Midnight Syndicate: Monsters of Legend CD Review
Performed by Midnight Syndicate
2013, 105 minutes
Released on July 19th, 2013
A short while back I reviewed Midnight Syndicate's Carnival Arcane. In that piece, I neglected to mention that Carnival Arcane was not my first foray into the group's dark and magical world. I've been a fan of their work for well over a decade, my original purchase being at a horror convention way back in early 2000. The CD was Vampyre: Symphonies from the Crypt, and while I immensely enjoyed it, if you had handed me Monsters of Legend at that time and told me it was from the same people, I would not have believed you. Don't get me wrong, I still throw in that 2001 release on occasion and I still enjoy it very much.
Judging by the cover (and the press releases), Monsters of Legend is inspired by the old Universal Studios and Hammer Films of yore, but I have to be honest, if this CD has liner notes, I didn't read them. I rarely read them in general. I just don't want the artist telling me what his or her ideas were when making the tracks. And it's even less likely with a release such as this because I want to experience for myself the universe Midnight Syndicate has created, without any sort of influence because the tracks should speak for themselves, and Midnight Syndicate has rarely disappointed. (That Dungeons and Dragons release, though? I was not a fan.) With Monsters of Legend, the band has completely knocked it out of the park.
The release has 21 tracks, opening with “Return to Arcadia”. Within the first few seconds, I knew I was in for a treat. Immediately I was placed in a damp, filthy, city by the water. The fog is dropping as fast as the temperature, and clearly there is someone following me as I make my way through the streets and alleys to get to a place of safety. This first track sets the tone of the rest of the CD, seamlessly mixing creepy effects with creepy music and even creepier vocals. There is a perfect foreboding of dread found here, and it's just a sample of what's to follow.
The second track, “Into the Valley of Shadows”, is hands down my favorite of the entire CD. It starts as a hurried piece, one that would fit well into any montage filled with the townsmen gathering their pitchforks and torches for their journey to the castle that holds the beast they must slay. But, at about midway through, the beat draws down to a much slower pace, and a piano kicks in with a patient-but-hurried feel, before the orchestra kicks it back up again. It's a wonderful mixture of emotion and timing, putting you right into the actions and feelings of the characters you (hopefully) have created in your head.
Another highlight is “Twilight”. This is one of the slower tracks found on Monsters of Legend, and it's one that brings the most chills. The music enough would be enough to have you looking over your shoulder (even in a brightly lit room), but when you add the vocals of what sounds like children doing their devil-worshiping chants, it amps it up to another level of fear. As much as I like it, “Twilight” got skipped a few times when I was listening to it in my headphones as I sat alone in my house in a dark room.
“A Terror Unleashed” is aptly titled. It’s easy to imagine the drama unfolding as whatever terrible creature that is the centerpiece of your imagination is now free from its bonds and is stalking victims in this 19th century city. The music isn't frantic here, this killer is on no rampage. It's hiding in the shadows and leaping from rooftop to rooftop. There is no hurry here. The beast will inevitably destroy its target.
In my review of Carnival Arcane, the only complaint I really had was many of the songs clocked in at under two minutes. As I mentioned, there are over 20 songs found on Monsters of Legend, only three are less than two minutes – and of those three, one clocks in at 1:58, so I damn near shouldn't count that. I could easily (and gleefully) go through each one and tell you why it's terrific, but it's probably best all round that you go and listen to it for yourself. I know I did the very thing I said I didn't like by describing the scenes of each of the songs mentioned, but I couldn't help myself. It's the only way I know how to tell you why this CD is so damn awesome.
Midnight Syndicate has been putting out great CDs for over fifteen years now. I've listened to and thoroughly enjoyed most of them, but with Monsters of Legend, they have taken it to another level. This is the CD that Midnight Syndicate was created to release, and hot damn am I already excited to see what they bring us next.