By the way, whatever happened to the Dagons?

“Plasma will spill and fur will fly
An Adam of Technology
A victim of Lycanthropy
One of them, tonight, will die . . .”
The ragamuffin slight figure stalked the tiny club’s stage, amidst a wail of feedback, followed by a blistering lead guitar solo from the figure to its immediate right. It came to a standstill then, to raise a skeletal arm clothed in ragged cerements, and screamed in a tortuous baritone: “On lead guitar, The Slasher!”

Then the singer, one Micki Sinn by stagename, rushed through the chorus again, then once more, bringing the song to a swift and crashing end:

“Frankenstein meets the Wolfman
Battlefield’s in Transylvan
Monsters rule the Age of Man
Frankenstein meets the Wolfman!”

That’s how it was when I first saw them play in Arkham, anyhow. They called themselves The Pagans back then, and they were the Kings of HorrorCore, the Ghouls of Cool. They’d taken their cue from bands like The Misfits and The Bronx and even Slipknot — and some said they’d even ripped off a legendary punk band from some town in Minnesota called Braving, The Loving Dead, I think they were called. But whatever their origins, the ghoulishly made-up Pagans ripped their way through their 3-minute sing-along anthems with style: from the more obscure “Devil Inside ‘er” to “Slimy Demons From Beyond Outer Space” through to the better-known hits like the softer, pop-ishly crooned “Dancin’ On Your Grave” or the more manic “Zombie-Itis,” with its THRILLER-inspired video and its catchy as all hell screamed chorus: “Zombie-Itis — Zombies eat us!”

That had been nearly five years ago, of course, and at the top of their game The Pagans had dropped out of sight for some reason or other, almost as if they had never existed. The followup CD to GHOULS OF GORE and MONSTERS OF MOSH had never even been released. So when the band came on MTV’s HEADBANGER’S BALL of all places, and announced a reunion tour just over a month ago, it was clear to everyone that they had changed dramatically. They appeared very sedate, even tame. They now called themselves The Dagons, and whereas the horror trappings were all fun and games before, they now seemed to take themselves very seriously. Too seriously, perhaps. Their campy song titles were gone, giving way to wieldy, nigh-incomprehensible and enigmatic titles like: “Beyond the Angles of the Tagh-Clatur”; “On the Shores of Ghostly Tindalos”; and “Into the Maelstrom of Daemon-Azathoth,” and some even stranger still to boot. Gone was the fun bandmember monikers, and the ghoulish make-up too — unless you count the ever-present cloak and hood of the newest member, the keyboardist Simon Orne, who was credited on the handbills and posters and TV ads with “Finding a new path for the band . . .”

Despite the changes, I had remained a fan, of course, sticking through thick and thin even when there seemed to be no band to stick with, and when it was announced The Dagons would be playing a seaside concert in my own town of Innsmouth, I jumped at the chance to see them play live once again. To advertize their new incarnation K-FSH FM was having a phone-in contest for tickets, and in the following days I glued myself to both radio and cellphone. And it happily paid off . . . I won!

Soon I stood waiting in the swiftly-waning sun, as the line of would-be attendees stretched all the way down the beach and rose up to the massive green stone Temple of Dagon set high atop the cliffs looking over the wind-tossed sea. The Temple was an open-air broad, flat platform of columns and pillars, resembling a temple of Greek construction, like the Parthenon. But aside from that its structure was strange, and its wild, tangled masonry seemed to hurt my eyes somehow when I looked full upon it, so I dragged my eyes instead to the assembled crowd around me. Most were happy to be there, of course, but I saw a scattering of disgruntled fans, unhappy with the band’s new direction and loaded down with protest signs like: PAGANS — NOT DAGONS! (WHATEVER THE HECK THAT IS?) and CRAWL BACK TO THE SEA THAT SPAWNED YOU, POND-SCUM and especially the ever-popular YOU SUCK, DAGONS! and even a gentler, DOG-GONE THOSE DAGONS! This last was carried by a long-haired haggard-looking older guy I seemed to recognize somehow, but try as I might, I couldn’t quite place the face just then.

As I entered the Temple, the doorman held out a fat, pale hand, and as I dug in my pocket for the ticket I had won from the radio station, I gazed up, into the face of one of the most repellant people I’d ever laid eyes upon. People here in Innsmouth would certainly never win any beauty contests, we all seeming to share a certain bestial look, but this guy was a hulking brute that seemed to resemble nothing so much as a giant bullfrog. Bald head, flat nose, wide flabby lips, gaping pop-eyes — you name it, he had it! I tried not to stare, and even tried not to touch the guy too much as I handed my ticket over. Then, mercifully, the line before me moved forward and disappeared inside.

The concert hall within was far larger than I had expected from the outside of the squat temple, but I put it down to an optical effect generated by the weird masonry of the building. The green stone columns supporting it were huge, corkscrew-looking things, the screw threads ringing down clockwise into the floor. The floor was of a black, basaltic-looking stone, and at the seaward side of the queerly-angled vertigo inducing hall sat the stage, dotted with amplifiers, guitars, mic stands, keyboard banks and a large drumkit.

