nightmares, were also used…for role-playing games in the early 1980s…His works gained true popularity in the late 1980s-early 1990s, when computer games were developed. Works by Tolkien and Lovecraft made a unique contribution to the rise of the Gothic Aesthetic, influencing the minds of millions of readers, users and viewers.

In the 1980s, the nightmare gradually began to transform into a necessary drug for the mass consciousness; the public was not aware of its addictive effect until it began to require equine doses of direct and vulgar nightmares in order to achieve the desired effect. Over the last 20 years the nightmare has become the most desirable psychological state, and indeed any product on the pleasure market that does not imitate it seems to the contemporary consumer to be insipid and unreal…” (6).

Towards a Common Creative Heritage:

“‘We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted. Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels. They were not made by Durin’s folk, Gimli son of Glóin. Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dûm: too well he knew them all. Ever up now we went, until we came to the Endless Stair’” (7).

Among the words of J.R.R Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, the preceding passage has caught many with an eye for Lovecraftian details. Why? For one, Tolkien was a man enamored with naming things, individuals, and phenomenon in his Middle-earth. A man devoted to details, Tolkien seldom left a denizen of his world undefined. So, when Tolkien wrote, “…the world is gnawed by nameless things…Even Sauron knows them not…” his use of Nameless Things is highly reminiscent of Lovecraft.

The implication is that the Nameless Things existed before Sauron since even the Dark Lord knows them not. That also implies that they lay outside his control and his dominion – they have a uniformity of being all their own. Sauron was originally a being of the second-highest order of Tolkien’s universe – the Dark Lord was of the Maiar, eternal spirit beings one tier below and helpers of the angelic Ainur, who shaped the formless world and its environs after Iluvatar created it. That there may have an order of existence and entities older than Sauron – perhaps the original inhabitants of the planet – may be reading too much into a small detail in Tolkien’s grand myth. However, notice the similarity in how Lovecraft used Nameless Things in two passages:

“…I cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering at the nameless things that may at this very moment be crawling and floundering on its slimy bed, worshipping their ancient stone idols and carving their own detestable likenesses on submarine obelisks of water-soaked granite. I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind—of a day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium….” (8).

“By the time I had listened a few seconds I was broad awake, for the nature of the voices was such as to make all thought of sleep ridiculous. The tones were curiously varied, and no one who had listened to that accursed phonograph record could harbour any doubts about the nature of at least two of them. Hideous though the idea was, I knew that I was under the same roof with nameless things from abysmal space; for those two voices were unmistakably the blasphemous buzzings which the Outside Beings used in their communication with men…” (9).

The inference arises, “Did Lovecraft influence Tolkien?”

Let us review one other similarity in the two giants’ works before we more fully examine the Nameless Things.

The Watcher in the Water:

Another piece of the puzzle appears in the similarities between Tolkien’s Watcher in the Water and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu.


The Watcher in the Water (or simply the Watcher) appears in the Fellowship of the Ring. Quickly, on the Fellowship’s journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, they must pass through the Mines of Moria. To do so, they must first gain admittance through the Doors of Durin that resides next to an unnamed lake. As they attempt to open the gates, a denizen in the lake – The Watcher – attacks them, seizing Frodo with a long, pale-green, luminous, fingered tentacle, succeeded by twenty more. After they escape the Watcher, Gandalf states, “Something has crept or been driven out of the dark water under the mountains. There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world.”

By implication, the Watcher belongs to a stratum of monsters, either epitomized by the Balrogs. Or since the Watcher is older than orcs – who themselves were Elves ruined by Melkor, the first Dark Lord of Middle-earth (10) – the Watcher may represent one of Tolkien’s nameless things, described in the prior example. Tolkien himself never defined what the Watcher was. It’s identification as a Kraken represents the artistic interpretation of others.

Lovecraft’s Own Cephalopod:

Lovecraft’s Cthulhu bears some resemblance to Tolkien’s Watcher. Both are tentacles, as HPL’s description of Cthulhu reveals:

“…If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful…” (11).

