Sunday, August 18, 2013

CD Review - 'Monsters of Legend' by Midnight Syndicate

It was storming the other night. As the thunder and lightning warred in the purplish and storm-pregnant Northern Ohio night sky, I decided to immerse myself in Midnight Syndicate's newest instrumental work, Monsters of Legend.

I'd been listening to it for days at work and while writing - and LOVING it - but I figured I'd give it the full treatment it deserved. Per the press release that accompanied my copy, and that I posted to the blog a few weeks back, Monsters of Legend is a tribute to the 'golden age of horror' and '...inspired by horror films from the silent era, Universal Studios' horror classics, Hammer Films, and other European horror films of the 60's and 70's.'

That last paragraph there? Yeah, every bit of it is sexy words to old Doctor Zombie.

So, to get the full scope and understanding of the artistic work, I decided some in-depth appreciation was in order.

I poured myself an unnecessarily large glass of Swiss absinth, turned off the lights, put Monsters of Legend in the CD player, and let it play while I watched some classic silent horror movies with the sound turned off. It may be the absinth tempering my opinion but bloody HELL- watching Murnau's Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Lon Chaney's chilling portrayal of The Phantom of the Opera with only the accompaniment of Midnight Syndicate was one of the most exquisitely sublime experiences I've ever had.

To say that the duo of Gavin Goszka and Edward Douglas have outdone themselves is an understatement of negligent proportions. Monsters of Legend is a masterpiece and the single best album of their dozen plus to date. I shit you not

I'm an unapologetic fan of Midnight Syndicate and it's not an exagerration to say that many of  Midnight Syndicate's previous CD's are frequently playing in the background when I'm writing or reading. Their last outing, Carnival Arcane was awesome and I gushed about it when it came out. However, I find that the themed nature of that CD makes me want to only listen to it at certain times of the year. Monsters of Legend, while coming out at the perfect time - on the cusp of autumn and the impending Halloween season - is different in that I know that it will almost certainly become a year round aural delight.

In other words - like Born of the Night or Gates of Delirium - this CD will become a year round treat for me.

The level of musical sophistication on Monsters of Legends is far and above anything Midnight Syndicate have done previously. It is simultaneously evocative and chilling. The instrumentation is a heady mix of orchestral arrangement, howling wolves, creaking doors, and eerie wind blowing across a stark graveyard. Framing the theme around the classic horror movies I grew up with is only icing on the top of the metaphorical cake. As the tracks roll from one to another, they perfectly capture the stalking horror of Lugosi's Dracula, the poignant tragedy of Karloff's monster, and the drafty castles and foggy moors of Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee.

There are other influences here that - intentional or not - appeal to the inner geek in me. By paying homage to the classic horror composers, I realized the extent of their influence on other pieces of music and composers. In Midnight Syndicate's reimagining of those earlier composers,  I heard the ghosts of other musical pieces that I love. There were shades of the sing-songy steam punk Victorian soundtrack of American McGee's Alice; there was a section that was reminiscent of Doctor Who composer Murray Gold.

All of it was classic Midnight Syndicate.

As an added bonus, there were some new arrangements of older Midnight Syndicate tracks. Like Born of the Night and Realm of Shadows, Monsters of Legend is thematically tied to the strange, dark hamlet of fictional Arcacia. Midnight Syndicate took the time to re-arrange some songs from those earlier works and I especially loved the remix of Dark Tower, by far one of my favorite Midnight Syndicate tracks from one of my favorite earlier albums - Born of the Night.

I can't express enough how much I love the much more orchestral nature of this album. There is something so perfect about the sound of this album. As I write this, some 75 days from Halloween 2013, I can say without a doubt that Monsters of Legend will get played, played again, and overplayed between now and then. It's funny, actually... as the weather's grown cooler, as pumpkin ale starts to show up at the local beer distributor, and as the leaves begin to change; my preoccupation with all things Halloween grows and grows. I've actually been scheming and planning (Or obsessing. Whatever.) about the quickly approaching Samhain festivities and, I'm certain that, with the release of Monsters of Legend, my life has become even more complicated. 'How?' you ask? Well, thanks to Midnight Syndicate, I'm now seriously thinking of redoing my entire yard haunt to fully take advantage of the musical perfection of this new album.


So, in the final analysis, I can unequivocally say that all of my faithful zombie minions and readers should pick up a copy of Monsters of Legend. I can also say that, if you haven't checked out Midnight Syndicate yet, there's something wrong with you. Any fan of horror, any purveyor of darkness like Old Doctor Zombie, anyone with an abiding love for all things creepy and dark and terrifying should experience the grotesque chill of Midnight Syndicate.

You're missing out if you don't, dear reader.

Click here to visit Midnight Syndicate and buy Monsters of Legend. Clickety-click! 

Doctor Zombie's Rating: 5 out of 5 Chomped Brains!!! 

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