'The 13th Hour' Review
Listen up Deadites! Gruesome Joe here with the latest installment of the Musical Morgue right here on Rotting Flesh Radio.
Well, with all the conventions and festivals going on, I’m getting green with gangrene… I mean, envy… watching all you haunters have all kinds of spooky fun without me. But, we’re only a couple weeks away from one of my favorite conventions, and one I never miss, the Midwest Haunters Convention. Now, Midwest Haunters has always been my favorite for a number of reasons, but I really like the camaraderie I feel there as well as the opportunity to get to talk with several of my favorite Halloween people. And given that it takes place smack dab in the heart of Ohio, we’re right in the stomping ground of the one and only Midnight Syndicate.
Now, folks familiar with the haunt industry are no doubt very familiar with the work of Midnight Syndicate, but if you’re new to the industry or are still looking around for some stellar music to use in your haunted attraction, yard haunt, or your music collection in general, Midnight Syndicate has a host of superb CD’s available for you. And in honor of my coming road trip to the strange state of Ohio, I thought it would be very appropriate to bring to you a review this week of one of my favorite Midnight Syndicate albums; The 13th Hour.
The 13th Hour is a unique album in that there is quite a serious focus put on the ambient qualities of the production that really tie all the musical elements together into a coherent storyline. The entire album listens like an audio journey through an old Victorian mansion wrought with ghosts, ghouls, and other horrible entities that really culminates in an epic audio adventure through a superbly crafted gothic atmosphere. This is the type of album you can listen to from beginning to end and will always be on your toes for what is coming next.
The blend of ambient noise and sound effects are mixed perfectly with Midnight Syndicate’s orchestration, and the tracks are cut together in a way which makes both the music and sound effect tracks easily accessible if you’re looking for a particular moment in the soundtrack. Something like this, in my opinion, is very useful because if you’re using the album in your haunted attraction or yard haunt, it makes it very easy to quickly pull up the exact track you’re looking for. There are several ambient or sound effect only tracks that range from breathing, footsteps, ambient noise, etc.—so the chances of finding a suitable track for your application is very high.
In addition to how the album was actually cut and produced, the musical qualities of the tracks vary greatly and offer a very diverse range of soundscapes, which keep the ear quite busy. So let me take you along to some of my favorite tracks, both ambient and musical, to highlight the atmospheric qualities and superb compositions The 13th Hour offers.
(“Mansion In the Mist” clip)
The first several tracks of the album introduce you to the mansion and set the mood for the entire work. Solitary and gothic, with just the right amount of sadness and despair, they really get the album off to a tremendous start. Once you’re “inside the mansion” the musical tracks really take off and immerse you in the dark history of the house. The first two big musical pieces are “Time Outside of Time” and “Fallen Grandeur.” “Time Outside of Time” really helps take you back through time to the days in which the mansion was at its peak, while the track “Fallen Grandeur” is an explosion of organ arpeggios and accompanying orchestration that again furthers your perspective of the house.
(“Fallen Grandeur” clip)
The next several tracks are ambient sound effect mixes that escort us along through the corridors of the mansion, past an old clock and into “The Drawing Room.” It is at this point in the album where the mood turns incredibly creepy and the horror elements of the mixes start to take hold. Through the use of unsettling sound effects and very dissonant chords, Midnight Syndicate is able to completely hurl you into the dark and foreboding “Mausoleum d’Haverghast”…
(“Mausoleum d’Haverghast” clip)
We’re then brought to a piece called “Family Secrets” that was, for me, very reminiscent of old school horror movies, featuring piano arpeggios, heavy strings, and a great mix of very dark vocal elements.
(“Family Secrets” clip)
The creep factor is then brought back heavily with the ambient breath track “Last Breaths” and we’re then launched into the heavily foreboding track “Vertigo.” This track uses strings very well to create a very tense feeling, all the while using superbly mixed stereo vocal sweeps that create an all-encompassing, disturbing feeling. This is one of my favorite tracks on the entire album because it is just so effective.