Also, both entities are quite ancient, as Lovecraft’s timeline of Cthulhu’s appearance on Earth is traced to its distant past:

“…They worshipped…the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died. This…cult…had always existed and always would exist…until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R’lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him…Mankind was not absolutely alone among the conscious things of earth…” (12).

But does a similarity in appearance and age mean the One – Lovecraft’s Cthulhu – inspired the Other – Tolkien’s Watcher in the Water? Beyond those two points, does the semblance between Lovecraft and Tolkien’s entities continue or end?

One, The Watcher in the Water displays all the traits of creaturehood – it appears to be driven by instinct, not intelligence. Conversely, while Cthulhu and the Other Old Ones entombed in R’lyeh are creatures, they are eminently intelligent, have been so for a thousand human eternities, and possess omniscience:

“… They knew all that was occurring in the universe, but Their mode of speech was transmitted thought. Even now They talked in Their tombs. When, after infinities of chaos, the first men came, the Great Old Ones spoke to the sensitive among them by moulding their dreams; for only thus could Their language reach the fleshly minds of mammals…” (13).

Two, the Watcher in the Water is an earth-bound entity. It is a creature who origins, though incredibly ancient, are relegated to this sphere. Its existence is governed by terrestrial laws. On the other hand, Cthulhu and his spawn came from Outer Space and had bodies not entirely subject to the laws of this dimension:

“…Another race—a land race of beings shaped like octopi and probably corresponding to the fabulous pre-human spawn of Cthulhu—soon began filtering down from cosmic infinity and precipitated a monstrous war which for a time drove the Old Ones wholly back to the sea…Later peace was made, and the new lands were given to the Cthulhu spawn whilst the Old Ones held the sea and the older lands…From then on…the Antarctic remained the centre of the Old Ones’ civilisation, and all the…cities built there by the Cthulhu spawn were blotted out…the Cthulhu spawn…seem to have been composed of matter more widely different from…the substance of the Old Ones. They were able to undergo transformations and reintegrations impossible for their adversaries, and seem therefore to have originally come from even remoter gulfs of cosmic space. The Old Ones, but for their abnormal toughness…were strictly material, and must have had their absolute origin within the known space-time continuum…” (14).

Distances meant nothing to multi-dimensional beings like Cthulhu. Unlike Randolph Carter, whose many facets each possessed a separate personality, Cthulhu knew no such limitations. As an entity of a higher order, he was aware of all things everywhere, in one sense observed through the multiplied eyes and ears of his countless facets. There was no question of supremacy in the Old One’s myriad facets. He ruled them all, with no loss of potency, presence of mind, or unswerving purpose.

Third, perhaps the similarities between the Watcher in the Water and Cthulhu occur because they were inspired by a common myth, known to both Tolkien and Lovecraft.

The lore of Tolkien’s world is replete with references that he borrowed from Norse Mythology. For example, while the names Thorin Oakenshield, Dvalin, Bifur, Bofur, Bömbur, Nóri, Óinn, Thrór and Thrain, Fíli, Kíli, and Durin’s folk are first encountered by the general public in The Hobbit, they originated in Norse Mythology, namely:

“…the ancient poem Voluspá. The poem is so old that no-one knows precisely how old it is. It belongs to the 13th century ‘Poetic Edda’ collection from Iceland, but the poems in this collection are likely to have lived in the oral tradition for many centuries before they were written down. The name Voluspá means ‘the prophecy of the sibyl’, and in the poem a ‘Volva’ – the Norse counterpart to a sibyl – describes her visions of the beginning and end of the world…” (15).

Now, let’s extend this line of reasoning to the Watcher. One of the many Norse myths involves the Kraken, an octopus or squid so large that its body could be mistaken for an island. The Kraken first appears:

“…in the Örvar-Oddr. This is a 13th century Icelandic saga involving two sea monsters, the Hafgufa (sea mist) and the Lyngbakr (heather-back). The Hafgufa is supposed to be a reference to the Kraken…” (16).

