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Concept Album Reviews by Sarah L. Gerhardt
"Kadath - The Dream Quest" by XCross
EK Balam Records

Available from:

Ek Balam Records
550 Ritchie Highway, Suite M #204
Severna Park, MD 21146

XCross is a progressive/dark ambient music group composed of Al Baldwin and Chris Wikman. They formed XCross due to shared eclectic musical tastes (a particular fascination with progressive, electronic, and ambient music) combined with their love for "weird tales" and all things unusual. This led them to their choosing the story --The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath -- by H.P. Lovecraft as a basis for their first concept album.

"The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" is a novella by Howard Philips (H.P.) Lovecraft which was completed in 1927 but unpublished in his lifetime, and indeed did not see publication until 1943, when it saw life through Arkham House.

Lovecraft resources at Wikipedia


    This is the longest story in the Dream Cycle and features as the protagonist Randolph Carter - a recurring character throughout the cycle. Combining horrific and fantastical elements, this story follows Carter through the vast landscape of his wondrous dreams.

    Xcross's first album, Kadath - The Dream Quest released in May, 2007, follows Carter on his journey to find the majestic sunset city.

    Reviewers note:
    I listened to this cd both on its own, and as an accompaniment to the story itself. As I speak about each track I will describe my thoughts on the track as a stand alone (SA) and as it evokes the story (WS).

    1. Intro
    2. Dreams of the Marvelous City
    3. Seventy Steps to the Cavern of Flame
    4. Zoogs in the Woods
    5. The Black Gallery
    6. The Image of the Gods on Ngranek
    7. Pickman and Friends
    8. Night-gaunts
    9. Kadath in the Cold Waste
    10. The Crawling Chaos Nyarlathotep
    11. Falling Through Eternity
    12. Boston

    Track 1: Intro :31
    The first track on this concept CD. is meant to serve as an introduction into Randolph Carter's dream world. It is a dark and moody synthesizer piece. There is a great spoken- word intro. The voice is deep and grumbly, very suiting for the mood. "Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away" the voice tells us the journey is now beginning.

    This is a good way to get people in the mood for something eerie and unusual. For those unfamiliar with Lovecraft, or this particular story, it is a nice way to give them a sense of the journey upon which they are about to embark.
    The mood of the music and the voice are great when reading the opening paragraph of the story. It felt like a good pairing.

    Track 2: Dreams of the Marvelous City 10:16
    A symphonic piece meant to show Carter's longing and dreams. This song is comprised mainly of strings, woodwinds and ambient sounds (synthesized) to evoke dream-like feelings. Later sounds of plucked instruments and choral voices are added to convey darker moods and as the tension in the story builds, so does the tension in the music as percussion, horns and other instruments come in.

    This song is a great follow-up to the intro. Since the transition was so smooth I found it easy to absorb myself in the journey. The music was very dreamlike, bordering nightmarish toward the end.
    Based on the words of Lovecraft himself ("fanfare of supernal trumpets and a clash of immortal cymbals") I really expected trumpets and cymbals in this piece. I was disappointed they were missing. This track was not bad, but not the best match for the material. It was very long, yet this section of the story is over very quickly.

    Track 3: Seventy Steps to the Cavern of Flame 4:54
    This is meant to be a transitional piece that shifts our protagonist to the dreamscape. This track starts off with a door slamming and the sound of footsteps. The music is filled with great synthesized and ambient sounds.

    This another good follow-up. The footsteps tell me I am going further down into the dreamworld. The melody is haunting and eerie.
    This is a great companion piece to this part of the story. You truly feel both the fear and the resolve of Randolph Carter.

    Track 4: Zoogs in the Wood s 4:15
    Feature Track of the Album. An energetic piece, with plucking instruments and upbeat percussion meant to demonstrate the interaction between Carter and the Zoogs (Zoogs are "furtive and secretive," "flitting small and brown" and they live in the Enchanted Woods, they pass freely between the dream world and ours) There are strange voices mixed into this track to suggest the Zoog's presence.

