Review: H.P. Lovecraft ‘The Festival’

H .P. Lovecraft has been a profound influence on metal bands throughout the ages, Metallica, Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard to name three. He’s also been utilized by The Simpsons (in the Treehouse of Horror episode) and John Carpenter (1994’s In The Mouth of Madness). The difference here is that this is no subtle homage, but a direct spoken word narration from Andrew Leman of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society with an accompanying score by legendary Italian Composer Fabio Frizzi (Kill Bill, The Beyond and The City of the Living Dead).

H.P. Lovecraft ‘The Festival’

The artwork by Jesse Jacobi is exactly what you would expect from a Lovecraft themed release, packed full of weird creatures and hellish images, many of which you may have found on any number of early 90’s death metal album covers. The Festival was originally inspired by Lovecraft‘s first trip to Marblehead, Massachusetts which he later called ‘the most powerful single emotional climax experienced during my nearly forty years of existence’, emphasising the importance of this short story in Lovecraft‘s literary canon.

The first thing that strikes me on listening to the story is narrator Andrew Leman‘s rich Orson Wellsesque speaking voice that grabs your attention from the off, where he is describing the protagonist’s initial impressions of the town where his ancestors once lived. Here, Fabio Frizzi‘s score is wistful and dreamy, his delicate use of piano and light strings evoking a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. The music soon changes to a much darker complexion as we hear about the protagonist’s kinsmen, who were executed in the town during the witchcraft hysteria of the late 17th Century.

It’s worth noting Frizzi‘s skill at being able to match the mood of the changing scenes so adeptly and effortlessly, thus demonstrating his extensive experience as a composer of well over 40 years. The music continues in this vein right through to the end of Side A, the conclusion of which includes the protagonist’s reading of the Necromonicon along with the start of his journey to the festival. Frizzi‘s work here reminds me of John Carpenter’s for the films The Fog and The Thing in the way it helps to summon up feelings of dread and foreboding in the listener.

this was a really well constructed collaboration with Andrew Leman’s excellent narration, complemented by Fabio Frizzi’s subtle unobtrusive score…

Side B continues where Side A left off with Frizzi‘s sinister score, as the journey continues into the white church and down into the crypt for the upcoming festival. An interesting inclusion for me at this point is the use of a flute, which stands in stark contrast to the grim scene painted by the narrator, a comparison could be drawn to The Wicker Man where the whimsical folk song Sumer is icumen in is sung as Neil Howie is being burnt alive.

The orchestra starts to swell and the dramatic tension heightens as the protagonist seeks a way to escape from the unnerving scene. Eventually the reassuring sound of piano and strings come through, indicative of our protagonist’s relief as he is lying in Kingsport Hospital seemingly safe. As a final twist in the tale, the ominous music returns and plays out through to the end as our protagonist is last seen reading an eerily familiar copy of the Necromonicon in St Mary’s Hospital in Arkham.

Unlike the grossly misjudged Lou Reed and Metallica Lulu vanity project, which saw millionaire rockstars with way too much time on their hands and embarrassing themselves, this was a really well constructed collaboration with Andrew Leman‘s excellent narration, complemented by Fabio Frizzi‘s subtle unobtrusive score. A classy affair that is well balanced, flows nicely and keeps you gripped throughout.

Label: Cadabra Records
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Scribed by: Reza Mills