Again, Tolkien never explicitly named the Kraken in Norse Mythology as his source for the Watcher in the Water’s inspiration. And Tolkien was not entirely comfortable with the term Nordic in association with his beloved Middle-earth:

“[Does] Middle-earth…corresponds spiritually to Nordic Europe? Not Nordic please! A word I personally dislike; it is associated, though of French origin, with racialist theories. Geographically, Northern is usually better. But examination will show that even this is inapplicable (geographically or spiritually) to ‘Middle-earth’. This is an old word, not invented by me…It meant the habitable lands of our world, set amid the surrounding Ocean. The action of the story takes place in the North-west of ‘Middle-earth’, equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean. But this is not a purely ‘Nordic’ area in any sense…” (17).

However, since he felt no compulsion in adding Norse Dwarves to his Middle-earth tapestry, why not their Kraken too? After all, the Watcher is a relatively minor creature added to dramatize the Fellowship’s entrance into the Mines of Moria.

Whence Cthulhu?

And what of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu? Where did Lovecraft draw his inspirations for the High Priest of the Old Ones?


Eminent Lovecraft Researcher – Dr. Robert M. Price – believes one source HPL used among the many can be found in a poem entitled “The Kraken” by Alfred Lord Tennyson (18).

I have reproduced the poem here so you can draw your own conclusions.

The Kraken

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1830).

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Wherein lies the common thread that may have inspired both Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and Tolkien’s the Watcher?

Alfred Lord Tennyson scholars state that his 1830 poem was influenced by the same myths that inspired Tolkien’s Watcher:

“The poem draws its images from the Norse legend of a gigantic sea-monster that supposedly preyed upon shipping off the coast of Norway (and was probably founded on the observation of an enormous cuttle-fish or squid), first described by Bishop Pontoppidan in A History of Norway (1752)” (19).

Interestingly, Lovecraft paints a Nordic figure – Gustaf Johansen, a Norwegian of some intelligence – as the only survivor to confront Lovecraft’s cosmic “Kraken,” Lord Cthulhu.

Again, Cthulhu is a multi-layered character referenced in more than one of Lovecraft’s tales. That why I cite that the Lord Tennyson poem, as only one source of many that inspired Lovecraft’s High Priest of the Great Old Ones.

Our Sources Shall Remain Nameless:

Beyond the common source – Norse mythology surrounding the Kraken – we just surveyed, let us return to our discussion of the Nameless Things.

Did Tolkien read Lovecraft? And did that subsequently influence the Cosmicistic themes that occasionally crop up in The Lord of the Rings and related works?

First, was Weird Tales, the magazine where the majority of Lovecraft Tales found publication, available in England during the period (between 1937 and 1949) when Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings?

In general, I would say largely not. To begin, only a small run of Weird Tales was available during the years that Tolkien wrote his Magnus Opus of Middle-earth:

“…[Weird Tales] Reprints…[were available]…in the UK [United Kingdom], where there were four different series. The first consisted of only three unnumbered and undated issues published in early 1942 by the infamous Gerald G. Swan, corresponding to abridged versions of the US issues September and November 1940, and January 1941. The second series was even briefer, with only a single issue (still unnumbered and undated) in late 1946 containing a mere three stories from the US October 1937 issue…” (20).

Next, based on the foregoing information, only one Lovecraft story may have been available to UK readers in those offerings:

“…No Lovecraft published in Weird Tales – October 1937.
No Lovecraft published in Weird Tales – September 1940.
The Mound [heavily abridged by Derleth] in Weird Tales – November 1940.
No Lovecraft published in Weird Tales – January 1941…” (21).

Notice that I say, “May have been available.”

For one, the UK November 1940 edition of Weird Tales itself was abridged. And two, the tale that was available – ghostwritten with Zealia Bishop entitled “The Mound,” – had been radically abridged by August Derleth (22). The full, original text of that story was not available to the public until 1989, well after Tolkien’s death in 1973.

So, while some Lovecraft tales – a lessor, abridged product at best – may have been in circulation in the UK during the time Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, it is highly unlikely that Tolkien read it, nor found inspiration therein.

