Collect Call of Cthulhu, Part 3: Brian Engh’s steaming abomination

Today I broaden the remit of this series somewhat. Today’s Thing is not Cthulhu or any particular one of Lovecraft’s creations, but it is so Lovecraftian in conception that I couldn’t help but include it. Plus, hey, more original art from another person whose work I really admire.

Brian Engh - The Opening Of The Chrysalis

Brian writes:

Hey so I really don’t know anything about Lovecraft (although I did do the sound design on this, as well as recorded the voice over for an upcoming adaptation of ‘The Temple’ by the same animators), but I read your Cthulhu post and it made me think of this drawing I did a few months back… it pretty much fulfills all of your criteria, although it was’t intended to be Cthulhu (or even an aquatic beast), but rather some kind of monstrous mutant insectoid emerging from its giant chrysalis…

This one has a special quality that I think more Cthulhu (and other monster) artists should shoot for: it’s gross. The ropy blood vessels, the greenish ichor, the fluids running down the thing’s exoskeleton and the cloud of steam are all disgusting. It should not be–and that, of course, is quintessentially Lovecraftian. It reminds me of Zak Smith’s advice for horror roleplaying: “Find an emotion adjacent to fear–dislike, anxiety, disgust, confusion, etc.–and worm your way in from there.” (I know, that’s the second time I’ve linked to Zak’s blog in a Lovecraft post. What can I say–the dude writes insightfully about this stuff. His essay, “Philosophical implications of the Weird” is required reading for anyone trying to come to grips with Lovecraft and other writers of Weird tales.)

Now, it is incredible to me that Brian knows nothing of Lovecraft. Not only is his insectoid gigantic, horrible, and attended by a creepy cultist dude, but he also wrote what is probably the most Lovecraftian song, at least in terms of imagery, that I have ever heard: “The Old Kingdom”, the 14th track on his dinosaur-kaiju-rise-and-fight-the-world album, Earth Beasts Awaken. You can get the whole album for free here, but just check out some of the lyrics:

And still it sits…wings folded,

It’s older than the bones of those fallen soldiers,

Older than the accompanying flocks of hungry vultures,

Older even than the squabble between said feathered beasts

As they vie to dine on these corpses as they moulder.

And later on:

At last the omen stands fulfilled

Its dark shadow cast across the rolling hills.

It has risen! Driven from the darkness!

Its bones hardened by a thousand bombardments

Atomic structure finally altered

Now it gathers strength to spread its wings exalted

As prostrate larva crawl before it in homage.

There’s more: “bent old prophets”, “cephalopod molluscs glorified in hues kaleidoscopic”, “the black waters of an inverted firmament”–but you should just go download the song already. When Brian said he didn’t know anything about Lovecraft, I told him that Lovecraft stories were basically just like that song, only with normal people going mad from seeing the Old Things.

Unwilling to confine himself to a  single mode of artistic expression, Brian draws, paints, sculpts, raps, and makes his own animated music videos. From his blog you can find links to his illustration and sculpture galleries and his music and movies. Of particular interest for giant monster fans is the video for “Katana”: it’s currently the third video down from the top on this page. Go nuts!

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3 Responses to Collect Call of Cthulhu, Part 3: Brian Engh’s steaming abomination

  1. Markus says:

    That looks really great! What I really like about this monstrosity, is that despite its incredible weirdness and grotesque shape, it still somehow makes biological sense, what gives it much more authenticity. There are a lot of comparable creatues on the front page of pulp magazines, but quite often they suffer from total biological and anatomical senselessness and usually look quite ridiculousl.

  2. brian engh says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful post Matt. It’s funny to me that you thought the creature was gross, to me it’s beautiful. I’m fascinated with the concept of metamorphosis, and the shedding of old tissues often looks awesome in nature.

    The lines from “The Old Kingom” that you quoted are in reference to the pteranodon-like monster on the cover of the album. The core idea of the album is that this mythical relict beast is disturbed from a sleep of many thousands of years by the meddling of humans, at which point it kills most of humankind whilst waking up a bunch of other sleeping monsters who reclaim the Earth, and repress humans to their proper place in the hierarchy of monsters. Most of the tracks are inspired by different environments and in part describe their reclamation by ancient beasts. ‘The Old Kingdom’ is about the dark oceans and it’s creatures rising up and swallowing the crumbling ruins of coastal civilizations fallen.

    So yeah, “going mad from seeing the Old Things” is pretty relatable to me.

    I am currently working on some remixes and music videos of tracks from that old mouldering album, which will be released (hopefully) before this spring. Here’s a shot of one of the live-action version of the monster on the cover:

    And, if you want, you can stay tuned on my website and/or facebook page (sorry, shameless plug)

  3. ScottE says:

    That is amazing!

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