By Brian M. Sammons
Lovecraft, H.P., author; Dalager, Mike and Leman, Andrew, lyricists. Dreams in the Witch House: a Lovecraftian Rock Opera. The H.P. Lovecraft Society, 2013.
I love rock operas. AKA concept albums. AKA slices of pure musical awesomeness pressed to disc. Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime, and The Who’s Tommy are some of my more mainstream favorites, but as a proud metalhead, let me add The Crimson Idol by W.A.S.P., Streets: A Rock Opera (Yep, that title says it all) by Savatage, and even the one all about the comic book anti-hero, Spawn called The Dark Saga by Iced Earth. I have always loved the idea of an epic story being told over an entire album, across multiple songs.
So, it’s about time someone did that with an H.P. Lovecraft story. I mean if someone could do it for freaking Spawn … but I digress. Well, wouldn’t you know? The people who finally did it were the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. They’re the same group that put out the awesome Lovecraft radio plays as part of their Dark Adventure Radio Theater. Oh, not to mention, made two pretty cool Mythos movies, too. Yeah, it figures it would be those crazy, creative cultists who did it.
That said, when I heard that the HPLHS was going to release, Dreams in the Witch House: a Lovecraftian Rock Opera, I was both excited and more than a bit dubious. Sure, the HPL Historical Society have proven time and time again that they can do a great audio book, and even make a mean movie, but music is a whole other beast entirely. Just reading a Lovecraft story with some electric guitars squealing in the background would not be the same thing as a true rock opera. Still, based on the strength of all their other Mythos efforts, they had earned a day in court as they attempted to bring Lovecraftian horror into the world of rock n’ roll. Did they succeed?
Hell, yeah, they did.
First off, the HPLHS got some talented ringers to back them up on this massive, musical Mythos odyssey. The opera has 16 tracks that feature over 17 singers, including Jody Ashworth (The Trans Siberian Orchestra, which was original formed by members of the aforementioned Savatage), Alaine Kashian (Broadway’s Cats) and Swedish metal phenom Chris Laney as the wonderfully wicked Brown Jenkin. That not enough musical street cred for you? Well, how about this, the album features 14 musicians, including Bruce Kulick (former KISS guitarist) and Douglas Blair Lucek (guitarist for W.A.S.P.). Yes, this album has links to both Savatage and W.A.S.P. Oh, you know I was a happy metalhead to learn that.
So, the music is solid and rockin’, with tons of talent behind it, but what about the Lovecraft connection? How is that here? Come on, this is the HPLHS, so naturally, it’s as good as gold. Those who already know the H.P. Lovecraft story, “Dreams in the Witch House,” will find a very faithful rendition here. None of the horror or the Weird from the tale has been left out for the sake of melody or lyrics. And if you’ve never read that particular Lovecraft story, well, then, you really should, as it’s very good, but this album would be a great introduction to it. After all, what fires up the imagination more than music?
Final Verdict: Dreams in the Witch House: a Lovecraftian Rock Opera is in all ways great. It works not only as a badass piece of music, but as a retelling of a wonderful horror story. Fans of hard rock and heavy metal will probably like it the most, but it is good enough to cross over and worm its way into the hearts and minds of any music lover. Catchy and creepy, harmonious and horrifying, this melodic Mythos journey should not be missed by lovers of Lovecraft or rock n’ roll aficionados. If you fall into either of those camps, you can order your copy directly from the HPLHS site. Oh, and as an extra bit of coolness, for all you vinyl fans out there, you can even pick it up as an honest-to-God record with the vinyl colored an appropriate shade of violet. No matter how you get this album, just get it. It easily earns the title of modern metal masterpiece. Rock on and Iä Iä.