The next several tracks take us deeper into the audio storyline of the album with Midnight Syndicate’s signature epic orchestrations. “The Watcher” uses piano and vocals to create a very lightly orchestrated, but effective feeling of suspense. The ambient track “Cellar” then helps keep the suspense up by using whispers to help guide us through the dark catacombs beneath the mansion. This track would be perfect for a haunt to help boost creep factor quickly. Followed by the epic track “Cold Embrace” we’re greeted with a very dynamic, almost overpowering march. This track is produced so well, it sounds like it was taken right out of a dark fantasy movie. We then come up to another of my favorite tracks, “Hand In Hand Again,” where the use of processed vocals and sound effects make you feel like you’re listening to a very, very old record player. The creep factor is way high by this point, and this track takes it yet one notch higher.
(“Hand In Hand Again” clip)
We’re then launched into an epic waltz titled “Harvest of Deceit” that really picks up the tempo of the album. This track is about half way through the album, and it comes at a perfect time to act as almost an intermission. But by now, I’m sure you’re aware that Midnight Syndicate won’t let you rest that easily… The next track “Footsteps in the Dust” reignites the creepy ambiance with a great mix of sound effects, music box arpeggios, whispers, giggles, and more. The creep factor flies through the roof by the end of this track.
(“Footsteps in the Dust” clip)
The next track “Veiled Hunter” is again very reminiscent of the horror movies of the late 80’s, and I think it is very successful in following “Footsteps in the Dust” because it very effectively keeps the suspense high. We then come to the very gothic organ track titled “Sinister Pact.” This lovely blend of pipe organ and strings provides a disturbingly soothing dénouement to the suspense of the last several tracks. The next track “Grisly Reminder” continues this dénouement but adds piano and mixed sound effects to help start stirring the suspense again. The soothing qualities of these two tracks are quickly smashed to bits with the next track “Deadly Intentions.” With the use of synthesizers, voices, sound effects, and very jarring reversed music, they quickly bring the heightened suspense back to the forefront of the audio experience.
(“Deadly Intentions” clip)
The next track “The Lost Room” is a more up-tempo score that uses a driving bass underscoring to pick up the flow of the album. They use piano arpeggios with lofty strings on top of this bass to help give a good blend of driving tempo with the classic Midnight Syndicate orchestration powering the experience. A slower harpsichord and sound effect driven track titled “Living Walls” follows “The Lost Room” and helps bring an epic quality to the apex of the mix.
(“Living Walls” clip)
We’re then launched into the heavy string track “Gruesome Discovery” that you might have heard here on Rotting Flesh Radio… It’s a great track that helps build a strong sense of dread by using pounding strings and harp arpeggios to really build the feeling. The next track “Return of the Ancient Ones” is a very strange track that uses lots of sound effects and scoring to bring back that epic feeling to the flow of the album. We’re then brought to the final track of the album, and one of my favorites “The 13th Hour.” This track begins with similar sound effects as “Return of the Ancient Ones” but quickly takes off with very fast string arpeggios, swirling sound effect mixes, dissonant chords, piano arpeggios and more to create an incredible sense of urgency as we listeners barely escape from the bowels of the mansion…
(“The 13th Hour” clip)
So Deadites, as I’m sure you can tell by my enthusiasm, this album gets two bloody stumps way up from me. The album is billed as “the ULTIMATE haunted house CD” and I would have to agree with that statement—especially if you’re going for the Victorian/Gothic haunted house theme. Whether for use in a yard haunt, pro haunt, or even a party, this album provides a very wide soundscape of both ambient sound effect tracks and musical tracks that could be used in a wide array of scenes pretty seamlessly. The production quality of these recordings is phenomenal and every track could stand-alone easily. Let me put it this way—this is one of the few haunt albums I’m able to listen through from start to finish that keeps me thoroughly entertained and excited.
If you’re interested in purchasing The 13th Hour just head over to www.MidnightSyndicate.com and check out their online store. It’s just $14, plus they let you use the album for your attraction royalty free. As a haunter myself, it just doesn’t get any better than that!
Also be sure to check out Midnight Syndicates latest release—their first official music video. It’s the track “Dark Legacy” from the album The Dead Matter: Cemetery Gates. I’ve already posted the video on my website at www.GruesomeJoe.com or if you’re already buying the album on Midnight Syndicate’s website—it’s there too!
Well Deadites, that about does it for this week here in the Morgue. Be sure to tune is next time—I’m sure I’ll have more great tunes you’ll want to add to your collection. Also be sure to check out GruesomeJoe.com to check out the written version of my review, as well as all the links to buy the album and to check out Midnight Syndicate’s first official music video. I’m Gruesome Joe and I’ll be chilling out here in the Morgue, waiting for you… until next time…