Midnight Syndicate: Carnival Arcane CD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Released by Linfaldia Records
Performed by Midnight Syndicate
2011, 61 minutes
Released on August 2nd, 2011
Epic. That's the word that immediately came to mind after listening to Midnight Syndicate's Carnival Arcane all the way through for the first time: Epic. And I'm not referring to it in that throwing-it-out-there-willy-nilly way like, "Hey, that party last night was epic," that people seem to do nowadays. I mean it in the grand, poetic, much larger than it should be, how-the-word-was-intended way as in, "Hey, remember that weekend we went to Tijuana and got kidnapped and ended up being forced to be in that donkey show but we managed to escape right before those curtains split for the first time and the person that helped us get out of there ran a brothel and we were made honorary pimps for the week because they liked us so much but then the Mexican Federales showed up and we had that big shoot out and managed to barely get away and we found that tunnel drug dealers used and we snuck in back into the States just in time to make it to work Monday morning without being late? That was pretty epic."
While it's not a score to any movie that's out, I couldn't help but create a movie in my mind that matched the gamut of emotions being pumped through my headphones. In its 26 tracks, Carnival Arcane tells a story, starting with the creepy carnival rolling into town with "Mesonvoxian Visitors" and wrapping it up with "Crum Car". Your journey will most likely be different than mine, but Midnight Syndicate provides all the pieces to make it a memorable one.
As with any album, there are some tracks I like more than others, and Carnival Arcane is no exception. The opening song, the aforementioned "Mesonvoxian Visitors", grabbed me quickly and is the perfect start to this tale. It's a bit light and airy with a carnival-themed backdrop, but there's also this hint of evil lying underneath whispering that, yes, carnivals are where bodies are buried.
"Welcome to the Carnival" and "Canvas Wonderland", the third and fourth tracks, complement each other nicely. The former is the darker and less subtle of the two. Its heavy drum use puts in mind scenes similar to the heart-ripped-from-the-chest in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. "Canvas Wonderland", on the other hand, is a bit of a break from darkness of the first three songs and it feels like that montage piece of excited children rushing home from school to get ready for their big night of slaughter.
For tension, "Pulling the Strings" is aptly titled. Settling in at just over the midway point of the album, the track brings creates unease to the listener with its mix of hurried tempo and pacing. I can easily visualize our heroes rushing through various sideshow tents in an effort to avoid detection from the nefarious carnival leader and residents of said tents.
The track I think I like just a hair more than all the rest, though, is "Alura the Snake Lady". The title alone already conjures up the image of a dusty, humid tent filled with slack-jawed men (and two boys on the outside, fighting to share a hole that shows the inside) watching a curvy, exotic woman do her sexy dance with a python on a small stage in the front. This is the music that would be playing, with its chill Arabian-styled theme.
If there's one thing that slightly brings me down is the running time from tracks 15 through 26 drops to under two minutes each, with the exception of two songs. With the obvious talent behind it, I would have much rather had a CD with fewer songs but longer runtimes. This is made doubly frustrating with a track like "Kiddieland" because of how effectively creepy it is due to its use of childlike vocals (which are always unsettling), but only comes in at 1:53. I would have happily lost one of the other songs to double up on a song like "Kiddieland".
Midnight Syndicate has an impressive album with Carnival Arcane. Instead of being filled with tracks of darkness and despair, there is a wonderful mixture of tunes from bleak to thrilling to hopeful and it's all seamlessly put together for one journey. An epic one, if you will. Should you have even a little imagination to run with, the music will take you on a trip into the macabre and back out again.