The Festival is a multi-part take on Lovecraft's short-story of the same name by the wonderfully obscure SWAMPCULT. I've read the original myself, as I own far more Lovecraft collections then a person should, and a lot of the details are here – albeit a lot of liberties were taken with its scope. Whereas the original is painfully straightforward, much like a good deal of Lovecraft's tales - and no doubt the main reason why it never became as popular as his more fleshed out tales- SWAMPCULT tries to infuse a bit more purpose into it all. In fact, the CD release even includes a set of story cards to match the tracks and help fill you in on their version of the story. It's insanely clever and wildly entertaining to follow everything – it draws you in just like Mercyful Fate or King Diamond did with their story-based albums. Better yet, it's more than a loose story concept, you'll actually know what is going on if you follow the lyrics.
There isn't really that many bells, whistles, or theatrics here, however. You are pretty much getting what you'd expect from a band going by the name SWAMPCULT. It's filthy, yet somewhat basic, stuff. With the first couple of songs, the band sticks to a rather straight-forward, usually chuggy, riff and runs with it until the song is over. It doesn't really give a good impression as to what to expect from The Festival, especially when you're hearing something that initially sounds rather plain and uninteresting. Thankfully that all changes rather quickly as the album begins starts get rather boisterous around the third or so track. In fact, at this point the vocal style becomes extremely reminiscent of Tom G. Warrior's Hellhammer days, almost to the point of duplication at times. Tracks like 'Chapter III – Al-Azif Necronomicon' sound like they could be right at home on Apocalyptic Raids – albeit they are far better produced. It's almost as if, at this point, you're less being told a story and more being given a sermon by some demented priest. That being said, the wonderful story focus suffers somewhat as the vocals become far more muddy, albeit more suitable for the genre. Likely, you'll be too caught up in the music and mayhem, at times, to really pay attention to what is going on with The Festival story-line.
Story based albums are always some of the best and best remembered as well, but when you pour a bevy of low-fi filth and wailing vocals atop it all – it can only get better (for me, at least). This isn't exactly the most original concept but it is highly effective, but even if it wasn't – the music itself is good enough to keep things going. High praise for SWAMPCULT's The Festival!