Dreams in the Witch House a Lovecraftian Rock Opera is a conceptual album, put together by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. HPLHS are the purveyors of macabre fair such as “A Very Scary Solstice”, and “An Even Scarier Solstice”. As well as Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, radio drama adaptations of some of Lovecraft’s finest stories.
Dreams, begins softly, with piano and a litany of monks accompanying echoed footsteps, all leading to a confession. The entire Opera is told after the fact as the confession of a damned soul unfortunate enough to witness the horror that occurred at the Witch House, a boarding house in the fabled Arkham, on the banks of the Miskatonic. As the confession begins the refrains of a metal guitar pick up, crescendoing into the “Arkham Ovature”.
After the Ovature, Frank Elwood (Andrew Leman) begins confessing his spiral into madness. Starting with an explanation of a unique town, and mysterious house. The pressure behind the song, builds as he explains the dangers of the Witch House, and the ramifications of taking up residence in this particular boarding house. The remainder of the song provides the foreshadowing of what is to come, by explaining what has already transpired.
Dreams is filled with religious iconography, or audioography as the case may be. From the confession, to repetition of references to the trinity, holy symbols, and even pagan rites. Heavy Metal, has alwayse been filled with religious references, some revered, some used as blasphemy. By weaving them together, layer upon layer, in what is essentially a Dark Opera, they begin to blend. What is holy, what is profane, are the villains just lost souls? All of these questions, and more are left up to the listener.
After the introduction, and foreshadowing, the story returns to the past. Walter Gilman (Mike Dalager ) and Frank have taken up residence in the only boarding house affordable to students of poor means, the Witch House! Walter who studies mathematics, and folklore becomes obsessed with the Witch House, the stories that surround it, and his room in particular. He thinks the strange geometry of his room holds the keys to unlocking the mysteries of the universe. His obsession goes so far as to solve a myriad of complex mathematical formula, to the astonishment, and confoundment of his professors, and peers.
As the story progresses Frank begins to worry, that maybe the folklore of the Witch House, isn’t just story. Their neighbors even begin to complain about strange sounds and lights, perhapse even a strange creature!? Frank fears that Walter, may just have made some Faustian deal in exchange for his prowess in math. The neighbors, salt of the earth type, fear the upcoming pagan rites of Walpurgis Night will draw forth something too terrible for words. You’ll get no more spoilers from me, Lovecraft must be experienced for one’s self, as must this Rock Opera.
What I can talk about is the album as a whole. HPLHS is quite adept at bringing Lovecraft into the modern era. Often when such projects are attempted, they must be transformed, it’s through such transformative work that old stories can take on new, far grandeur layers than ever before. HPLHS has done just that with this Rock Opera. The use of Opera as a medium, take the story far further than any retelling ever could. Music takes hold of us, body and soul, and when the journey involves the journey of the soul, I can think of no better medium for such a surreal journey.
In transformative works, additions must be made out of necessity. It’s alwasye a risk to make additions to the work of another, particularly such a well known author. When each transformation hits the mark? What you have stands alone as a unique work unto itself. Take the track “Legends and Lore”, one single track 50% of the way through the story, a villain is completely transformed. She is made sympathetic, while still a villain, it’s easier to understand how she became so evil. It’s not her fault, she was a product of her times. “Legends and Lore” is a pivotal track, and until the dénouement tracks, perhapse one of the most important tracks. The past in it’s entirety hangs upon this track, with it we have context, without it, we just have a horror story.
Speaking of the dénouement, there are two endings, an ending to the story as told through the confession, and an ending for the Frank. “Crawling Chaos”, and “Azathoth” build up to the ending, they contain the big reveal, the “true trinity” as it were, and the identity of the power behind the powers in the universe. Followed quickly by “No Sacrafice”, as the final confrontation between Gilman, and the darkness. It’s where he makes his final final decision. “No Turning Back” shows the aftermath of his resolution, which way will his soul sway, did he ever have a choice? Did Keziah Mason (Alaine Kashian ) have a choice. Will either of them be redeemed?
“Between Reality and Dreaming” brings Frank’s confession to an end, with the showing of his greatest sin… This is where the story takes a turn, it wasn’t Gilman’s story, it was Frank’s journey the entire time? Will his Schizophrenic Spiral, break him? Will he find absolution, or simply descend into madness, body and soul lost to the darkness…
This entire album, is enthralling. You’re pulled along the journey, rising and descending unconsciously as the songs progress the story. In the end, you have to shake yourself awake, pull yourself back into reality. This is only accomplished due to the collective brilliance of all involved. From the artistic director, to the instrumentals and the singers. The use of a Spanish Guitar in the middle of a Rock Opera for instance, provides a brief respite, allowing you to catch your breath, before you’re pulled further into the spirals of chaos. I can’t say enough about the vocals on this album. Keziah, herself has many layers, from innocent victim, to beautiful seductress, finally damned soul weary of her journey and seeking ascension to a plain of rest.
There is nothing I can say at this point that won’t come across as rambling. DinWH is an album that must be experienced for yourself, and I invite everyone to buy a copy. Whether you like Rock Operas, are a long time fan of Lovecraft, or just like existential exploration through music, this is the album for you.
Dreams in the Witch House, A Lovecraftian Rock Opera, is avaliable on CD, Dual Violet Vinel LP, and download.
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