Second, Tolkien made no mention of Lovecraft’s body of work among the writers that he read. For example, Tolkien did browse Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) and responded to literary gossip that he borrowed from Burroughs in assembling his Middle-earth Sagas – particularly surrounding the monstrous spider Shelob:

“…Source hunting is a great entertainment but I do not myself think it is particularly useful. I did read many of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ earlier works, but I developed a dislike for his Tarzan even greater than my distaste for spiders. Spiders I had met long before Burroughs began to write, and I do not think he is in any way responsible for Shelob. At any rate I retain no memory of the Siths or the Apts…” (23).

But nowhere does Tolkien mention Lovecraft, in the same way he referenced Burroughs. Were Lovecraft’s fiction more popular during the later years of Tolkien’s life, he may have forwarded a similar refutation of source hunting in regards to HPL’s influence on Middle-earth.

There is evidence that Tolkien may have read an anthology that contained a Lovecraftian tale after he wrote The Lord of the Rings. In July 1964, L. Sprague De Camp sent Tolkien a copy of his anthology Swords & Sorcery (24), which includes Lovecraft’s “The Doom that Came to Sarnath.” However, while Tolkien commented on several contributions to the anthology, he left Lovecraft’s piece without comment (25).

Perhaps Lovecraft and Tolkien’s Nameless Things theme was derived from a common literary thread.

Lovecraft thought well of Lord Dunsany (1878 to 1957). For instance, HPL characterized several of his early stories – including The White Ship – as his “Dunsanian pieces.” And Tolkien read Dunsany’s works extensively. He did so to judge the efficacy of his efforts to generate the effect/illusion of “reality” behind his Middle-earth Mythologies (26).

Now consider a passage of Dunsany’s that both Lovecraft and Tolkien may have read. In one of Dunsany’s works – The Latest Thing – published as part of the Fifty-one Tales (1915), there appears a remarkable selection:

“I saw an unclean-feeder by the banks of the river of Time. He crouched by orchards numerous with apples in a happy land of flowers; colossal barns stood near which the ancients had stored with grain, and the sun was golden on serene far hills behind the level lands. But his back was to all these things. He crouched and watched the river. And whatever the river chanced to send him down the unclean-feeder clutched at greedily with his arms, wading out into the water. Now there came in those days, and indeed still are, certain uncleanly cities on the river of Time; and from them fearfully nameless things came floating shapelessly by. And whenever the odor of these came down the river before them the unclean-feeder plunged into the dirty water and stood far out, expectant. And if he opened his mouth one saw these things on his lips…” (27).

Was this the tale that influenced Lovecraft and Tolkien’s Nameless Things? The timeframe is correct – it was written in 1915, well before Lovecraft and Tolkien’s use of the term. Dunsany’s Nameless Things are water-borne, timeless, and unwholesome in cast.

Ultimately, its influence on Lovecraft and Tolkien is at best circumstantial. Only the imaginations of Lovecraft and Tolkien could weave a small idea – whatever its source – into such a grand cosmic, menacing theme, either at the bottom of the sea, in the bowels of an early earth, or from the timeless expanse of outer space.


Lovecraft and Tolkien have immeasurably impacted the literary, cinematic, and entertainment landscapes. Beyond those segments of culture, the figments of their imaginations have become our own. And their nightmares, ours.

Characters from their mythologies, such as Cthulhu and Sauron, have become cultural icons across the globe.

Inevitably, questions and comparisons arise when the creative efforts of such giants parallel one another. Among the many seeming conjunctures in Lovecraft and Tolkien’s literary constellations, we briefly examined two: 1) their like use of the term Nameless Things and 2) similarities in Cthulhu and the Watcherin the Water.

Rather than there being an issue of cross-pollination, where Tolkien took his horror inspirations from Lovecraft, it appears that both men drew their creative insights in the instances we surveyed from common literary and mythic sources.

As with other virtuosos, even if we could deduce each ingredient added to the literary cauldron that became The Lord of the Rings, or The Call of Cthulhu, there is a synergy to Lovecraft and Tolkien’s creative efforts – the sum of the parts is greater than its individual elements. And therein lies the mystery that surrounds each man’s larger than life genius.

