Mood music album by the Midnight Syndicate, released in 2005. The music was composed and performed primarily by Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka. Midnight Syndicate is generally classified in musical subgenres ranging from goth rock to dark ambient to neoclassical dark wave. But that doesn't really describe what they do. What Midnight Syndicate performs are horror movie soundtracks for movies that don't actually exist.
Though their first few albums were basically grab-bags of spooky music, they soon began to develop themed albums combining music, special effects, and sometimes narration to explore a common horror trope or sketch out an evocative storyline. 2001's "Gates of Delirium" led listeners in a tour through the Haverghast Asylum; 2002's "Vampyre" was about, well, vampires; 2003's "Dungeons & Dragons" was designed to be played during D&D games; 2011's "Carnival Arcane" focused on a malign circus; and 2013's "Monsters of Legend" was a tribute to classic horror movies. And "The 13th Hour" was all about haunted houses.
The album has what may be the strongest actual storyline of Midnight Syndicate's albums, as you're walked through a trip into the haunted mansion of the evil Haverghast family. While the first track ("Mansion in the Mist") functions as our opening theme, the second ("Forgotten Path") is a music-less track in which the listener takes a short walk in the woods in the middle of the night before arriving upon the old deserted house, opening the door, and walking inside.
From there, you get a musical tour through the mansion's glories and horrors, from the drawing room to the cellar to the family mausoleum and everywhere in between. Spirits moan down the hallways, gasp in our ears, rumble behind the walls. Can you escape from this house of horrors? Or will you be spending eternity wandering these dark hallways?
I don't want to try to review each song on the album, especially since almost half of the 25 tracks are two minutes long or less -- and four run for less than a minute -- but here are some of the standouts.
- "Time Outside of Time" - A tuneful piano base and airy vocals give our introduction to the mansion an eerie but sophisticated tone.
- "Fallen Grandeur" - One of the album's best songs. Outstanding organ performance really does a great job of helping the listener imagine the beauty of the old house.
- "Last Breaths" and "The Cellar" - Very short tracks with little to no music at all. But very unnerving.
- "Hand in Hand Again" - Does great things with just an old record player and a few rumbling sound effects.
- "Footsteps in the Dust" - A toy piano and a creepy child. Hello, nightmares.
- "Grisly Reminder" - A quiet, creepy little number based around a slightly dissonant piano.
- "Living Walls" - Harpsicord, synthesized choir, bells -- and ghostly moans and sighs. Simultaneously spooky and glorious.
- "Return of the Ancient Ones" - Exquisitely ominous track, leading the entire thing almost into cosmic horror. It all builds and builds, leading into...
- "The 13th Hour" - The grand climax of the album. It's essentially a chase scene as the house begins to tear itself apart around you. Can you escape from the house in time?
I tend to enjoy everything the Syndicate produces, but this album is definitely my favorite. It's a wonderful, dark, ominous, ghost-filled album, which makes it almost perfect Halloween mood music. Pop this in the player while you’re doing housework, reading a book, surfing the web, driving to work, writing scary stories (True fact: I listened to this album repeatedly while writing "weep," which remains one of the ghost stories I'm proudest of writing), waiting for trick-or-treaters, or anything else, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to start feeling the Halloween spirit. Many of the tracks are available on YouTube -- check them out if you need more persuading.