Joseph Curwen Box Set Review

One of the greatest conundrums of the horror genre is the inability to produce a satisfying H.P. Lovecraft cinematic adaptation. The failure to connect with the cosmic or at least authentically reproduce the atmospheric, existential dread of Lovecraft’s works has frustrated filmmakers and Lovecraft enthusiasts a like.  Perhaps the current paucity of creative approaches to the visual prevents film from conjuring up terrifying, infinite vistas and feelings of sublime nothingness that have made Lovecraft one of , if not the most influential horror writer of the last 100 years. Music has been a much more effective and evocative medium for transforming Lovecraft’s expansive imagination and philosophical terrors into an unsettling auditory experience. One of the masters of Lovecraftian sound is Joseph Curwen, a dark ambient necromancer who summons eldritch drones and ritualistic tones in sublimely strident occult noise ceremonies.  Joseph Curwen’s prolific releases demonstrate an impressive yet under-appreciated body of work that should be spoken of in the same breath as Lustmord, Aphex Twin, and Zoviet France. Though the majority of Joseph Curwen’s work has been kindly shared online, physical releases have been rare. Thankfully, the coolly esoteric label Altar of Waste has recently released a box set of four of Joseph Curwen’s key works spread over 8 discs: The Cold Room, Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Dunwich Horror, and At the Mountains of Madness. Much like Lovecraft’s prose, the music of Joseph Curwen takes time to work its considerable charms and though an online platform allows his sounds to unfurl without any interruption, the presentation of these albums is a thing of beauty. Housed in DVD cases, each album is illustrated by suitably arcane graphics that will certainly resonate with pulp occult lovers and horror paperback fiends. With the exception of At the Mountains of Madness, each album is spread out over multiple discs offering an immersive listening experience that bends the time/space continuum and tears open up the mind. Ranging from third eye melting roars to the clairaudient inertia of Time Machines era Coil, Joseph Curwen plays with the same sounds that Erich Zann did, keeping the deathlessly silent void at bay with his magick noise. And yet this is not just music to read Lovecraft to, as each album explores emotions and moods that were merely suggested in the literary works from which the albums are named, like the melancholy elegy for “Elder Things” from At the Mountains of Madness. Connoisseurs of truly occult sounds and cosmic music need to hear and experience the dark majesty of Joseph Curwen.  Act quickly though, as the box set is extremely limited and, like the Olaus Wormius version of The Necronomicon, may soon only be accessed by the chosen few.

The Joseph Curwen Box can be ordered here:


William Burns
Staff Writer at Horror News Network
Bill Burns joined the Horror News Network staff in 2014. Bill Burns grew up in the 70's and 80's, the second Golden Age of Horror. His mind was warped by John Carpenter, H.P. Lovecraft, In Search Of..., and the Man, Myth, and Magic series of books.
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