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California Deathfest 2016 video coverage posted in @Pit Full of Shit Blog.

California Deathfest 2016 video coverage posted in Pit Full of Shit. !!!! Insane and unbound pleasure to check out all the mighty acts and few elder gods. This is Live madness at it’s feral form. Hail and fist up to @Frank Huang for such fantastic coverage.

Check out live devastation from @BLACK BREATH, Nuclear Assault, Revenge – band , @Razor, Exhumed, Demilich, Unholy Grave official, Blood incantation, Spectral Voicei, @Birdflesh (Official) and many more.
Check all the bands here:…/california-deathfest-20…

Riverge (Japan) at “Banish the Posers Fest 2016” and the hell-blazing Riverged experience.

Thrash metal hell-firing act Riverge from Japan just visited Bangladesh and finally had the pleasure to witness a true warrior band from the golden era of old school thrash metal. Riverge wrecked havoc at the Banish the Posers Fest 2016 and showed us why vintage, spirited and violent 80’s era thrash metal is incomparable to anything. Since the announcement of their incoming assault in our Bengal land, it has been the period of great anticipation and they delivered us the thrashing venom like a spitting cobra. Thus furious, bludgeoning and nerve wrecking intensity of their brute force playing did tricked my senses and visions; eventually they all got blurred by the wave after wave of viscous raging Japanese thrashing madness. In this period of friendly and show off thrash metal!!!; the opportunity to witness and support a true flag bearer act from the 80’s was pure undefinable blessings. The spirit was endless and all the praises goes to the hordes of Primitive Invocation for all their painstaking efforts to put 2016 edition of BTPF by defying all the odds and for such hell-blazing Riverged experience. Fist Up High.

Tales of the Macabre #1 (Germany) 1993

Send Back My Stamps!

Tales of the Macabre #1  (Germany) 1993. Editor: “Costa Stoios

This zine of Germany featured many prominent ‘early’ black metal contributions and is heavy on the dark/atmospheric genres of the early 90’s overall. The editor (Stoios) apparently also ran/runs Iron Pegasus records. Features and interviews include Beherit, Barathrum, Ancient Rites, Behemoth, Emperor, Immortal, Burzum, Osmose Productions, Gorgoroth, In the Woods, Mortuary Drape, Rotting Christ, Sigh, Nocturnal Rites, and more.

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The Oath #2 (IRE) 1994

Send Back My Stamps!

The Oath #2 (IRE) 1994. Editor: “Alan Averill”

Issue #2 of this classic zine from Primordial vocalist Alan (aka A.A. Nemtheanga). Features and interviews with Decoryah, Fleurety, a German Scene report, an essay on Glen Benton, Monumentum, Graveland, Mordor, Illska, No Fashion Records, Mayhem, Balder, Cruachan, Gorgoroth, Mortuary Drape, Moonspell, Sigh, Varathron, and more. (Thanks to original scanner and host darklegions for sharing)

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In Black Metal: Beherit, Demoncy, and Profanatica

Old Disgruntled Bastard

Beherit, Demoncy, and Profanatica have released some of the best black metal of the last ten years. Beherit‘s comeback Engram effortlessly slides back into a pre-full blown electronic frame of mind, doing an impressive balancing act between the band’s various incarnations leading into H418; not sounding dated in the least, nor giving consideration to various trends at large, Engram speaks the very syntax of black metal in terms of technique, attitude, and emotion. Epic and confident in its own stoic way, it is the sound of solitude, foreboding and enticing by turn. On the other hand, Demoncy and especially Profanatica, have been relatively consistent over the years with their brand of remorseless black metal of the dungeons; distinctly American in their studied atonality, displaying a grittier, more insular approach to songwriting compared to the earthier, at times mystical, Engram, the triumvirate, nonetheless, reach a…

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Mgla Interview – Bardo Methodlogy

Posted in Bardomethodology, this is a interview with a faceless artist who wants all focus placed on the art itself. Read his explanation as to how a cynical nihilist justifies taking the stage to preach to the masses a belief in nothing.


by Niklas Göransson

When another media-shy orchestra graced Sweden’s capital, I lay to rest a decade-old personal boycott and met with the faceless artist who wants all focus on the art itself. He explains how a cynical nihilist justifies taking the stage to preach to the masses a belief in nothing.
– I don’t feel emotions the way most people do, the one time I do feel something is when playing music.

