Fans of the rock musical genre will be lured to sleep, perchance to dream, of forgotten places where the sounds from the gods of heavy metal reign in a brilliantly conceived album, Dreams in the Witch-House: a Lovecraftian Rock Opera. When Bruce Kulick (Grand Funk Railroad and formerly with KISS), Douglas Blair Lucek (W.A.S.P.), Nalle Påhlsson and Johan Koleberg (Therion) are involved, the showcase of talent is simply going to be wide and varied. Together with a showcase of multi-talented singers, actors and producers, they provide a musical discourse that tells of Walter Gilman’s (Mike Dalager) descent into madness. He’s an overachiever, and what he aspires for requires making a pact with the dark forces that once resided in the building he lives in.
The abode used to belong to Keziah Mason (Alaine Kashian), a witch who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Some might say that her soul melded into the building that both Gilman and Frank Elwood (Andrew Leman), the narrator, now occupy. In what they both shall witness and succumb to, only one can survive to tell a dead man’s tale.
To know about some aspects of H.P. Lovecraft’s tale only makes this rock opera all the more appreciative. He may even approve of this edgier product if he grew up listening to rock n’ roll. But in the Jazz era, the only thing he was more concerned with was eking out a living than being a socialite or arts buff; his realm was that of the sciences and in speculating about what laid in the fringes of the cosmos—most of which erred towards all that was terrible.
HPL’s version of Dreams in the Witch-House was penned in 1932 and published one year later. His tale was partially inspired from a real life Witch-House located in Salem, Massachusetts even though it was occupied by a judge . Add an influential lecture and book this author may have attended and read during that time, and the character of Keziah Mason was born.
Amongst a few literary critics, namely S.T. Joshi, this tale was clumsily written and the motivations from Mason, the witch, were unclear. When considering barely a week was spent writing it, this observation might have some merits . Many versions of this tale has been conceived for the small screen or interpreted differently. But not many products have considered the sonic analogy to the ideas presented within this tale until now:
In this imagining by Mike Dalager, Andrew Leman and Sean Branney, the witch’s allegiance is better defined and her soulful journey may well be like a shining beacon of hope. The Christian allegories made in this production make for a nice touch to create a melodrama. Even Dalager realizes this detail and noted that Lovecraft embraced the Judeo-Christian structure only with this story. “He doesn’t do that anywhere else in his stories, as far as I’m aware,” said this executive producer.
But for Gilman, his tragedy was with what he and the witch lusted for. Their desires could be likened to that of Faust.
Parts of this musical’s style are reminiscent of a Studio RKO production. It’s a radio drama that’s very stylized. The narrative moments introduces each song very well, and the tunes are a mix of grunge, progressive metal and symphony. Listeners can easily visualize what’s going on due to the engaging lyrics.
Both the harmony and the tale are similar in style to that of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera and Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show. The music of the night being expressed here is both melodic and expressive. The performers are very experienced in live theatre and their vocal talent really shows in the power ballads.
“Legends and Lore” showcases the talent of Alaine Kashian. Out of all the songs featured in this album, this tune is the most lyrically influenced by Webber’s song writing bravura. In “Madness is my Destiny,” the emotional depth expressed in the musical composition, the lyrics and Dalager’s vocals are a masterpiece. The song nicely brings together all the motifs that Lovecraft often loves to engage in with his tales. Instead of feeling melancholy, the song will have listeners feeling energized.
And if this rock opera manages to become a fully realized stage show much like Evil Dead: The Musical, this number will get audiences wildly applauding. The potential for this concept album to head in that direction exists, but only time will tell if it happens. Dalager mentioned that some of the crew really want see this product head in that direction. If the production happens to be a huge blazing light and sound show, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra better watch out!
But much of this album’s success will depend on what sales will be like. Fandom for H.P. Lovecraft’s works is huge and to turn “Dreams in the Witch-House: A Lovecraftian Rock Opera” into a play can be realized with the right investors working with Dalager to bring that concept to reality. Right now, his company’s resources are dedicated to bringing phase one to fruition.
All he can say right now is that “it’s beyond my capabilities or that of my partner’s … but the dream is definitely there” in an interview with New York/Los Angeles based Music Journalist Daniel Siwek, a regular contributor to XLR8R.
This album will be available on Double Vinyl, CD and Digital format on October 12th, 2013, through the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s website. Both physical products will offer unique packaging: the LPs will be limited to 500 gatefold binding pieces and it will be printed on 180gram translucent “violet vinyl” to keep in theme of the imagery used in the story. For the CD, all artwork, liner notes and production info will be displayed directly on a six-panel, tri-fold wallet. Both designs are a throwback to the collectable records back in the 70’s that Siwek noted, and the idea is to match with one of this album’s thematic concepts: the trinity. To define what that exactly means would only be telling. Also, full librettos will be available after the album releases.
People interested in how the Witch-House has been re-imagined in sonic context will have to pick up the physical product than hunt for it illegally on the Internet—the Rat-thing, Brown Jenkin will definitely not be amused.