Maculatum – The Nameless City

Malignant Records (TUMORCD59), 2012

“When I drew nigh the nameless city, I knew it was accursed.  I was travelling in a parched and terrible valley under the moon, and afar I saw it protruding uncannily above the sands as parts of a corpse may protrude from an ill-named grave.”

So begins the short story “The Nameless City” by legendary horror author H. P. Lovecraft, a tale of one man’s haunting exploration into desolate desert ruins and the ancient terror he discovers there.  Lovecraft’s work has long been an inspiration – directly and otherwise – for artists with a dark slant, and Thibaud Thaunay (who records solo under the named Collapsar) and Kerry Braud (Rasalhague) are no exception, having pooled both their resources and their admiration for Lovecraft into a collaborative effort..  Taking the name Maculatum, the two have produced an album with the same title as Lovecraft’s story; an immersive, album that seethes with much of the same chaos.

Maculatum’s album is composed of six separate tracks – nameless but numbered – and each is filled with unsettling atmospherics that give admirable sound to what the unnamed narrator experienced.  Lovecraft writes of “metallic music,” “a deep, low moaning, as of a distant throng of condemned spirits,” “night-wind,” and “ghastly cursing and snarling of strange-tongued fiends,” and Thaunay and Braud took such descriptions as literally as they could when producing their compositions.  The album is somewhat of a harrowing experience, perfectly fitting the dread of Lovecraft’s tale, but the music is given shape and structure by foundations of tribal percussion that boom and clatter as the chaos swirls from the speakers.  Maculatum doesn’t quite match the organic, ancient aura of R|A|A|N, nor the exhilarating formlessness of the similarly themed Flint Glass, but what’s here is certainly thrilling and well-executed.

Being something of a Lovecraft fan myself, I read the story as the album played in the background, and it was the perfect companion.  If Maculatum’s aim was to create a fitting soundtrack for the tale, they’ve succeeded with aplomb.  It’s clearly evident that both Thaunay and Braud are talented composers and work well together, as Maculatum does indeed sound like a collaboration of their two solo projects, rather than opposing forces struggling to integrate.  The Nameless City is their first joint effort, and it whets the appetite to see what might next be in store….a double album inspired by Lovecraft’s masterpiece “At the Mountains of Madness,” perhaps?  One can dream…..

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