Stockholm, May 20 – Poland’s MGLA (which means ‘fog’ in their native tongue and is spelled with some weird L) played a sold out 650 capacity venue with DEGIAL and VORUM as supporting acts. While the general clientèle left a fair bit to be desired, it was greatly sentimental seeingShadow Records back in business and equally heart-warming to note that label manager Marcus Tena (TRIUMPHATOR) hasn’t reformed his characteristic service-with-a-smite approach.

– Luckily I’m drunk, he grumbled from behind the merch stand, or I would have punched someone by now.

When the headlining act took the stage around midnight, they did so as a relatively new musical acquaintance for me – I’d been aware of them for many years but never actually given them a listen until ten days prior.

Photo: Joanna Osoba

In the early two thousands, a small rural town in the Czech Republic became the reluctant host for a metal festival called Open Hell. A poignant name for this amazing spectacle which was frequented by the absolute scum of the European black and death metal scene, featuring preposterously cheap booze and not a single security guard to be seen – it was glorious. In 2005, headlining DISSECTION closed Open Hellforever, hours before they were originally scheduled to perform. The festival was cut short by the police after the rampaging had escalated out of control and started affecting the local populace. In the 2004 edition, I observed a Polish gentleman being chastised in a rather humbling fashion and was later told that this individual was ‘the guy from MGLA’. As a result, despite receiving multiple recommendations I never bothered checking them out; it simply wouldn’t have been possible to listen without that scene playing in my head. A week and a half before the gig I happened to see pictures of the members – the founder, guitarist, bass player and vocalist who is known only as ‘M’ along with drummerDarkside, and was mildly surprised to discover that it had been neither of them who was the recipient of the walloping in question. I realised then that my twelve-year personal embargo had been instigated by misinformation and thus completely redundant.

– I understand, says a somewhat confused M as I ramble on about the above, I also ignore some bands because of their members.

From its inception in 2002, KRIEGSMASCHINE had been the duo’s main band – with MGLA functioning as an occasional studio project. This arrangement lasted until 2012, when the mists absorbed the war wagon and the latter was reserved for recording activity while the former brought to the stage.

– Due to typical life stuff happening, people moving and so on, regular rehearsals were no longer possible with KRIEGSMASCHINE so we were unable to keep playing live.

Instead of exchanging the line-up, the two of them decided to have a go atMGLA with a full band setting. Having recruited live membersShellShocked (bass) and Silencer (guitars) from MEDICO PESTE, they rehearsed for almost a full year before playing their first show.

– First year of live activity we played five shows, the year after it was nine shows, then sixteen and now it’s 40.

In our initial email exchange, M explained that the lack of interviews available is due to MGLA best being experienced rather than studied. I find it strange how knowing more about the band would detract from the experience.

– MGLA should be represented by what we do in the studio and on stage, at least in the context of core ideas. The band communicates in a much more focused and compressed way than I ever could, talking like this over a coffee – it takes hundreds if not thousands of hours to complete what you ultimately hear on a CD. MGLA is a distilled form of our innermost thoughts and comments.

There is an additional reason why M feels he’d rather let the band represent itself.

– I’m not really a particularly interesting person – the compelling stuff is my music, not my self. I’m just a guy.

The desire for inhuman representation is mirrored by their stage attire, which is tailored to shift focus from the musicians to their music.

– We wear hoodies and leather jackets, effectively making us indistinguishable from 90 percent of the audience – the only difference is that our faces are draped. We seek uniformity to remove the ego of our person, leaving nothing but a vessel – a tool. On stage we’re not individuals, we are a unit.


