Friday, August 30, 2013

The Shape

"I met him fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left…no reason, no conscience, no understanding in even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes…the Devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil".

- Dr. Samuel Loomis

Michael Myers artwork for FrightRags by Christopher Lovell

Friday, August 23, 2013

Monsters Of Legend Review

I've blogged about my love of the music of Midnight Syndicate before. It occurs to me, however, that I've never done a proper review of one of their CD's before. I've been meaning to resurrect my "Sounds of the Season" feature for the past couple of years, so it seems fitting that I should do so by reviewing the latest offering from the masters of macabre melodies!

Monsters of Legend, like all Midnight Syndicate albums, has a theme running throughout. As you might guess from glancing at the cover art, this time the focus is on the classic monsters of Universal and Hammer horror films. The music is certainly evocative of the mood from those great flicks, but this disc offers much more than being just a disc inspired by some old monster movies. The Syndicate duo of Edward Douglas and Gavin Goska have, quite cleverly, incorporated the cinematic beasts into the mythology previously established on their first two albums. Both Born of the Night and Realm of Shadows (as well as the Out of the Darkness album, which re-tooled tunes from both discs) took place in the village of Arcacia. This little burg is, apparently, just over-ridden with ghosts, vampires, werewolves and other things that go "bump" in the night. No surprise then, that legendary creatures like Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster have taken up residence there. A clear narrative is established through the music and sound effects, though it is left up to each listener to craft this story in their own imaginations. This is what Goska and Douglas do best: painting lush aural images that tell a tale that is unique for each listener. If you're like me, and grew up on the gothic spookiness of the Universal films, or the blood-drenched horror of Hammer, then many of these tracks will instantly conjure to mind the fog-laden graveyards, foreboding castles and shadowy villages that these movies took place in. At the same time, none of these numbers are in the least bit derivative of previous composers, all having the signature Midnight Syndicate style.

Musically, this is the Syndicate's best album since The 13th Hour...and that's saying something since I thought their previous offering, 2012's Carnival Arcane, was a damned masterpiece! When compared against the two original albums, which this album references, you cannot help but be struck by how much this duo has evolved not only as composers, but as musicians. While I love those two discs, the level of musicianship is far and above here. This CD has a complex, orchestral feel that really communicates a sense of epic scale. It's easy to imagine Legosi or Lee as Dracula, menacing Arcacia with his latest nefarious scheme, when you hear tunes like "Lord of the Realm". To drive home the Arcacia connection, five of the tracks are new recordings of songs from Born and Realm. These tracks aren't just re-hashes though, but work to connect this tale to those previous releases. The arrangements are completely different, and really enhance this shared universe that they have created.

One of the best aspects of this whole project is that Midnight Syndicate have licensed the rights to use the likenesses of Legosi, Karloff and other Universal Monsters for this project. That means that they could evoke the images of Frankenstein's Monster or Dracula that most listeners envision. Since this isn't a soundtrack to an actual film, the listener is free to cast their favorite actors in these roles, regardless of whether or not that performer is still alive! This gives weight to the title, making these the true, legendary monsters that we all know and love, not just Public Domain renditions that would cheapen the whole affair.

All in all, this album is a fantastic addition to the Midnight Syndicate discography, and one hell of a disc to listen to when wanting to get in that spooky frame of mind! It has an grand, gothic feel that truly pays homage to those Legendary Monsters that have haunted our nightmares since we were children!

Happy Birthday to Ray Bradbury

For many of us, he wrote THE essential Halloween tales! He would have been 93 today. Here is a piece by the always incredible Dave Hartman:

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Gill-Man? Didn't He Used to Have a Blog?

Well, crap…it’s been since FEBRUARY that I blogged! Sheesh! This year has been nothing but sheer chaos, as both my job and the wife’s have turned into a constant barrage of nonsense. I really need to win the lotto so I can start my own professional haunt. Of course, in order to do so, I would have to actually play the lotto.

Still, there have been some exciting goings-on for this Monster Kid. In my last post, I talked about being invited to the Halloween Expo by the fine folks at Trick or Treat Studios. Not long thereafter, I got to see three of my favorite bands, all sharing a bill here in Houston. Wednesday 13 Calabrese and Cold Blue Rebels brought the “Curse the Living Tour” to H-Town, and it was INCREDIBLE. Best of all, I got to spend time with all three of these bands, as they are all incredibly approachable. In the case of Wednesday and Calabrese, I’d previously met them at other shows, but this time I got to spend a lot more time with each of them. To be honest, I knew nothing of Cold Blue Rebels before this night, but I now include them amongst my favorite bands…yeah, they’re that good! All three of these bands have a horror theme, but they are fairly dramatically different musically. Sure, the influence of The Misfits and Alice Cooper can be found in all of them, but they execute it in very different ways. Wednesday 13 has more of a metal flair, Calabrese a hard rocking punk vibe, while CBR bring a psychobilly swing to the proceedings. All these bands are freakin’ great, and best of all they are really nice folks who appreciate their fans.

So what else is going on, besides work and hanging out with awesome bands? Well, I’m happy to report that I’ll be revisiting my role as Jason Voorhees at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Houston. Last year, the fine folks at the Alamo brought me on-board to liven up the proceedings at a Friday the 13th marathon, where they screened the first three films back-to-back. This year, they will be presenting the “Tommy Jarvis Trilogy” of Parts 4, 5 & 6 (my personal favorites of this series). If last year is any indicator, this event will be a total blast! For folks in Houston, or anyone making the pilgrimage, the event goes down on Friday, September 13th…naturally!

Speaking of the Drafthouse, to celebrate the debut of the most recent Evil Dead film, they brought out a local effects team called “Closed Casket Creations” to turn the patrons into Deadites! This is why I love the folks at the Alamo…they make movie-going into a complete experience! I can’t wait to see what events they have in store for October!
With any luck, I’ll find more time to blog in the near-future. While it is still in the high 90’s/low 100’s every day here in Houston, I find myself constantly in the Halloween frame of mind. In fact, I’ll go so far as to declare this the official pre-season! Yes, folks, if anyone dares to ask why you are pumping out horror scores and decorating your cubicle with jack-o-lanterns, just tell them that no less an authority than The Gill-Man has declared this to be the pre-season for Halloween. You may then fling paper clips at them when they give you vacant stares. What do they know? Bunch of unwashed philistines! Anyway, what I’m saying is that I truly HOPE to find the time here soon to blog about our favorite time of the year, and share in the buildup with you all!