Carnival Arcane (CD)
Performed by Midnight Syndicate
Released by Linfaldia Records
At this year's Texas Frightmare Weekend, Edward Douglas of Midnight Syndicate was teaching a class on creating scores for horror films so I was finally able to meet him. I've been a fan of MidSyn's work since they got started, and I was thrilled to pick up a copy of their latest creation, Carnival Arcane.
To those not familiar with MidSyn: Where exactly have you been, and what are you doing here? Long the stars of Halloween stores and haunted houses everywhere, Midnight Syndicate creates horror music that plays like the score to a film, with no associated film. Most of their albums have a theme that guides the tone of the music, but otherwise the songs stand alone without vocals or narrative.
Carnival Arcane comes as close as they ever have to following a plot. As laid out on the back of the packaging, Carnival Arcane tells the tale of the Lancaster-Rigby Carnival. As you listen to the disc, you're taken on a trip through the midway to see the sights of this strange, supernatural carnival.
Sound effects and even some vocal performances tip you off on what's happening around you as you listen. Animal noises signal that you've entered "A Strange Menagerie" while a barker calls you to visit "Madame Zora" in "Agent of Fortune".
The mysterious belly dancing jangles of "Alura the Snake Lady" weave in with the music, and then the circus marching music kicks off the show "Under the Big Top".
By the time you reach the carnival's famous attraction and take a "Carousel Ride", it's clear something has gone wrong. Leading to a "Revelation", things go all kinds of dark as it's clear you're attempting to escape what has become a nightmare.
Look, folks, it's Midnight Syndicate. At this point in their career, that's all you need to know. You know it's going to be really good. This one is just particularly solid because of the added narrative and, for this listener, the carnival setting. Dark carnivals? I have a bit of a thing for them, what can I say? If only Jim Nightshade had gone in with me on my proposal, I'd probably still be running one.
If you're looking for mostly instrumental scary music with a twisted carnival flair, this is what you want. As the action reaches a fever pitch in "Lights Out", you'll have been given the fuel to imagine an entire carnival full of malevolent forces coming to take you and make you one of them. That's the beauty of MidSyn's creations: Like a good book, they allow you to form the images in your own mind. On their best compositions, such as this one, you will be taken on a complete journey from start to finish. This isn't simply background music; this is interactive audio horror to engage your mind and send yourself into a thrilling adventure.
Grab Carnival Arcane. Turn out the lights. Plug in some headphones. Crank up the volume. Listen end to end. Once you're done, I promise you'll find yourself looking at dark train tracks in the middle of a foggy night in a very different way...waiting to hear the whistle that brings the Lancaster-Rigby Carnival to YOUR town.
1 Mesonoxian Visitors
3 Welcome To The Carnival
4 Canvas Wonderland
5 Midway Reprise
6 Strange Menagerie
7 Madame Zora
8 Agent of Fortune
9 Dr. Atmore's Elixirs of Good Humour and Fortification
10 Alura the Snake Lady
11 Arcane Wonders
12 Under the Big Top
14 Pulling the Strings
15 Carousel Ride
17 Goons and Greasepaint
19 Krellsig's Kastle of Fun
20 Diversions in the Dark
21 Twisted Labyrinth
22 Cheval Glass
23 Sea of Laughter
24 Lights Out
5 out of 5