Tuesday, 10 March 2015

BRETUS - The Shadow Over Innsmouth (Album Review)

I've been sitting on this potboiler for about three months now, keeping mum about it and it's been killing me. I wanted to hold off on talking about this album until there was a solid timetable for its release. Well, I still haven't seen an exact date for its release from Blood Rock Records, but the band said March, so that's close enough.

Bretus's new album is riffier and probably better than its predecessor, 'In Onirica' which I happened to like a great deal (two years ago this month I posted the review at this location). While the new album has lost some the prog appeal of the last one, it aligns more closely with throwback metal bands like Devil or Demon Eye, whose albums made the top three in my best of lists for 2013 and 2014 respectively, so you know I'm biased towards this kind of sound to begin with. But why wouldn't I be? This is exactly what I'm looking for: it's heavy, riffy, sounds like the kinds of albums I'd heard in my uncle's basement suite in the mid-80's and isn't alienatingly overproduced.

The first bit of info about the album I'll arm you with is that it's a concept album. As your inner Sherlock Holmes can surmise 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' is about the seminal H.P. Lovecraft tale of the same name. The story is broken down here, quite well actually, with each song title breaking down the story in chronological order. Interestingly, I was in the middle of reading this story when the album was sent to me. Still am in fact because as a pure piece of writing, it's not one of Lovecraft's best. But the story resonates. It's about "otherness" and true alien-ness, and perhaps in a bout of self-awareness, Lovecraft turned the tables on himself, to see his xenophobia through the other side of the lens. Or maybe he was just trying to shock. None if which is here nor there really.

'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' is full with riffs the way a mother shark is full with shark babies. The crispest example is third track "Captain Obed Marsh". I put it on a podcast weeks ago and I still haven't gotten over this song. The whole first half of the album is a gallery of riffs, the Italian band puts on a clinic here.

On the second half of the album, the mood darkens considerably, starting with "The Oath of Dagon" as narrator Robert Olmstead runs into increasing danger. The atmosphere grows darker and increasingly frantic and claustrophobic. The listener loses some of "easy-listening" nature of those bright, memorable side one riffs on side two, but by then you're already knee deep in the story of the album and pulled along compulsively. That said, the darker side isn't without its thrills. "The Horrible Hunt" stands alone, musically with its cycle of almost black metal riffing, near thrash tempo and doom metal bridge. It's a tour de force.

If the idea of adapting Lovecraft's famous tale appeals to you, you should check out the 2001 film Dagon from director Stuart Gordon (the best interpreter of Lovecraft's stories). It's a loose adaptation of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" that plays a bit like Night of the Living Dead with horribly deformed fish people in the place of zombies. I recommend it as highly as I do this album.

It was incredibly difficult not to put this album in my top 2014 list, but I wanted to play by the rules, this album being destined for a 2015 release, it didn't belong on a 2014 list. But I can tell you right now, that this album is best of 2015 list bound. Three months after first hearing it, I haven't stopped listening to it and I'm sure that this album will take its place among the two albums mentioned above along with Magister Templi's 'Lucifer Leviathan Logos' as timeless metal albums that will never grow old.

Rating: ««««½ / 5

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1 comment:

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