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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society

A Very Scary Solstice

Review by Gary Hill

Sean Branney and the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society are a very talented bunch of people who have a deep admiration for the work of writer H. P. Lovecraft. That admiration influences what they do - and they do a lot. This album of humorous reworkings of well-known holiday songs is only one such endeavor. They also released a disc that was a Lovecraftian twist on Fiddler on the Roof (which I have already review - check the archives). More recently they put out a film of Call of Cthulhu done in a black and white, silent movie format - to make it fit into the time period when the story was written. For more info on the society, this CD, A Shoggoth on the Roof or the Call of Cthulhu film, check out their website. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy a series of drastically reworked, but very well performed holiday songs.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Have Yourself a Scary Little Solstice
Coming in with jazzy guitar this feels a first like a jazz trio track, but then after an extended intro it turns to a more muzak/jazz arrangement. The cut that is the basis for this should be obvious. The lyrics are well done, possibly the bridge section being the most clever, "Stars return as in olden days, as foretold in crazy lore / Great Old Ones gather near to us, giving fear to us once more."
Freddy The Red Brained Mi-Go
Feeling much like the well known rendition, this is of course based on "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" and it is very funny. I think my favorite verse - but you have understand the joke and follow the asterisk - is this, "Then one foggy Solstice even / [Hastur}* came to say / Freddy with your brain so bright, won't you scare some folks tonight?" The biggest part of the humor to this one comes with the notation that corresponds to the asterisk - * not to be sung aloud. In Lovecraftian Mythos, Hastur - often referred to in the Mythos as "the nameless one" or "he who must not be named" (yes, Harry Potter fans, that phrase was used before J.K. Rowling got to it) because any time you say the name Hastur aloud there is a good chance that you will anger him to the point where he will materialize and kill you.
Great Old Ones Are Coming To Town
This is sort of a modern gospel rendition. It is high energy and fun. "You'd better watch out; you better go hide / An Elder Sign's needed for this Yuletide / Great Old Ones are coming to town." 
The Carol of the Olde Ones
A multi layered beautiful traditional arrangement of "The Carol of The Bells", except for the lyrics, makes up the mode of this one. This is one of my favorites. "Eons have passed; now then, at last, prison walls break / Old Ones awake! / Madness will reign, terror and pain, woes without end where they extend."
Silent Night, Blasphemous Night
Starting just on piano, this is a very traditional take on the cut, with the change of the lyrics really the only difference.
Awake Ye Scary Great Olde Ones
Done with a great choral arrangement, this one is both pretty and powerful. Based on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" the theme here is far different from on that song. "Awake ye scary Great Olde Ones, let everything dismay / Remember Great Cthulhu shall rise up from R'lyeh / To kill us all with Tentacles if we should go his way."
Mi-Go We Have Heard On High
Based on "Angels We Have Heard On High", another traditional chorale approach makes up this one.
The Shoggoth Song
This is a fun little dittie based on "The Dreidel Song."
It's The Most Horrible Time of the Year
"It's the most horrible time of the year / With the nights growing longer / The evil is stronger / And there's much to fear / It's the most horrible time of the year." With an opening verse like that, I don't need to tell you that this is not the same song as "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," even though it might sound like it. They use a keyboard dominated, nearly lounge lizard approach on this one.
Es Y'Golonac
This one is based on the Jose Feliciano number "Feliz Navidad." It is bouncy and fun.
Away in a Madhouse
"Away in a madhouse, confined to my bed / From visions and nightmares that filled me with dread." So begins this piece that is fairly traditional at least in terms of the music and voice. However, the insane laughter that serves as accompaniment is a bit different from any version I've heard before.
It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Fish-Men
A very traditional playful treatment makes up the bouncy music of this piece.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth
A distant scratched record type sound makes up this one. It's like your listening to it on an old cheap record player. The rendition itself is a cool bounce guitar based jazzy take.
O Come All Ye Olde Ones
This cut feels like it was recorded by a church choir, pipe organ and all.
I'm Dreaming of a Dead City
This is a rather stripped down arrangement. This song goes on a little too long and while a very faithful musical rendition doesn't do much for me. The lyrics, however, are great. "I'm dreaming of a dead city / Where Deep Ones swim in depths of night / Where Cthulhu's sleeping while stars go creeping / Until the time when they are right."
Dance The Cultists
Based on "Deck The Halls," they take a fairly traditional choir with organ approach to this arrangement, too.
He'll Be Back For Solstice
Again they play this like one of the traditional age-old songs we all grew up listening to. "He'll be back for solstice / 'Cause R'lyeh will rise / When he's free then you will see / But won't believe your eyes."
Mythos of a King
This one is based on "The Birthday of a King," a song with which I'm not familiar. A church organ starts this. A choral vocal performance moves it forward. This is another that feels like it could have been done in a church service. The lyrics those, tell the story of Lovecraft himself. "In the little village of Providence / There wrote a gentle man / Filling countless reams from his ghastly dreams / And a mythos thus began."
Here Comes Yog-Sothoth
With another very traditional bouncy arrangement, this is short, but fun.
Little Rare Book Room
They take this one in a fairly traditional and definitely dramatic approach.
Demon Sultan Azathoth
Based on "Good King Wenceslas," this is another cut from the muzak/old time Christmas song tradition. This one is made more intriguing with tuned percussion. It's another very short one.
Tentacles
This is a pretty arrangement of female voices, piano and strings that is created on the basis of "Silver Bells." "Tentacles, tentacles: it's Solstice Eve, and it's scary / In my dream hear my screams, soon we shall all see R'lyeh."
Do You Fear What I Fear?
While I like all the verses, I think the last one is my favorite. "Said Cthulhu to the human beings / 'Do you know what I know? / The stars, the stars, soon will be in line / I shall reclaim that which was mine / I shall reclaim that which was mine!" This is a great rendition that again feels like it could have come from the golden era of Christmas songs.
Cthulhu Lives!
Starting with a little kid speaking, this rendition of "Jingle Bells" is a whole family sing along type of number. "Oh! Cthulhu lives, Cthulhu lives, deep down in the sea / In the city of R'lyeh, waiting to be freed."
Oh Cthulhu
Based on "The Hallelujah Chorus," this one is another strong, and quite standard take, with some killer vocal layerings.
 
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