As The Dagons took the stage amidst a low curtain of dry ice, and the concert began, an eerie keyboard melody wafted out of the fog, and seemed to suggest to the mind a vista of some sort; and soon the conscious eye began to make out something as well. The open air behind the band began to dance and take form. I realized there must be a hidden projector screen there, for slowly taking shape directly behind them was a watery vista, the camera riding gently over the top of the lapping waves. After a bit, the camera picked up speed, and then dove into the water, sinking to icy dark depths below.

Onstage, Simon Orne, surrounded by row upon row of synthesizers, had set up a wall of melody with his keys, through which the guitar and bass guitar of Slasher and Thrasher respectively, seemed hard-pressed to cut through, as they both hammered away frenetically. The pounding fury of Dr. Octo-Drums forced its way through, just barely. Not that they were using their Ghoul-Core names any longer, of course. Still, I was a true fan, and I preferred to think of them that way. Kind of like when Kiss unmasked, only to go back and put on the make-up several more times. Somehow it was more fun that way.

Micki Sinn stopped singing about swimming through some black Lake of Hali just then, and began to chant, in some alien-sounding tongue, through which the word ‘Dagon’ could be heard now and then, repeated like a mad mantra.

Onscreen, the camera had entered a dark, rocky chasm. It sank lower and lower still. The music sounded more like Cradle of Filth or Opeth now than The Misfits which the band had taken after before this new incarnation, a dark orchestral melange of mood and emotion. Micki Sinn chanted on, softer now. Soft voices echoing from all around began to join in.

The chasm was deep and dark, but lit from within by an unearthly glow as the camera began to move over a phosphorescent body, long and sinuous, a mottled green. It looked like something long-buried in the silt of the aeons, yet somehow ALIVE.

Suddenly, a frantic figure screamed directly behind me, and rushed towards the stage, something clutched in its hands, seemingly holding onto it for dear life. It looked like a stone starfish. He pushed past me, a wild look in his eyes, and began to pull his chubby body onto the stage with no little difficulty. The band kept playing on, oblivious, the alien chorus rising now, whispered through gritted teeth, the audience joining in. Though I could not consciously follow the weird guttural “words,” I found myself unconsciously repeating them.

The chant rose to a scream then, interspersed with that terrible name: DAGON! DAGON! DAGON!

Suddenly the music ceased. The man had clambered upon the stage now, and was arguing with the keyboardist, screaming something about the time, the stars maybe, not being right. “They must not be awakened!” he screamed furiously. As he drew the stone star up above his head, it looked like he was going to clobber the Orne with it. It was then that I recognized him as one of the Professors of the Miskatonic University in nearby Arkham, one Professor Damon McAllen, whose outre theories had gotten him discredited by said University, I seemed to recall. As McAllen drew the star-stone upwards, two bright points appeared and glared from the screen behind the band, growing and enlarging. EYES!

Then the Professor was drawn towards the screen by an unseen force. He fell headlong, flipping over and over, and was sucked directly into the screen itself, screaming and clawing frantically. Something rose above the screen then, wildly kicking legs hanging from its cavernous fanged maw. It towered over the screen, rising into the air, blotting out the moon.

Thinking suddenly of the awakening of the Kraken in the movie CLASH OF THE TITANS just then, I snapped out of my reverie and began to run. Shrieking wildly, I ran past one of the jade columns — whose screw-rings had now unwrapped to reveal long green flailing tendrils. I ducked one powerful coil, then leaped over another frond, and ran on. I saw someone to my right grasped by another one of these clutching pillars as I fled — the body torn to gory shreds by whiplike tendrils — and my mind screamed inside a word or name gathered seemingly from the depths of ancestral memory: “Shoggoth!”

As I gained the exit I looked back once more, to see a monstrous talon sweep down like a felled tree and scoop up nearly the whole band like a kid scooping up a handful of jacks — only to raise them high into the air. A nauseous crunching sound followed, and I recognized it as the chewing of bones. I then saw the figure of Simon Orne, his robe now fallen away, his batrachian scaled body horribly revealed. His gilled neck was craned up to the sky at an impossible angle, his froggish eyes pleading, imploring with something. A booming filled the air, like monstrous thunder, and it took me a moment more to recognize it as the sound of an inhuman, alien laughter from on high. Then I began to run headlong once more, out the exit and down the cliffside, to faint at its bottom in merciful blackness.

***

Out of some 1,000 kids in attendance that night, they tell me I’m the sole survivor. Me, Isaac Waite, “Icthyic Ike” as I’m known here at my new DJ job at K-FSH here in Innsmouth. We play lots of varied stuff here at K-FSH, from rock to punk to thrash, even death metal. But we don’t ever play The Pagans. And that goes double for The Dagons!

What’s that? Well, you asked, Mr. high-n-mighty Music Journalist. Don’t look at ME like that. Let’s just hope they never do one of those ‘WHERE ARE THEY NOW? specials on the band. I don’t really think I want to know. Especially in light of that new webbed-foot-shaped lake down by the beachfront.

Er, on second thought, maybe you’d better let sleeping gods lie, and just say the band broke up, and be done with it.


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