Format: Limited edition 150-gram vinyl with deluxe jacket and insert with liner notes
Label: Cadabra Records
Release date: December 18, 2020
Halloween may be a month gone, but to some, this is the season for classic horror fiction. This month Cadabra Records will release yet another homage to author H.P. Lovecraft, an adaptation of “The Festival” read by Andrew Leman of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, with a soundtrack composed by Fabio Frizzi who write for “Zombie”, “The Beyond”, “The City Of The Living Dead”, “Pieces” and “Kill Bill Volume 1”. This is the latest of a series of adaptations of Lovecraft’s writing; past installments include “At the Mountains of Madness”, “The Music of Erich Zann”, “The Hound”, “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Picture in the House”.
“The Festival” is a short story H.P. Lovecraft wrote in 1923; Weird Tales magazine published it about two years later. It was partly inspired by his 1922 visit to Marblehead, Massachusetts, which he describes as “the most powerful single emotional climax experienced during my nearly forty years of existence… the high tide of my life” and is considered the first book of his Cthulhu Mythos series. That Cadabra Records is releasing it at the start of the Christmas season doesn’t seem like an ordinary coincidence, as readers of horror and students of witchcraft can associate it with holiday traditions that existed many years before Christianity.
Another inspiration for “The Festival” was Margaret Murray’s “The Witch-Cult in Western Europe,” a historical account of a religion far older than Christianity. According to Murray, its practitioners worshiped a horned god referred to by the ancient Romans as Dianus. Christians misinterpreted Dianus as the Devil, which eventually led to the persecution of witches after the Reformation. This pre-Christian religion is said to have been firmly entrenched in Europe and practiced by many covens. Murray theorizes the horned pagan god chose intermediaries to represent them on earth, like Thomas Becket, Joan of Arc, William Rufus, and Gilles de Rais.
A brief synopsis of the story, without revealing too much of it: A nameless narrator travels to Kingsport, Massachusetts, an almost uninhabited town that appears centuries behind the present day. At the home of his relatives he meets an old man who welcomes him and lead him to a pile of old books including a Latin translation of Necronomicon. That night he escorts a group of cloaked, hooded figures to a church standing on a hill in the town’s center. A passage beneath the church leads to an ancient space where a “Yule-rite, older than man and fated to survive him” is held in secret, away from the eyes of humanity. This ends with a revelation about the narrator’s ancestry that nearly drives him mad.
With a full orchestra including piano, synthesizers, violins and flutes, Frizzi creates vibrant scenery to accompany Leman’s engaging, charismatic reading of Lovecraft’s tale. There are no jump scares or sudden forceful collisions between the natural and supernatural here. The horror has infinite, eternal patience as it awaits the moment to reveal itself to the listener. As we follow the narrator on his journey and the story moves from Yuletide peace to an ancient, unspeakable malevolence, the music slowly, progressively becomes fantastic and bizarre until the final revelation and its aftermath. The mood starts with peaceful brightness, turning to uneasiness, to doubt and indecision, to otherworldly wickedness, to utter madness.
“H.P. Lovecraft's The Festival” is for those of you who appreciate literature and holiday horror with gripping narration and a flawlessly effective soundtrack. It can be ordered directly from Cadabra Records’ official site. –Dave Wolff