In August of last year we premiered a song from an album called The Festival by the Dutch duo SwampCult. The album was eventually released in October, and both before and after its release it earned substantial praise from metal writers scattered around the globe, excerpts of which appear in a long list at the album’s Bandcamp page. Today we have a reminder of the album for listeners who may not yet have explored it, and a terrifying companion to the music for those who already have: the premiere of a video for the same song we had the pleasure of premiering last August, “Chapter III – Al-Azif Necronomicon“.
For the newcomers, The Festival is based entirely on a story by H.P. Lovecraft that bears the same name, which was first published in the January 1925 issue of Weird Tales magazine. The album traces that story from start to finish, with each song representing a different chapter in the unfolding narrative. In addition, the album is accompanied by a special story card for each song. Here’s the one for “Al-Azif Necronomicon”:
The best way to experience The Festival is to read the story (which is considered one of the first in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, and can be found here), read the lyrics of the entire album, and then listen to it straight through. But at least for now, take a look at the lyrics for the song you’ll hear in the video, which are captured below in one of the pages from the album booklet:
In this part of the story, the narrator has arrived at “the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten”.
Upon finding the home of his people, the narrator is greeted by “a gowned, slippered old man” who ushers him into a room where an old woman works at a spinning wheel, and a table is laden with arcane books, including “the unmentionable Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, in Olaus Wormius’ forbidden Latin translation; a book which I had never seen, but of which I had heard monstrous things whispered”. And then, the narrator begins to read….
As for the music itself, I’ll repeat what I wrote the first time we visited this track: “Al-Azif — Necronomicon” is slow, groaning, and steeped in an aura of encroaching doom, which is amplified by an array of ghastly vocals that range from inflamed spoken words to howls of malignant viciousness to wails of terror-stricken agony. This enveloping black cloud of toxins is pierced by a burst of jabbing, chugging riffs that bespeak violence, and the song concludes with an unsettling ambient segment that’s the stuff of nightmares.
The video even more vividly brings the narrative character of the song to life than what your mind’s eye alone might imagine. And the combination of the visuals and the music even more vividly reveals the details of the skin-crawling horror that lurks in the music. It’s very well done.
The Festival is available through these outlets:
Three other chapters from SwampCult’s musical narrative, along with this one, can be heard via Bandcamp, and we’re including a stream of those right after the video for “Chapter III”.
Swampcult on Facebook: