Hard to believe it has been 10 years since I purchased my first Midnight Syndicate CD. It was early October 1998 and I was stalking the “seasonal” CD section of Sam Goody. The usual box of “horror” CDs arrived, packed with the same old crap you can find at the check-out isle this very moment. I mean, how many symphonic versions of the Nightmare on Elm Street theme does one need? (To say nothing of the fact that an electronica-trace-hoppy version of the Halloween theme is not only a pox upon horror music, but good taste in general…Also, the theme to Jaws is not a frakking horror track, stop pressing it).
Yup, it was going to be another year where all I had for mood at my place was the soundtrack to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and an ancient mix-tape of K-Tel Presents the Worst (Bes) in Horror… Complete with 1960s voice-overs of African Cannibals Eating Flesh (why always Africa, that doesn’t seem right). And, my personal favorite The Aliens Land. Then I saw it, a CD cover ripped directly from the angst ridden mind of Mark Rein?Hagen; Midnight Syndicate’s Born of the Night. I flipped it over. Sure, it had tracks named Masque of Sorrow and Lost Souls. Who the hell was I to judge? This is the same Geek that had just confirmed his participation in a Halloween night Vampire the Masquerade LARP session with the Portland Rose Camarilla group; which is another tale for another day. (Yes, you may laugh here, I’ll give you a minute)… Done? Good, we can move on. Anyway, I bought the CD, took it home and was hooked. Maybe the album was a tad synth heavy and the Midnight Syndicate folks took their Gothic atmosphere a tad too seriously. But, that didn’t matter. They clearly loved the dark and brooding genre that accompanied many a night watching classic Universal and Hammer horror flicks. They had a new life-long fan.
Which brings us to 2008 and their newest release, the score to the soon to be release film from Midnight Syndicate, The Dead Matter…
So, how does the newest work from Midnight Syndicate compare to their earlier works? In a word, wonderfully. Opening in a grand style with a booming pipe organ on Cathedral Ruins, you have no doubt you’re listening to a Midnight Syndicate album. Some might criticize them for such a cliched opening, I applaud them. This is the dread and atmosphere building music I want as the leaves slowly fall and the nights grow longer. However, it is clear the musicians continue to grow, as the drum beats in the opening of the second track, Shadowed Grove, illustrate. The Dead Matter runs the spectrum of Gothic horror. Unlike many modern horror scores that relay on cheap spikes in volume and instrument to garner fear, The Dead Matter takes its sweet time. This is music to play with the lights dimmed and the outside world cut off.
In Across the Chasm, I could quite easily imagine what horrors lurk beneath the fog as I crossed. Unholy creatures waiting to take me into whatever pits they thrive. Only to find “relief” in tracks like Cemetery Gates. Many a writer has described the peaceful nature of the quiet grave; Midnight Syndicate gives it a voice. Then, without warning, the listener is pulled back into the bombastic Gothic imagery with tracks like Alchemists Chamber. The Dead Matter even has a few tracks that feel like a Wagnerian epic. Indeed, when Forging the Scarab began, I thought my player had inadvertently switched to the Conan score. While most of the tracks lack this visceral punch, it does reveal Midnight Syndicate’s versatility. I would also be remiss if I didn’t recommend this work to all my fellow gamers. As in their previous works, Midnight Syndicate makes for perfect background music. (Even better if you can build your own play list from their vast library).
As you can clearly read, I still am and will likely continue to be a Midnight Syndicate fan. Like their previous releases (save the D&D Game and Rage score), Midnight Syndicate pays homage to their Gothic horror roots while continuously growing as musicians. The Dead Matter is another gem from a seamlessly endless mine I discovered close to 10 years ago. I recommend you do the same. You can find all their albums at Midnight Syndicate