Netherlands-based extreme metallers Swampcult will release their debut album, The Festival, via Transcending Obscurity Records on Oct. 2. That’s nearly still two months out, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to get an early glimpse at it. If you’ve ever read the work of Romantic-period horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, you know it can be a dense experience, full of challenging concepts and language and invented chants and rhythms that take so long to digest they might as well exist in the belly of whatever gargantuan otherworldly monster is being described at the time. The drama is severe; nothing held back. Swampcult — who base their debut album on Lovecraft‘s story “The Festival” — put in a marked effort to work in very much the same way, honing an immediately atmospheric sound that seeks to span genres as Celtic Frost once pioneered. As cavernous as it is multifaceted, The Festival bridges sludgy chug, blackened ambience, raw death metal and doomed groove with ease and captures both the narrative and the mood of Lovecraft‘s work with spoken dialogue, varied growls and shouts, and the music itself, which is irrepressibly dark and somehow classically metallic.
Comprised of guitarist/bassist/narrator D and drummer/vocalist/narrator A, the band works in chapters across the album’s span, beginning of course with “Chapter I – The Village” and working through “Chapter III – Al-Azif Necronomicon,” “Chapter VII – The Dawning” and so on before finally getting to “Chapter VII – The Madness” and the finale “IX Epilogue – Betwixt Dream and Insanity.” All the while songs tie together fluidly so that The Festival flows as a single piece comprised of many different changes, both between and within individual tracks, and Swampcult execute their material with command that undercuts the fact that this is their first album. They call it “Lovecraftian metal,” which is fair enough given their clear allegiance to theme as an essential component in what they do, but that doesn’t necessarily speak to the entirety of their breadth. That is to say, one imagines had they picked a different author or maybe a different story, they’d have no trouble constructing as complete a world for that as they do for this. And it is a world being made. You can hear it in the work they do in the first 90 seconds of “Chapter I – The Village” as the bleakness begins to gel and sets the tone — grey, dark — that the rest of The Festival will continue to build on.
If you’ve never read “The Festival,” the album includes story cards so you can follow along with what’s happening in each track. An almost uncharacteristic play toward accessibility, but convenient all the same. Today I have the grim pleasure of hosting “Chapter I – The Village” as a song premiere ahead of The Festival‘s release this Fall. As alluded to above, it’s not immediate in the the sense of “here’s the hook” and it’s by no means a friendly listen, but it is very clearly exactly what Swampcult intended it to be, and so all the more worthy of respect for its final outcome. Please keep in mind as you make your way through its six minutes that it’s just the first of a nine-chapter story, and thus only a fraction of what the album as a whole has on offer, though it should be enough to give an impression of the horrific wonders that await this October.
More info from the PR wire follows. Please enjoy:
Dutch band Swampcult aren’t just inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, they’ve based an album entirely on his highly acclaimed story ‘The Festival’. Each song is divided into chapters tracing the original ‘The Festival’ story, bringing it to life. The sounds of dread were never before so easily captured in this genre.
The very vibe of H.P. Lovecraft’s story has been recreated using a mixture of various extreme sounds; from the strange murmurings in the village to the toll of bells, it’s all encapsulated perfectly in one album. To give it visual appeal, a special ‘story card’ is created for each chapter, each having its own artwork and writings, which is given out free with the purchase of any physical product.
Swampcult, in addition to devoting an album entirely to H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Festival’ story, have written excellent, contemporary music that’s seamless, laden with surprises, and consistent. If there could be a genuine soundtrack for H.P. Lovecraft’s story, this is it. ‘The Festival’ is meant to be heard from start to finish, with at least the lyrics sheet in hand if not the book itself, and is recommended to all those who’re into things horror and extreme.
‘The Festival’ Track list:
1. Chapter I – The Village 06:01
2. Chapter II – The Old Man 02:55
3. Chapter III – Al-Azif Necronomicon 03:54
4. Chapter IV – Procession 05:28
5. Chapter V – The Rite 08:23
6. Chapter VI – The Flight 02:21
7. Chapter VII – The Dawning 06:09
8. Chapter VIII – The Madness 03:11
9. IX – Epilogue – Betwixt Dream and Insanity 02:49
D – All strings and narration
A – Percussion, vocals and narration