    It was a good song. I could see dancing in a club to it. It seemed off from the rest of the piece to me. And honestly, for a "featured track" I was expecting a bit more.
    It didn't match the mood of the piece. There are moments when you do feel as if you are truly in the enchanted woods, then it takes off on twists. There were good elements, but as a companion to the story it was a bit off-putting.

    Track 5: The Black Galley 2:36
    This heavy percussion piece is meant to show the sinister nature of the Black Galley and its unseen crew.

    Very uptempo and intense, though not what I would expect as a follow-up to the last piece.
    To me this did not at all convey the emotion of this part of the story. There needed to be an element of fear as well as tension. I didn't feel that.

    Track 6: The Image of the Gods on Ngranek 3:08
    Synthetic voices and ambient tones combine to create tension and an ominous feeling. Natural sounds are heard as we follow Carter further on his journey into the dreamland. The climax of the song culminates with pipe organ sounds.

    This was a good follow-up to the last track. I really feel as if the tension of the story is building.
    This was a good companion to the story at this point. It went really well with Lovecraft's tone.

    Track 7: Pickman and Friends 1:59
    Unusual tempos and instrumentals are meant to lead you down Carter's path even further with the encounter of some of the dreamscape's inhabitants. The distorted guitar-like sounds and melody are meant to express the danger in their journey.

    The transition between songs was smooth and was able to transport me further down the path. I could sense the danger building.
    My complaint is that this is really far too short, considering how long this part of the story was.

    Track 8: Night-gaunts 2:31
    Intense industrial track that has sampled violins intensely playing to symbolize the terrible creature known as the Night-gaunt.

    Menacing and frightening is where this journey is taking us now. The danger is right in front of us.
    I really disliked the screechiness of it. Night-gaunts make no sounds, not even their wings flapping make a sound. A good accompaniment would have been more natural sounds... the sounds around them.

    Track 9: Kadath in the Cold Waste 9:33
    Moody ambient sounds, synthetic voices and deep drones combine creating the perfect atmosphere for Carter's exploration of the deserted Kadath in the Cold Waste.

    This track was very interesting and creepy, you can almost feel the coldness in this part of Carter's journey.
    This was an excellent match to the story, great creepy wind sounds.

    Track 10: The Crawling Chaos Nyarlathotep 2:08
    This dark moody piece filled with ambient sounds takes us to a creepy place, Carter's meeting with the Old God Nyarlathotep. An unusual sounding alien chant is included.

    This piece makes me think I don't want to keep following Carter, the alien chant is quite eerie.
    An interesting choice for the voice of Nyarlathotep, I enjoyed it overall. I thought it went well with this section of Lovecraft's tale.

    Track 11: Falling Through Eternity 8:29
    The song begins with the sound of howling winds and ambient noises and builds as the tension of the story builds, later adding percussion and horns as Carter is returned to the waking world.

    The transition is smooth and I feel like I am led through to an abrupt awakening. I would say it is an effective track.
    It is a good match for bringing Randolph back to the waking world.

    Track 12: Boston 4:05
    A symphonic piece to tie up the story. (strings, woodwinds, ambient sounds)

    I felt a little disappointed by the length of this. As the end piece I would have expected it to be longer. It does a good job of tying up the journey and winding things down.
    Much, much too short and I also would have liked to hear more mundane sounds as he was waking up and coming back to reality.

    The CD cover is very suggestive of what you might find inside as you follow Randolph on his journey to find the majestic sunset city. The liner notes are some details about Randolph and his journey, credits, track listings and several photographs of Chris Wikman and Al Baldwin and dark imagery. It is packaged pretty nicely.

    If you are looking for some creepy background music (especially if you enjoy the darker side), this is the CD for you. I think it could make some interesting music to write/draw/paint to as well. As an over-all pairing directly with the story, well I am not likely to do it again. It just wasn't a good match the whole way through. As an interpretation of the story I think it was an interesting take and worthy of a listen. I would recommend this CD to anyone who enjoys Lovecraft, Cosmic Horror, Dark and Ambient music, or concept albums.

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