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Infinite Spectrum

Haunter of the Dark

Review by Mike Korn

The cosmic horror tales of H. P. Lovecraft have inspired innumerable musical works, as I’m sure the curator of this very website could confirm. But most Lovecraft-inspired music falls into two basic camps. There are dozens of gruesome, growling death metal bands that have taken inspiration from the Old Gentleman of Providence, some of which are Morbid Angel, Massacre and Thergothon. Then there are bands that take a moodier, more ambient approach, relying on electronic atmospheres to communicate the dread that infested Lovecraft’s tales.

Infinite Spectrum fits into neither of these categories. While still possessing a strong metal edge, they are much more melodic than the death metal bands and not as suffocating in their approach. Their musical style can best be compared to the likes of Symphony X, Dream Theater and Circus Maximus, although with a much darker edge. They are the only Lovecraftian prog metal band I know of.

On Haunter of the Dark, they tackle one of H.P.’s most seminal tales. They manage to come up with quite a lengthy concept album based on a relatively brief story. This is a very handsomely produced product, with a very cinematic feel to much of it. Parts may be too mellow for the metalheads, while other parts may be too crunchy for the prog enthusiast. But there are enough people able to appreciate both styles to provide an audience for Infinite Spectrum.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Prologue: Providence Winter 1934

This brief introduction features a spoken word performance of the actual opening paragraph of Lovecraft’s story. The voice has an echoey effect, and there is ominous ambient music in the background. The whole thing has a cool antique effect, right down to scratchy record sounds and could have come from an old radio drama.

Federal Hill
Surprisingly, this begins with a very restrained acoustic feel instead of the bombastic metal I was expecting. It’s a very proggy song with vocals like the more subdued Geoff Tate and some flute accompaniment. The lyrics are truly excellent and relate the Haunter of the Dark story through the eyes of its protagonist, Robert Blake.  Although never becoming outright metal, the song does build intensity and subtly draws you in.
The Calling
There are shades of Symphony X and even Queensryche in the opening of this song, as a wailing guitar and melodic piano combine. Then the heaviness kicks in, creating a much more aggressive song than “Federal Hill.” I love the old fashioned Hammond organ that accompanies the crunchy riffing here. The chorus is beautiful and catchy…very well done. This is one of the best tunes on the record, a real prog metal classic.
The Church
Most progressive albums have that one monster track where the band throws everything they have into it. That’s what this song is…an 18 minute plus monster that breaks down into several separate movements. In my opinion, this one is just too big for its own good. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have points of interest. The opening minutes are gloomy, piano-driven prog that sets a mood. The keyboard work throughout is superb and utilizes a lot of different tones. The pace and intensity build up as the protagonist finds himself exploring a haunted church. About nine minutes in, the metal starts to kick in with a vengeance. The Symphony X comparisons again become obvious. In the end, the length of this song makes it seem self-indulgent despite the great lyrics and playing.
The Stranger Things I’ve Learned
This slow and melancholy ballad might test the patience of fans of heavier music, but on its own terms, it’s a well written piece of music. The overall feel is like the mellower Dream Theater, with a spooky edge. The main and backing vocals are excellent.
Haunter of the Dark
After the restrained previous track, this sounds brutally heavy. The guitar riffing is massive and thick, with a crunch approaching the likes of death metal. The vocals are still clean but more urgent. Although the heaviness remains, the song becomes more complex. The guitar solos are absolutely shredding, and if you’re a fan of John Petrucci or Michael Romeo, you’ll be in heaven here. This is one of the album highlights.
Fear
The metallic pounding continues here with some furious fast riffing. But combined with this violent energy is a very melodic chorus. The drum/bass interplay is really intense on this cut, and that Hammond organ again makes its presence known.
All That We See
This cools things way down with a soothing piano refrain. There’s a lot of prime AOR in the melodies here. The lyrics are an almost ironic counterpoint to the music, as they tell of Robert Blake’s increasing fear of the cosmic horror he faces. Choir-like voices add another layer of eeriness to this proggy tune.
2:12 A.M.
This is really the album-ending epic. Not as massive as “The Church,” this is still pretty meaty and covers a lot of ground. The beginning is restrained and sad but transitions to fast metal that is just short of being thrash. There’s a feeling of frantic energy as our protagonist Blake runs to his confrontation with the Haunter of the Dark. Lyrics and music merge seamlessly, and all the musicians have ample opportunity to show their skills. The guitar/keyboard duels are outstanding. The climax is crushingly heavy during the final confrontation.

 

Epilogue: Providence Summer 1935
We return to the same narrator that performed the prologue as he finishes the macabre tale. The scratchy LP sounds and spooky noises in the background provide a fitting accompaniment.
 
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