Dreams in the Witch House – A Lovecraftian get together

One of the best things you probably missed about 2013 was the release of the astounding rock opera album Dreams In The Witch House – A Lovecraftian Rock Opera.
I’ve actually wanted to do a piece about this fabulous slice of music, which was one of the two most played albums for me of that particular year, and has seen many spins since as well, for quite some time now. As some of the main men behind it visited Copenhagen here in late February of 2015, I finally found a good excuse to do just that, so prepare for some serious fanboy worship for music you need in your life.
mike dalager storytellerMike Dalager taking the role of storyteller

Now, if you’re into metal (which I assume you are since you visit our site) and haven’t heard about H.P. Lovecraft, well that would surprise me given how many bands have made stuff inspired by his works, but if so, a short run-down of the situation is this – Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an American author who wasn’t well recognized in his time but have since grown greatly in status, and is in some cases recognized as one of the founders of modern horror, with his most recognisable work being the Cthulhu mythos (you do know Metallica’s The Call Of Ktulu right? (slight misspelling from the bands side, let’s not get into the reason behind that)).
Towards the end of his career, and sadly his life, he wrote the short story The Dreams In The Witch House, about a young student who takes up residence in a house formerly occupied by a famous witch. Slowly but steadily he plunges into madness as his dreams about said witch and her familiar, a rat with a human features, take on a more and more real tone, and at the same time the waking world around him is affected by the goings on in his sleep.
mike dalager anders ringman doug blair getting readyDalager, Ringman, and Blair getting ready to perform

Fast forward to this side of the millennium change, actor/singer Mike Dalager, who is connected to the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS), felt an urge to do something special with the story after having been introduced to it by another member of the society, and as there are several references to music and sounds in the story, he felt that a rock opera was the way to go. He then contacted Swedish musician/producer Chris Laney, whom he knew from before, and began to flesh out an idea that would span several years of being created, and involve guest appearances from famous musicians such as Doug Blair (W.A.S.P.) and Bruce Kulick (Grand Funk Railroad, ex-KISS), as well as having a staff orchestra consisting of Laney, Anders Ringman (co-producer), Lennart Östlund (co-producer), Johan Koleberg and Nalle Påhlsson (both of Therion), as well as Conny Laxéll. Several vocalists were used to fill the different roles, most notable here are probably Alaine Kashian (film, TV, and Broadway actress) as the witch and Jody Ashworth (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) as Nyarlathotep.
doug blair double neck guitarBlair showing his skills on his double neck

Despite the great cast, a beautiful music video made by the HPLHS, and not in the least the awe-inspiring end product of the music itself, the rock opera, much like Lovecraft’s own career, never really left the ground in as big a way as one could have hoped for. Dalager however, not ready to abandon this monstrous creation of his, keeps on working to this day to develop it, writing new songs and thinking of different ways of promoting it further, and we who have seen the (violet) light are all the happier for it.
mike dalager proclaimDalager telling it like it is, pt. 1

It was in fact due to one of these new songs that Dalager, together with Blair and Ringman, came a calling on the small comic book/book store Fantask in Copenhagen. The new song, entitled The Refuge Of Penitence, had added well-known Swedish actor Stefan Sauk to the cast as Father Iwanicki (a role previously held by Sean Branney of the HPLHS). The four of them had earlier in the day performed in Malmö, but due to other engagements, Sauk was unable to take the journey across the bridge, and it was thus a trio that now stood before us, ready to perform the new song (here sung by Dalager), as well as choice cuts from the already released album.
The group invited to, and were met by, a very friendly and warm atmosphere, where everyone spoke freely both during setup, the Q&A section of the performance, and afterwards, and it was clear to see that Dalager, as well as the other two, greatly enjoyed the positive response their effort was bringing home.
mike dalager anders ringman doug blair having funThe trio enjoying themselves

