Midnight Syndicate are, of course, known for spooky music. After more than a dozen full-length releases over more than 18 years, they’ve become the go-to guys for moody, evocative, dark music most associate with Halloween. Other than a brief dalliance with music designed for Dungeons & Dragons, the haunted and creepy have been their exclusive domain.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that this new release is a Christmas album.
Yep. The masters of All Hallow’s Eve have taken Skeleton Jack’s advice and found another holiday to conquer. Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering is exactly what you’d expect, coming from Midnight Syndicate: a creepy and dark tribute to that other holiday people so admire.
The result is the most sinister Christmas album you’ve ever heard. The first few strains are standard whimsy and wonder, the usual holiday stuff. Within seconds, though, the first few notes of “Jingle Bells” go all sideways, and then we’re off to the haunted Christmas wonderland that Ed Douglas and Gavin Goszka have created for us.
The album is a mix of thoroughly rearranged classic holiday tracks and some new creations that show a slightly more lighthearted side of these dark masters of moody horror. As suggested by the awesome cover art, this collection of Christmas creepy evokes thoughts of a dusty, abandoned mansion where various spirits and creatures of the night gather to raise just a bit of the Christmas spirit they left behind with their lives. Regardless of their nostalgia, however, they cannot change what they have become, leaving the traditional tunes with sounds that are sometimes mournful, sometimes wicked, always with a tiny bit of mischief glinting in their eyes.
Some tracks have a touch of Elfman, but none so much as to be considered treading on that sacred Skellington ground. The more energetic tunes tend to be my favorites, as they have a certain malicious energy behind them that provides a change of pace from the darker, more moody tracks.
The only issue I see with this otherwise masterful collection of holiday spooky is that often, the original songs get lost in the extremely comprehensive rearrangements created by Goszka and Douglas. That’s fine, but I confess to sometimes wanting a bit more carol mixed with my shadows.
Oddly enough, the most traditional Christmas-y songs are some of the originals composed by the band. They clearly stretch outside of their usual comfort zone, and they’re strong, traditional holiday instrumentals.
There’s not much more to say. MidSyn, as the cool kids call them, have become iconic. You can count on every release to represent a specific sound that they have mastered, and that’s what we have here. If you enjoy Christmas as well as the spookier side of life, this will be an excellent addition to your collection. If Trans-Siberian Orchestra is just too whimsical for you, this may be what you’re looking for.