M’s lyrics aren’t written in the genre-typical short bursts of attempted infernal poetry, they look more like a flowing social commentary divided up into paragraphs rather than verses.

– Linguistically, they’re not yet at the level I’d like them to be but I’m trying to accomplish something that can stand on its own merit and makes sense even without sound. They’re not simply complimentary rhythmic structures for the instruments; they are of equal value as the musical content so I dedicate significant time to them.

They come off as heavily laden with cynical nihilism; does this reflect your personality?

– To a large degree – yes, I’m afraid so. The easiest way this can be summed up is that there are men of faith and men of doubt; I am of the latter type.

Going by said lyrics, one might get the impression that he views his fellow humans as little more than breathing disappointments.

– Lessons of life in general, there have been lots and lots of incidents that contribute to my general worldview. Believe me, I’d love to be more optimistic but any such attempts tend to be disproven. I try to be a kind person and an easy-going guy but I have very limited trust. When talking to me, it takes quite a while to actually speak to me and not just my outer shell.

Isn’t it slightly contradictory though; travelling around the world and taking the stage to proclaim your disinterest in people and life in general?

– No, I don’t think so. That is not my purpose for doing this; it’s for the experience itself. I’m hardly ever angry, rarely happy – I don’t feel emotions the way I think most people do. The one moment I can repeatedly feel something is when playing music.

Emotions are precisely what he believes should govern and empower music.

– Concepts, themes, aesthetics and ideologies – all secondary; what lies at the very foundation of black metal music is the emotional content.

No matter the conceptual theme – as long as there is genuine passion invested in it, M believes it will shine through. Academic accuracy or poetic mastery means nothing if the voice conveying it lacks conviction.

– If someone is praying to the goat in his lyrics and actually means it – in the sense that they react with it somehow; interesting things can come out of this. Naming every single one of Shub Niggurath’s thousand young won’t make anything worthwhile – but a guy actually worshipping the fucking head of a goat, this could potentially generate something meaningful.

He ponders for a moment before adding:

– I think that might very well have been the most in-depth statement that’s been made by me in relation to MGLA.

Despite claiming to be happiness resistant, I find it hard to believe that the band’s recent success doesn’t brighten his day.

– Of course, it helps. Basic things like music equipment for example – for the first time we don’t have to worry about affording new amps, cables, stands and other accessories. The album sales pay for our backline, we’re constantly improving it.

This almost makes it sound as if the happiness is logistical in origin, rather than satisfaction from having created something others enjoy.

– Not at all, feedback is much appreciated. I have a great deal of respect for people who take the time to listen to the music, read the lyrics and come up with comments and observations – basically react in any way. It’s always surprising to me that people appreciate our music sinceMGLA is carefully moulded after our own preferences.

He’s not joking – the latest album “Exercises in Futility” (2015) was crafted entirely from conception to creation by M and Darkside, with literally no third party insight.

– The two of us did everything – composing, recording, performance, mixing, mastering, graphic design, lyrics, even releasing it to some point. At no time during the recording process did we play the songs for other people. Our idea was to form it purely after the vision we had, with no outside influence and I believe we succeeded in this.

From its inception, all of MGLA’s music has been recorded in their own studio – No Solace.

– It’s basically a rehearsal space that’s been worked into a studio, it has all equipment we need. It’s constantly being upgraded, as are my skills as a recording engineer.

Besides his own work, he’s also worked as a studio engineer and producer for bands such as fellow countrymen INFERNAL WAR and CULTES DES GHOULES.

– It’s great because I get to work with friends and leave my prints on albums I think are extraordinary. It’s also a learning process for me, because everything I do in regard to recording and mixing is then experience collected – knowledge I can channel into my own work.


All of MGLA’s albums have been co-released by their own label – also called No Solace, and Finland’s Northern Heritage Records.

Are you going to stick with them or are you entertaining other offers?

– We get them all the time but releasing our work in cooperation withNorthern Heritage is perfect. I think this is the way it’s going to stay as it gives us complete control over everything. We don’t have to schedule interviews or do any PR; most importantly we don’t have to do any sort of meet-and-greet shit or other things you’d expect at some point when working with a bigger label.