Dalager is no stranger to the Copenhagen crowd though, as he has visited Fantask previously as well, at one time together with Ringman and Kashian who then sang the song that started the whole project, No Turning Back, but this time the setup was a bit different from back then.
This time around the show seemed a bit more worked through, and seemed to have a little bit of a narrative storyline of its own. After all was set in place, and the cheerful chatter had died down, Dalager thus read a passage out of Lovecraft’s original story, the beginning actually, which lead into the title track Dreams In The Witch House which was inspired by said opening text. After this, Dalager explained shortly about the new song which was next on the setlist, and then it was back to the book again. Thus the short set would alternate between readings and songs inspired by the texts, where an interesting note is that the final song of the album, Madness Is My Destiny, wasn’t inspired by the Dreams In The Witch House story at all, but rather the opening passage of The Call Of Cthulhu, which Dalager commented that he felt encapsulated the very essence of Lovecraft’s horror. It reads as follows;
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live in a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
The readings were enhanced by Blair, as he added some mood sounds with his double neck guitar to fit the words, although some of Lovecraft’s lengthier passages seemed to give him some headache as he tried to figure out how to sound them out.
mike dalager doug blair sound storyDalager and Blair connecting story and sound

After the musical portion of the days’ entertainment was done, the floor opened up to the aforementioned Q&A section where we were introduced to some of the plans that Dalager has for his project.
Biggest of them all, and the very reason that there is more music on the way, is that Dalager hopes to bring the rock opera to the silver screen, and thus needs some extra material to fill out the playtime of a normal feature film – film studios are being contacted for financing, artists and other people necessary for the creation of thing are being tied to the project, but nothing is set in stone as of now.
One thing that is much closer to seeing the light of day is a 24 page graphic novel companion to the song Signum Crucis, which if all goes well might land in a shop near you before the end of this very year, together with a CD or download card for new songs and re-imaginations of current songs, all together sweetly called graphic metal. Dalager also made a vow to have The Refuge Of Penitence released somehow before the end of 2015.
Another new song was also mentioned in some detail, a song written by Blair called Heart Of Darkness, which Dalager said was being morphed into something called Argo Navis which in the story is the constellation that the main character is always drawn towards, and which is said to house Azathoth, daemon sultan and ultimate chaos. Most of the talk went specifically to the movie ideas though, but I’ll let Dalager and his team get further into this when they see fit.
anders ringman acoustic guitarRingman preparing for round two

Before the day was done, Dalager and Ringman had a small treat up their sleeve which would help us gain some energy back. The HPLHS’s latest release is a CD of remodelled sea shanties, from which two were chosen for this performance, and Dalager invited us all to sing along to the chorus as soon as the words were in place – first out was Pump Shanty, which was then followed by Leave Her Johnny, here renamed Leave Her Tommy in honour of long-time Fantask co-worker Tommy who had had his final day at the shop just the day before. Here things took off, and everyone sang along to the lines “Leave her Tommy, leave her” and so on.
anders ringman mike dalager sea shantyRingman and Dalager shanty'ing the place up

All good things must come to an end however, and so did this day, but the trio were in no hurry to get out – they rather stayed behind until everyone else was safely on their way, happily signing items, getting pictures taken together with the great artwork connected to the project made by Peruvian artist Mohloco, or simply chatting about all things between Earth and utter Chaos.
The new song, The Refuge Of Penitence, although here presented in a scaled down version with only two guitars and another singer, promised well for the future, and the only thing I can say beyond this is that if haven’t done so already, you should hurry up and get on the train by purchasing the already released rock opera album, and then sit quietly back as madness sinks in while we wait to see where Dalager will lead us next.
mike dalager doug blair anders ringman high noteDalager hitting a madness inducing high-note


Reading (Opening of The Dreams in the Witch House)
Dreams In The Witch House
The Refuge Of Penitence
Reading (Gilman’s dream of an alien cityscape)
Nothing I Can Do
Reading (Opening of The Call of Cthulhu)
Madness Is My Destiny
Pump Shanty
Leave Her Johnny

Latest uploads: