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Midnight Syndicate – Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering

Label: Linfaldia Records
Format: CD
Released: 2015
Reviewed By: Rich Catino
Rating: 7/ 10


Just in time for…Halloween, wait, no, Christmas, Syndicate’s “Ghostly Gathering” does arrive in time for the year’s fall festivities, while gearing us up for (ironically enough) Krampus theatrical release in December. After the brief, seasonal toned orchestra brings in the sounds of the classic jingle bells for ‘Christmas Overture’…it is quickly altered, changing to minor notes and key to become darker and foreboding. Complete with eerie organ, chimes, and strings the classic ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ melody descends into darkness. Spooky voices, ominous piano, a low-end pulsating throb, and The Nutcracker gets a twisting in ‘Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy’…the sugar plum probably laced with poison, no doubt. With the main melody in tact, ‘Carol Of The Bells’ sets a more “festival” tone than ‘Night Of The Krampus’ (the goat horned cloven hooved monster who punishes children during the Christmas season who have misbehaved), which carries more of a circus theme and melody.

 

A catholic church hymn is the focus of ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’? (weird title), and this one is the lesser effective of the batch, too traditional, too Tim Burton Nightmare Before Christmas. Still, well composed piece, just too safe for this listener who favors, and was expecting, dark compositions from such. ‘Greensleeves’, with the ‘What Child Is This’ melody is excellent, but again I’m not feelin the spookiness. Another example, ‘Everywhere Everywhere Christmas Tonight’ is just too obvious and lacks being crafted from the netherworld. ‘Up On The Housetop’ restores a more fitting tone to what I was expecting, instantly more dramatic and threatening by use of horns, strings, woodwinds, and percussion. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ also uses the melody of the original classic, simple, uses some seasonal choir vocals for that ghostly effect. Dancing instrumentation (strings, horns, percussion, chimes, etc) with creatures laughing give personality to ‘Little Helpers’ as they frolic around, no doubt placing unsettling gifts in stockings. ‘Sing We Now Of Christmas’ is another that misses the mark, the arrangement utilizes strings (with an acoustic guitar or something in the family) for the base melody and doesn’t create that feel of a ghostly gathering. ‘Winter Storm’ Is better given the album’s title, the tempo and instruments played in a lower key and notes.

Overall, over the course of sixteen tracks, the Syndicate do bring you on a journey. But, for fans of horror movies looking for something scary for the Christmas season, this latest Syndicate album, I felt, is a bit unbalanced track to track, and inconsistent. Almost half of these songs would be just right for the 24 hours of Christmas I hear played on radio and TV every year. Enjoyable, yes, but not quite an unsettling joy for the fan of fear.

 
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