October 10, 2016

  • Zombies!!! Board Game Gets the Midnight Syndicate Treatment

    The following is the first review here of music for a board game.  Twilight Creations most popular hobby game is Zombies!!! which first appeared in 2001 and has spawned a number of subsequent expansions to the base game and “updated” sequels.  It has managed to appear beyond board game stores in some main stream stores such as Target from time to time.  In it, players are survivors in a post-apocalyptic world and must try to reach a helipad before being killed by zombies, or at least kill 25 of them.  Thematically, it is a fairly good little game.

    Music for board games is not necessarily a new thing but tends to be delivered electronically through the game, or game play itself.  In 2012, another hobby gaming company, Queen Games, release Escape: Curse of the Temple, a sort of Raiders-like cooperative game that came with its own CD that could be used as the timer featuring music and effects that intended to heighten the tension in the game play.  A couple years later they released Escape: Zombie City which comes with a 15-minute CD in this timed cooperative game with echoes of Twilight Creations’ earlier game.  It has not quite created a variety of copycats.

    Whether Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka are board gamers or not, as Midnight Syndicate they certainly have a long history of crafting perfect music for horror-themed projects whether that is for an amusement park ride, film, or similar projects like their music for the 2005 role-playing game The 13th Hour.  The music here appears in time for the fifteenth anniversary of Zombies!!!  It is not clear if the music here is specifically connected to the gameplay, but no doubt one could pop it on to enhance aspects of the game, or play in the background.  Some titles reference moments in the game itself.

    “It Begins” has a good dark ostinato pattern that helps set the tone and moves us into the starker and moody “Where Did Everybody Go?”  There are brief motivic threads that continue to repeat creating a sense of thematic content while a variety of ideas gradually begin to swirl.  The music uses a variety of orchestral sounds with a few electronic growls and sound effects along the way.  The way the layering occurs can be rather fascinating as a quick string idea or a clarinet sound will suddenly take on a motive and play over the increasingly intense musical soundscapes (“Slight Miscalculation”).  Often an ostinato pattern becomes the base upon which a 1-2 measure idea will be introduced as sound effects and other sounds gradually expand the pitch material in held notes as the idea continues to pulse forward.  The album is designed to build gradually adding further unsettling moments as one moves toward the center and ratchet up tension as it builds to the end.  This is done with a good deal of restraint creating an at times subtler musical backdrop that is appropriately chilling.  Fans of Midnight Syndicate will find much to enjoy here as they tend to create the sort of modern Gothic horror music that works very well on its own.  The dramatic shape of the tracks here helps to set up the sort of backdrop that would work well in the game setting as well with a gradual increase of sound effects as needed in the center tracks (“Town Square”; “Raiding Todd’s Tool Shop”; “Fear”; “Adrenaline Rush”; “We’re Screwed”).  What is also worth noting is that the music is equalized well so that one can set a level and let it play.

    The album features several cues based on earlier Midnight Syndicate film work (The Rage; Raven’s Hollow, The Dead Matter, Axe Giant).  You can download the album on retail outlets such as Amazon, CDBaby, and iTunes, the release, and others like it, can also be discovered at the group’s website:  www.MidnightSyndicate.com.