Howard Phillips Lovecraft is a widely acclaimed sci-fi writer whose work firmly established in the global nerd canon. Lovecraft’s sensational combination of horror and science fiction found its origin in his personal life, which was marked by hardship and persisting poverty. Only after his death did his work become universally known and now a vast body of metal bands draws inspiration from classic stories such as The Call of Cthulu and The Shadow over Innsmouth. However, none of these bands really managed to become popular within the metal community, so despite his renown, Lovecraft remains a writer for the few.
RELEASE DATE: 21 October 2016 LABEL: Temple Of Torturous
All of this does not stop Russian blackgaze act Ultar from taking the good man’s work as a point of reference. Rather than going for the obvious horror-aspect of Lovecraft’s work, the band chooses to focus on the mythological side of things; five out of six songs are named after Lovecraftian gods or their abodes. Adding to the distinct folkloric feel are the dreamy blackgaze atmosphere and words sung in Russian.
Album opener Nyarlathothep refers to a malign deity that is featured in the Cthulhu mythos, as well as in the Dream Cycle. This latter body of works also comprises the short story The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath from which the album title is drawn. The lyrics to Nyarlathothep carry an intricate, psalm-like quality (“de profundis clamavit ad te, Domine”), but what is a lamentation in the face of an evil god who is also known as The Crawling Chaos? Subsequently Kadath tells stories of adventures riddled with hope and fear, confrontation with the gods and finally, triumph!
The configuration of the songs on this record follows the metal/prog cliche, with an acoustic track called Shores of the Sleeping Seas functioning as a breather in the middle of the record, and a longer title track that acts as a grand finale. This is not a tedious thing, but it would have become the record better if there was a more interesting build-up here. Nonetheless, Kadath is a compositional pearl, which is reflected in the way the aforementioned song flows over into Xasthur.
Musically, this album sounds like the forces of nature colliding. Kadath conjures up images of The Revenant, and snowy landscapes where the fine line between what’s real and what’s mythological fades away. The production on this record is very basic and could’ve done with some extra depth and overall quality, but this does not limit the album from capturing the listeners imagination. This is Lovecraft with a Siberian edge – a wonderful journey over violent crests and through bursting snowstorms of melodic beauty. Kadath is merely Ultar’s debut record, but it stands for quality post-black metal. Great work!