20 September 2013

The Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets - The Shadow Out Of Tim

The Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets are a Canadian rock band formed in the early nineties and have released albums intermittently ever since. Musically they draw influences from Punk, Stoner and Grunge but their songs are almost all Lovecraftian based. Their name is taken from a line in a H.P. Lovecraft story too.

The Shadow Out Of Tim was released in 2007 and is a concept album that’s apparently  based on the novella The Shadow Out Of Time though, with the nautical theme running through the songs, I’d say there was a fair amount of Dagon and, even Cthulhu mythos in there too.

The basic premise is that millions of years ago a race of being known as the Yith could travel through space and time by swapping minds with other beng. The titular Tim is one such being they swap minds with. Whilst in the body of the Yith he’s confronted with huge alien cities and nightmarish visions. Once returned to hs own body, people have assumed he’s insane due to the actions of the Yith that had inhabited his body. He becomes obsessed with finding out whether he IS insane or the Yith are real and, if so, what happened to them.

The album starts off with a chanted intro that reminds me of the Kali Ma Cultists in Indiana Jones. The story kicks off after that with A Marine Biologist. It’s got a great, lolloping stoner riff that’s immediately engaging, as is vocalist Toren Atkinson’s yelping howl.

 The next song is Blackout which is a straight forward rock song along the lines of Foo Fighters but twisted up all weird. It deals with Tim’s arrival in the world of the Yith. No Way details the struggles Tim has with people he thought he was close to no longer wanting anything to do with him. It’s also infuriatingly catchy, both in its simplistic chorus and its closing refrain of “My life is shattered, it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares that I’m all better now”.

Things start to get much darker after this. Strange, Return To Melanesia, Cultists On Board and  A “Need To Know” Basis all build the tension and create an atmosphere of conspiracy and wrongness. The all are great, rock songs too. The final three songs in Tim’s story reveal what happened to the Yith and just how much trouble Tim is in. Operation: Get The Hell Out Of Here sums it up nicely. Ride The Flying Polyp features high pitched, alien vocals and I’m not entirely sure what it’s about. The final song, Some Things Man Was Not Meant To Know is an reasonably epic finale and reveals Tim’s fate, and that of the Yith.

Even though their music is tongue in cheek and relatively light-hearted they also manage to successfully recreate a sense of pervading wrongness and the uneasy feeling that’s present in Lovecraft's works. Besides that, The Shadow Out of Tim doesn’t need to be listened to as a whole, the songs all work out of context which is great. It also benefits from having a proper production unlike earlier material that sounded like it was recorded in a shed.

8 Out Of Ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

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