Dead by Midnight - Grave Tone Productions (CD)
Recorded by Grave Tone Productions
Released by B@Home Wreckordings
Another Texas Frightmare Weekend has come and gone, and with it came a new release from L.A. horror rockers Grave Tone Productions. Dead by Midnight is an EP, five songs and a voice-over intro, of GTP's trademark blend of atmospheric horror and heavy metal riffs.
Grave Tone Productions main man Brian Davis creates custom soundtracks for films, haunted attractions, and anywhere else someone needs a little spooky music to set a mood. Their audio releases (Dead by Midnight and last year's Music to Be Buried By [review here]) are royalty-free for use in haunted attractions, but they also serve as demonstrations of the custom work Brian and his studio cohorts can create.
Dead by Midnight manages to be more varied in songwriting and themes than its predecessor despite being half the length. Beginning with a creepy voice introduction by actor Jack Ritchie on "Dying of the Day," Dead by Midnight has a bit of a narrative woven throughout the six tracks on the disc. Listening to stylistic themes, sound effects, and track titles, you can pick up the very basic framework of a story: Death is coming for someone, and he's coming by midnight.
"Night Terror," the first full-length musical track, is a doom metal cut with thudding guitars and ominous keys. It ends with a creepy nursery rhyme, setting the mood for what's to come.
"Fatal Melody" is a more traditional moody cut without a metal touch. It reminds me a bit of some of George "The Fat Man" Sanger's classic music from the epic horror game The 7th Guest.
"Death Awaits" brings back the metal and then some. We jump into "math metal" territory with progressive, choppy riffs offset by Gothic keys. This is GTP at their finest, the perfect blend of creepy and chunky.
"The Final Hour" is the weakest track on the disc. It's not bad, but it suffers from an overload of sound effects as opposed to a cohesive song structure. I understand why this sort of thing is important as a demonstration of their ability to create soundscapes for attractions, but there just isn't enough of a song here for idle listening. About the time the guitar and drums kick in, they stop again for another interlude of movie samples and sound effects. The final effect we hear is a man being gruesomely murdered as the promised doom arrives.
The disc and the story wrap up on "Graveyard Waltz" as our victim is laid to rest and Death pays his final respects. The song is another moody, keyboard-driven piece without heavy guitars, but this one is a big stylistic shift compared to GTP's other non-metal work. A delicate classical-influenced piece, it stands apart from the rest of the disc and brings the story to a close very well.
All told, the outcome is very similar to Music to Be Buried By: When GTP gets heavy, they shine very, very bright. When they don't, they still produce solid, creepy mood music for your favorite house or haunt but fail to stand out among others in the same genre. Pound for pound, Dead by Midnight shows stronger songwriting and production techniques than Music..., which makes it a solid buy, but someday I definitely hope we'll see a disc of wall-to-wall spooky metal from Davis and his creative partners.
3 1/2 out of 5