Stateside progsters Infinite Spectrum released their debut album, 'Misguided', three years ago, and here we eventually have their sophomore full-length offering in the form of some kind of H.P. Lovecraft concept piece. I say "some kind of" because I have some serious issues with how music and concept have been (or, rather, have not been) interlinked here. Concept albums work at their best when the lyrical themes and/or narrative elements are at one with the music itself, where one reflects the other. There are also, of course, some fine examples of fine concept works that are purely instrumental, where the music alone takes the listener on a conceptual journey. 'Haunter of the Dark', however, is severely lacking.
Based on the Lovecraft short story of the same name, the legendary author's horror prose has been seriously misconceived and misinterpreted here in Infinite Spectrum's attempted textural transformation. Apart from the sinister overtones of the album's wonderfully conceived Prologue/Epilogue bookends, it seems that minimal effort has been applied in attempting to marry concept with music. It has the overriding effect of not only rendering the entire concept a mismatched, futile exercise, but also debases their literary source. Take 'The Church' as an example, where lines such as "I see the Book of Dzyan, the Necronomicon, books of blackest magic, darkest echelon" and "Am I the one to conquer the town's pervasive fear that left the church deserted for over sixty years?" accompany a bouncy prog backing. It's all a bit Spinal Tap really, with their Jack the Ripper/'Saucy Jack' shenanigans. However, Spinal Tap are/were intentional parody; Infinite Spectrum, on the other hand, seem to be taking this all a bit too seriously, which only serves to further emphasise the album's failings. Imagine if Madness put their own pop-ska spin the dark tales of Edgar Allan Poe. I love Madness and I adore Poe... but no-one would want to hear Suggs chunter away about the inherent perils of 'The Pit and the Pendulum' or the paranoid-fuelled prose of 'The Tell-Tale Heart' to an upbeat ska backing.
Anyone who's familiar with the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and has any degree of reverence for the man's writings, would find nothing but travesty in Infinite Spectrum's poor attempts at conveying the essence of his work. The music lacks any of the menace, malice, darkness, and accompanying atmospheres of mystery and ambiguity that characterise so much of Lovecraft's prose. However, ignoring the concept (which is kind of difficult as it forms the basis of the album, from artwork to lyrics), much of the music on 'Haunter of the Dark' is actually rather good. 'Federal Hill' is a standout number with its quasi-folk flavours and mildly melodramatic theatrics, as is the slower-paced 'The Stranger Things I've Learned'. Infinite Spectrum do lapse into tried-and-tested prog idioms on too many occasions; thus, it's leaning more towards the generic, rather than genuine, end of the prog spectrum, so there's very little that's original or innovative in their music. 'The Calling' is a prime example, which is indubitably more regressive than progressive.
My advice? If you adore H.P. Lovecraft's work, then steer clear of this in the same way you'd avoid walking in a steaming pile of dog poo. Shit per se this is not, but it does, unfortunately, crap all over the majestic legacy of Lovecraft in the most cringe-worthy of ways. So, zero marks for their conceptual reification; six marks for judging the music free from its conceptual underpinnings.
HAUNTER OF THE DARK
Review by Mark Holmes
24th June 2016
1) Prologue: Providence, Winter, 1934
2) Federal Hill
3) The Calling
4) The Church
5) The Stranger Things I've Learned
6) Haunter of the Dark
8) All That We See
9) 2:12 AM
10) Epilogue: Providence, Summer, 1935
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"If you adore H.P. Lovecraft's work, then steer clear of this in the same way you'd avoid walking in a steaming pile of dog poo. Shit per se this is not, but it does, unfortunately, crap all over the majestic legacy of Lovecraft in the most cringe-worthy of ways."