• Midnight Syndicate Returns

    Taking a slight curve for this Friday edition of reviews this week to highlight a short release from the group Midnight Syndicate.   Midnight Syndicate is a “band” consisting of its founder composer/director Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka.  The group produces genre music almost entirely within the realm of gothic horror and the supernatural using state-of-the-art electronics and samples as well as acoustic instruments.  Over the past nearly two decades, they have provided music for everything from haunted theme park attractions, role-playing games (most notable Dungeons and Dragons), video games and film to licensed music used for television.   They have a host of awards and accolades to boot with some of their non-film albums being among the most popular genre releases of their type.  They are one of the largest worldwide suppliers of Halloween music.  For Gothic music fans, these discs will likely need no introduction.  Midnight Syndicate releases a number of non-film related albums some of which (Carnival Arcane, which was available for reference) are like filmic concept albums featuring a blend of thematic ideas and design that tell a story over the course of the album.

    It is the latter that this latest release, Bloodlines, is building from.  It builds on the group's popular 2005 release The 13th Hour which continued the exploration of the Haverghast family mansion.  Music from that album found its way into haunted attractions and theme parks worldwide.  The Haverghast's first appeared the 2001 release Gates of Delirium and the current set of music serves as a sort of prequel in the story line.

    The title track opens with a swath of atmosphere and vocalises.  Chimes and a simple piano line, augmented by organ, follows as the music builds slowly in its somber minor mode.  The piano tends to introduce thematic material and serves as a sort of invitation into the dark, horror-music gestures that follow.  The Gothic orchestral horror sound comes through quite well in these selections with engaging thematic ideas that have a dark Elfman-esque quality with a bit more growl and Poledouris-style rhythmic ingenuity.  The music manages to grow well across each track to add a sense of narrative but working to increase creepy atmosphere.  The latter is achieved through little effect touches along the way that add to the flavor of the music.  "I Won't Tell" has some creepier music with its eerie vocal sounds that open the track as we move into a lullaby-like feel with the music box melodic material that is soon surrounded by slight percussive ideas and hints at darkness.  "Assembly" appears to be a brief scene setter for harpsichord which gives us a period feel.  From here we move into a macabre setting of Wagner's "Wedding March" that alternates with the Gothic styles of the earlier score.  "Grand Waltz" provides another slight danse macabre-like atmosphere that continues a slow descent into the madness.  "A Light in the Attic" has a more underscored feel to build tension with repeated rhythmic patterns that help drive the music forward.  "Sands of Time" closes things off with a looped series of ideas to perhaps lead us into the next album.

    The music provides a brief thematic exploration of Gothic horror styles that will be familiar to Midnight Syndicates fans.  Themes are interesting with the title idea helping to provide some continuity through the other items here in this concept album.

    Fans will hopefully be able to see Midnight Syndicate this September-October at the Cedar Point Amusement Park (OH) which will bring back their multimedia concert events to the park's HalloWeekends event.


    Buy or listen to Bloodlineshttps://midnightsyndicate.fanlink.to/bloodlines
    Watch the album trailer: https://midnightsyndicate.fanlink.to/f4xM
    Midnight Syndicate official website: www.MidnightSyndicate.com

  • Evil Animated Cirino

    The 1980s and 1990s are filled with a host of low-budget horror films.  Each have their blend of titillation and mutilation.  One of these more on the adventure/comedy end was Fred Olen Ray’s (The Bay, Emmanuelle 2000) Evil Toons (1992).  Shot over the period of little over a week, the film, with tongue firmly in cheek, focuses on four young, and sexy women who clean houses.  In one, they find a book of magic incantations and this looks to the appearance of a bloodthirsty animated demon.  Consider it a bad Roger Rabbit from the dark side sort of film and you are on the right path.  Chuck Cirino (976-Evil, Chopping Mall, Munchie) is no stranger to the needs of such low-budget films and using a variety of electronic and synths crafts a score that begs for a realized orchestral performance, but which is the closest one could come with this budget.  This was his seventh score (of 17!) for the director.

    “The Talking Book” opens with a flurry of sounds and the sort of 80s/90s electronic horror scoring one might come to suspect.  The organ adds a bit of the Gothic flavor (rather humorously in “Roxanne’s Body Possessed”) along with careful choral backdrops.  Electric piano sounds add some nice jagged rhythmic propulsion here too as the opening lays out many of the tropes Cirino will explore.  His “Main Titles” music is a fast-paced keyboard with blends of synth strings and repeated motives that add a nice forward motion.  Haunting choral sounds and other interesting effects are swirled into “Arrival”.  Cirino demonstrates here and throughout the score his deft strokes of adding creepy atmosphere and hitting the right punches.  Quirkiness also pops up as we head into “Unloading-Up to the House”.  The electronic swaths of sound help add a sense of impending nervousness or doom while the repeated motives float above them.  Melodic ideas also help add to the interest here even when they are a bit slight as in “Megan’s Walk.”  The presentation moves us through these various intriguing atmospherics (“The Basement”; “Translation”).  Sometimes there are some neat little colors like the walking bass line in “Open Book”.  Sometimes there is almost an Elfman-esque feel to the style in places like “Draggin’ Biff”, one of the rather interesting little blends of organ, jagged ostinato, percussion, and thematic statements.  Cirino’s arpeggiated higher lines like those in “Back to the Basement” give way to eerie textures and a sort of walking ostinato pattern.  “March to Death” also adds that little black humor with interesting effects and sounds that come to the foreground after the opening statement.  “Megan’s Waking” blends some of the gentler melodic material with punctuating vocals and piano.  There are two final end credit tracks which are certainly among the highlights of the score.

    Dragon’s Domain has done another great service for fans of Cirino’s work.  It is also another great demonstration of what composer’s were capable of doing with shoestring budgets and whatever equipment they might employ.  It certainly is a must for fans of synth and electronic scores from this period