Album: Dreams In The Witch House: A Lovecraftian Rock Opera
Label: Self released
Review: Jason Spencer
Thoughts: I think that 2013 will long be remembered as a year chock full of incredible releases. From metal to rock, the year has exceeded all expectations. However, I find that many of the lesser known albums are truly the best the year has given. I feel that this is true for one of my newest obsessions: Dreams In The Witch House. This group of musicians have named themselves after their first work, a rock opera based on “Dreams In The Witch House” by H.P. Lovecraft. Now, the Lovecraft name alone perked my interest, as I've always been fascinated by his mind. Indeed, his psychological horror is quite often far more disturbing than anything featuring monsters or serial killers. So, my first question was whether or not this release could live up to that, but still remain good music.
I got my answer on my very first listen to this album. Dreams In The Witch House: A Lovecraftian Rock Opera (2013) is quite easily one of the most unique and best albums I've heard in 2013. It is terrifying. Yes, it is scary as hell. But it is not scary in that it makes you jump. No, there is no cheap trickery here. I feel that this album has captured the horror of Lovecraft incredibly well, and thus this album is truly and deeply disturbing. The story, in summary, covers the exploits of a college student that has purposely moved into the house of a deceased witch. What follows slowly gets more and more revolting, as the writing of this album is superb in that it doesn't give anything away too quickly. It doesn't shock you too early so that the last quarter of the album will truly disturb you. For example, the rat-like minion of the witch is really nasty, but when we meet the crawling chaos, I must admit that I was very disquieted. However, I love that, as a horror fan. Chaotic, mesmerizing, and disconcerting; Dreams In The Witch House succeeds on so many levels, and surprised me with its expertise.
So, can an album as terrifying and involving as this one actually be good musically? The answer is an emphatic “Yes”. In fact, this album is flawless on a technical level. It is also jam-packed with guest musicians, ranging from Bruce Kulick of KISS to Jody Ashworth of Trans-siberian Orchestra. Members of Therion and W.A.S.P. also appear, as well as some well-known composers and Broadway singers. I think that the cast is one major strength of Dreams In The Witch House, as the voice acting is intense and completely believable. I was afraid that it would be cheesy, but it is far more believable than any horror movie I've seen. You can truly hear the terror in the voices. You can hear the spite, hate, and malignant spirit in the voice of Alaine Kashian as the witch, as she goes from pretty vocals to truly terrifying harsh vox in no time at all. The sound effects, too, are unobtrusive and well-made.
The music itself is just fantastic. It is said to be a mix of symphonic heavy metal with cosmic horror and radio theater. That sounds about right. The music is riffy and rocking, but there are flutes and other non-standard instruments that make appearances. So, then, this album is fairly proggy and eclectic, too. The music is played expertly and pointedly. It doesn't mess around, as it has a story to tell. Yet, the overall structures of the album and some individual tracks are non-standard and exploratory.
I wasn't expecting good song writing, possibly because I got used to Ayreon's new rock opera and its lack of actual songs. However, Dreams In The Witch House features a great mechanism for songs, as we hear the confessions of the college man's roommate, and so his dialogue fades into each song. There are so many good songs here that I can't possibly pick a favorite. “Nothing I Can Do”, “Blessed are the Faithful”, and “No Turning Back” are outstanding lyrically and compositionally, but then there are other tracks like “Crawling Chaos” that are amazing in that they portray the story perfectly. The entire album is catchy, yet ominous; rockin', but eerie. The songs are haunting and enjoyable on so many levels. Because of this, I feel that “Dreams in the Witch House” easily trumps Ayreon's rock opera this year.
So, if you like creative symphonic metal, excellent story, flawless performances, and truly horrific situations, then Dreams In The Witch House is a must for you. It's heavy, vulnerable, and disturbing all at the same time. I sincerely hope that this group of musicians, Dreams In The Witch House, attempts another foray into storytelling soon.