If there is one author who matched Tolkien’s creativity, not his storytelling or linguistics, it would be H.P. Lovecraft. What Tolkien did for fantasy, Lovecraft did for horror. Both are considered the fathers of their genres, sculptors that molded epics from the wilds of their imaginations. Both, too, are almost over-represented in music, to the point that they could almost become cliché and dull. There are exceptions of course, and I’ve done my best to find those exceptions. I’ve reviewed The Seal of R’Lyeh once before and now I think it’s high time to return to that project. When I reviewed it, I looked at an album that focused on Carcosa, now I’m moving forward to stories and places a little more familiar to the layman. “The Shadow over Innsmouth” has all the elements of horror and dread and cosmic nihilism you’d come to expect from something inspired by Lovecraft.
The album opens with one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories: The Shadow over Innsmouth. I won’t go into the details of the story, though I encourage every single one of you to read it right now, but I will say that The Seal of R’Lyeh’s take on the short story is epically terrifying. This short EP immediately sucks you into the world of Lovecraft, a world where nasty things hide in the shadows and rend the sanity of anything and anyone, a place where reality and unreality collide to create monstrous examples of utter strangeness. I’m grateful that it’s only the music that’s transporting me to this strange world. The sound on this song is partially cathedral-esque, partially natural sounding. The resulting atmosphere causes the tension and the horror to amplify. It’s strangely beautiful but I only noticed that beauty after listening several times, the first few times around the horror is overwhelming. There are some amazing depths to this music, layers and layers of sound and emotion that create images of absolute horror.
The second, and last, song on the EP deals with the Dunwich Horror, another famous Lovecraft story. Where The Shadow over Innsmouth was earthy and natural (as much as a Lovecraft story could be called “natural) Dunwich Horror is ethereal and cosmic (or is that anti-cosmic?). The keys are no longer atmospheric, the sound has transcended, as it were, to something ambient, sound comes at the listener from all sides, assault their sanity. Of the two tracks, Dunwich Horror is my favorite, it abandons the cathedral feel for something entirely alien and unnatural. The echo and drone in the song reverberates through those few minutes, making it seem even longer.
The Seal of R’Lyeh has never failed to impress me. The accurate and terrifying portrayal of Lovecraft’s universe in the albums makes that universe even wider, deeper, and richer. It’s harder to portray emotions of horror and terror in literature, though Lovecraft was able to do that easily, than in music. The Seal of R’Lyeh bridges the gap and enriches the world of Lovecraft. The shadows become deeper, the horrors become more visceral, the emptiness becomes more vivid. The Shadow over Innsmouth and the Dunwich Horror are two of my favorite Lovecraft stories, in fact they are the two stories I would love to see honestly adapted for the screen, and this album made them come alive in a totally new way. The melodies captured paint a different picture, a more accurate picture that has now added itself to my imagination. If I am every lucky enough to write a script for something Lovecraftian, I know precisely where I intend to find the music: The Seal of R’Lyeh.
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