Cadabra Records have a real gift for mixing story with score, as evident by their recent collaboration with veteran composer Fabio Frizzi on The Picture in the House. Frizzi is a well known figure in the horror community, composing music for classics like The Beyond and Zombi 2, but it’s his ability to experiment with unconventional horror motifs that allow him to shine here. Combined with a masterful story reading by Andrew Leman and terrifying art by Andrew Hush, The Picture in the House may well be the strongest Cadabra release yet.
H.P. Lovecraft’s tale of an old man with dark secrets is one of his best. Beginning with the simple premise of a traveler seeking shelter from a storm, it quickly evolves into talk of exotic tomes and unnatural cravings before ending abruptly with a memorable finish. Leman’s acting here is tremendous, taking the role of narrator while also donning a wonderfully strange New England accent when the old man in the house speaks. Leman’s vocal work is consistently great on Cadabra releases, but here he’s able to dig into the sinister mystery of the old man’s words, giving this performance a terrifying edge that sets it apart from the rest.
Frizzi’s score caught me completely off guard in the best possible way. Utilizing a full musical ensemble, Frizzi creates a wide array of themes that are both haunting and serene. The reliance on a light classical guitar melody during the opening theme is surprising and unexpected, yet it fits Lovecraft’s description of the old New England countryside well. Equally unexpected was the jump to heavy world percussion and bells during the old man’s entrance into the story, but it also works perfectly with Leman’s vocal inflection. Frizzi’s score dutifully serves as a conduit to Lovecraft’s literary terror, which is a further testament to his brilliance as a composer. Listeners will be further thrilled at Cadabra’s inclusion of the full score in its entirety on Side B.
The sound is clear and consistent throughout, with no surface noise detected. The vocals were definitely a little boomy through my system, but your results may vary based on speaker and amp setup. Frizzi’s music is mixed very well with clear definition and tight sound, particularly on the sections that feature classical guitar and bells.
Never one to skimp on details, Cadabra used a high gloss gatefold cover to showcase Hush’s eerie artwork. On the front, the vignette of characters inside a skull create a particularly chilling effect, while the old decrepit house on the back cover sets the gothic horror atmosphere featured in the story. The vinyl is a heavy 150-gram; this particular variant is called “Anzique Bone Crusher,” which is beige with some brown and yellow mixed in.