Thursday, July 1, 2021

From the Shadows, They Appear... Midnight Syndicate Live Shadows

I am excited to be back blogging with something actually fun to talk about! I was given this fun blog material by Midnight Syndicate who have just released their first live album. This album was recorded between 2014 and 2019 at their Midnight Syndicate Live! A Legacy of Shadows concert series performances. These multimedia performances are a chance to experience Midnight Syndicate's music in person, in settings worthy of a Hammer Horror film. I've watched videos of these live performances and they look like they're set in old castle ruins, which are lit in a bright yet ominous way. There are several videos on YouTube showing parts of the show and I'll link to those at the end. 

Midnight Syndicate were kind enough to send me one of their albums and I just gave it a listen. I chose to listen to it in a dark area of the basement, since it's a bright summer day out there. That set the mood for listening to the kind of music, sound effects, and voices you'd expect to hear in a haunted house. I think this album would make a great addition to a classic haunted house themed haunt. I'm talking about that kind of classy, old-fashioned haunted house where you might hear some ghostly piano playing as a spectre glides by.

Now, I don't know if there is a distinct plot to the show, but I imagined a general one as I listened to the CD. I can only give my interpretation of what's going on, and that might be different from what was intended. I took a few notes, down there in the dark, as I tried to visualize what might be happening with each track. I'll give a quick run-through of my thoughts on each.

So we start off with "The Stage is Set" which does set the stage with some whooshing wind and doom-filled heavy bells. It's like a storm approaching. 

Then we move onto "Alchemist's Chamber" which was a favorite of mine. I like organ music (I think this was electric organ?) Then it moves into what sounds like a harpsichord, in a style The Phantom of the Opera might play. Then we get some ghostly voices. I felt like I was walking down a haunted hallway as I listened to this.

"Sigil" is next and I think I had kind of a head's up on what this one was about from watching their videos. There's also some imagery in the pamphlet of what I would call a spooky Voodoo lady, carrying a staff. A glowing sigil or sign was prominent in one of the videos too. This track was more electronic.

The next track is titled "Twilight" and nope, this does not appear to have anything to do with that other Twilight. This track is probably more about spirits emerging at the fall of night. The song starts with a ghostly lady's voice going "woooooo" and then there's a feeling of slowly walking. I could imagine the ghost lady gliding along to this, which again fits with the imagery in the videos/CD pamphlet. By the way, the photos I'm sharing here are from that pamphlet. 

"Creatures of Darkness" starts with that child-like lalalalala. If you're into being scared by what sounds like a ghost kid singing, giggling, and talking, there are some tracks here for you! This one starts innocently enough, then moves into some heavy plodding and a surprise violin solo. Actually, the beginning of this one made me think of Poltergeist for some reason.

"Noctem Aeternus" This is a creepy one to listen to, especially when you're sitting in a dimly lit space like I was. I think the lady on this track was speaking in Latin. It sounded like she was reciting some sort of spell. I might have been influenced by the visuals in their videos again in thinking that. 

"Haunted Nursery" is another one for you guys who like the spooky little ghost kid stuff. The first part of this made me think of chimes ringing in the night or a music box. 

"Gatekeeper" There was a nice beat on this one, along with thunder crashing and crows cawing.

"Into the Valley of Shadows" was very dramatic and dark. I visualized a marching group of skeletons while listening to this. More of that cool organ playing was incorporated into this one. Something I appreciated about this collection of songs is that some of the same sounds and instruments were incorporated into many of them, but in unexpected ways. So there was a connective line between the tracks.

"Kiddieland" caught me off guard because there are not a lot of spoken words on this album. So I was sitting there in the dark, concentrating and writing my notes on this album and then I start hearing a man yelling "Adelaide!" That got my attention. I was googling the spelling of Adelaide just now and ran into another Midnight Syndicate song that's titled "Adelaide" (From their album Gates of Delirium). So there's probably a connection there.

"NightStalker" sounds like its title! I really liked this one. It has a bit of everything: dark booming noises, the feeling of running in the night, electronic sounds, more organ, an operatic ghost lady. 

"Grisly Reminder" There was some nice piano on this one, and what sounded to me like the sounds of a sharp object whooshing through the air. This made me think of a reaper, especially with all that hissing and breathing at the end. The piano would have been pretty relaxing on this one without those other parts I mentioned. 

"Twisted Labyrinth" This was an unnerving track. You get the feeling listening to this that you're being chased, I suppose through a twisted labyrinth. There were a few other bells and sound effects I couldn't quite place.

"Haverghast Asylum" I'm wondering if this one fits with that Adelaide character I mentioned earlier. She sounded like someone in an asylum in that track off the other album. Anyway, this one starts with some great old-timey piano and a woman singing. Could it be an old-timey piano in an asylum?

"Conspiracy of Shadows" And we end with a worried man, a whispered "Thank You", some electronic noises, and some good shrieking from the live audience. 

This album alternates between delicate eeriness and heavy menacing sounds and I felt inspired to see the live show while listening to it. If I find myself near HalloWeekends in Ohio some autumn I'd want to check it out. 

I typed up this blog post just assuming that you are all familiar with Midnight Syndicate. You probably are even if you don't know it. If you have stepped foot in a Halloween store or haunted attraction, you've no doubt heard them. They are pretty much part of the modern Halloween soundtrack. If you'd like to learn more or revisit some of your favorite songs, you can check out Midnight Syndicate on YouTube

The Live Shadows full album can be listened to here: Live Shadows

And purchased in CD/vinyl form here: Midnight Syndicate Shop

Here are a few of those videos I mentioned earlier, if you'd like to see some of the live performances and theatrical sets: 

The Live Shadows Album Trailer

Alchemist's Chamber

Creatures of Darkness

I would also like to share a brief video I ran across of Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka discussing the live show:

Midnight Syndicate Live 

As you can tell, they're nice guys, but should you forget how spooky they can be: