Let me take you on a little journey back in time, back to when I imagine the members of Italian doomsters Bretus were not even twinkles in the eyes of their parents. The year is 1982, and yours truly is a youngster at secondary school, confounding would be bullies by being both a bookish Sci-fi fan as well as being a big old rugby playing lump. Chess had given way to such bizarre tabletop activities as Dungeons and Dragons, Rune Quest, and inevitably Call of Cthulhu. To try and get some of the atmosphere of the background of that game, for 50p at my local second hand book shop I purchased my first ever HP Lovecraft paperback, ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth and Other Stories of Horror’, the Scholastic Book Services version printed in 1971 to be precise, a book that started my continuing love affair with all things Cthuloid, and the very book which is next to me on the desk as I type this review. Let us just say, by producing a concept album based on the very story that started me down this path, Bretus have found in me a very eager listener.
The ‘Intro’ does well to evoke the rain sodden and broken down atmosphere of the town of Innsmouth, a fictional American coastal settlement that is as much a character in the story as any of the protagonists, its dilapidation being established lyrically in ‘The Curse of Innsmouth’ by band vocalist Zagarus sounding to all the world like a young Scott Reagers, his occasionally drawn out howls mating perfectly with the chugging mid paced doom number. Over the sound of crashing waves the song segues into ‘Captain Obed Marsh’, a harder and heavier thudding track that opens in a manner that is more than a little reminiscent of one of Motorhead’s slower songs with a riff designed to have heads banging before the pace slows and the fuzz rolls in like a fog from the sea. After an unsettling and slightly discordant opening ‘Zadok Allen’ builds up a slow inexorable head of steam, a track that sounds like a Saint Vitus track where the normal lyrics of drugs and depression have been replaced by a tale of supernatural aquatic beasts, whilst the following number ‘The Oath of Dagon’ has far more pomp and bombast about it, the near eight minute length delivering a Candlemass like performance.
‘Gilman House’ continues the narrative of the source story, nether-worldly effects mixing with the pounding rhythms, the pace building to match the panic felt by the central character trapped in a town with no likelihood of rescue, building to the NWOBHM musical sprint of ‘The Horrible Hunt’, the more frantic pace of first half of the song matching the fevered escape attempt of the central character, the music slowing down in pace like the faltering steps of the pursued before finding a second wind and charging forth once more, the changes in tempo matching the confusion and desperation of the would be escapee. The album, and indeed the story closes with ‘A Final Journey’, a dark and brooding number punctuated by strange howling effects, the musical transformation illustrating the final descent of the central character as he descends into the bestial form of his ancestors.
Whilst many bands play tracks dedicated to and influenced by the works of Lovecraft, Arkham Witch and Lavagoat being the first two of so many that spring to mind, in this the ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’, it is the first time I’ve come across an entire album that dares to tell one of of that esteemed horror author’s seminal tales from start to finish. That Bretus has matched their music to the themes of ominous threat, through to terrified pursuit, and into an inevitable descent into madness is only to be applauded. This is an album that deserves to be played in full to appreciate the scope of the tale, and with this reissue after the original 2014 release, you now have that opportunity.