Their choice of label has not been entirely without complication. Even though no one is accusing MGLA of political extremism they have recently been targeted by ‘anti-fascists’, which led to the lone German date of their upcoming September tour with BEHEMOTH being cancelled. From what I could ascertain by running online discussions through Google Translate, the outrage stems from Northern Heritagehaving previously collaborated with a Finnish black metal band that are deemed controversial.

– Yes, he confirms while shaking his head, that was the problem. The venue is managed by some kind of left wing youth organisation so when the show was announced they had their local antifa perform background checks on the bands.

Having discovered their dubious associations, the venue demanded thatMGLA issue a statement denouncing their label.

– Obviously, from the moment you receive this type of email, you know you’re not going to play there. We simply told the truth – we are a black metal band and we release our music on black metal labels. We haven’t signed our deal for political reasons but we support Northern Heritageone hundred percent – if someone has a problem with that then so be it.

One can’t help but notice how many media outlets who were aghast whenBELPHEGOR were beset by Christians and then banned by the authorities in Russia, never seem to object to this kind of censorship.

– I recently did an interview for a German magazine and there were of course a couple of questions on politics and black metal. I explained that I’m not interested at all; if you want to separate politics from art, don’t ask the artists about politics in the first place.


M’s views on most things material are readily available in the lyrics but spirituality appears to be a theme left mostly unexplored.

– Not entirely; there is metaphysics in MGLA, just not from the usual angles. It’s more mysticism than magic – no ceremonial accessories, no candles, robes or any of the usual esoteric attire. It’s not so much a visual element as it is conceptual; finite man versus the infinite something.

He speculates that being drawn to the aesthetic side of things is human nature, behaviour that seems to enjoy prevalence regardless of theological outlook.

– The whole idea of ritual, no matter if it’s the Roman Catholic mass or rites from the Order of Nine Angles, is that there are predefined sets of movements and words – then incense, sounds,  specific clothes and so on. I’d be inclined to say that a lot of focus is being put… well, wasted if you ask me, on the aesthetics rather than the actual core. My interest in spirituality is to the highest possible extent devoid of this aspect.

M has self-diagnosed himself as ‘spiritually challenged’.

– Look at the latest album cover artwork, it shows a blind man reaching for something but gripping nothing. If you add the pieces together – the spiritual outlook that’s been reflected in MGLA, you’ll find that we genuinely would like to connect to something – to relate to something metaphysical, yet all we grasp is black void.

The cover artwork in question goes rather well with the lyrical theme, which is why I first assumed it was commissioned artwork.

– No, he clarifies, we have stolen it – it was made by the nineteenth century French illustrator Marcel Roux. When working on the layout for“Enemy of Man” (KRIEGSMASCHINE, 2014), we were looking through various pictures I’d accumulated.

Suddenly, they found themselves staring at the motif that ended up as the visual representation of the “Exercises in Futility”.

– At the very first glance we knew it was perfect, with the blind man…

The one referenced in the lyrics?

– Yes. The funny part is that the lyrics were written only after we found the cover image, so it ended up leaving an imprint on the music too.

There’s something about the rigid posture of a proper, authentic blind. As if extended arms reached to pass his blindness onto others.

These lyrics are in turn influenced by French-Romanian philosopherEmil Cioran.

– We find inspiration in many things – art, philosophy and literature; then the two of us act as filter to select what we see most fitting and it ends up as MGLA.

A new album is in the works, their first after the so-called commercial breakthrough. It should be interesting to see how this affects the relative musical consistency that has characterised their 16-year lifespan thus far.

– MGLA started out as my revelation and at some point it became the shared vision of two people. Darkside is not only the drummer, he’s one hundred percent involved in the band and everything related to it. We have a vision that needs to be realised – I doubt there’ll be any drastic changes as we still have a lot of work remaining in this aspect. I have no idea what the future holds for us, it’s a path being paved as we walk it – but as long as our work is fuelled by emotions, we’ll continue doing it.