Wednesday, August 10, 2011

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Last Saturday I opened my mailbox only to find a strange package waiting for me inside. Eagerly tearing open the oversized envelope, I was surprised to find a review copy of Midnight Syndicate's latest effort, the dark carnival themed: CARNIVAL ARCANE.

Just to be clear - I'm not your typical music reviewer who can listen to an album once and immediately comment upon it. I wanted to give this album the proper attention it deserved and not rush right into an overly enthusiastic review simply because I'm a fan of the band. Well, after listening to the album at every opportunity for the past three days, I'm happy to report that Gavin Goszka and Edward Douglas have done it again. This is a terrific 'soundtrack to an imaginary film' that is loaded with realistic turn-of-the-century sound effects and seriously sinister atmosphere.

To be honest, when I first heard that Midnight Syndicate was going to do a themed album centered around a traveling circus, I had my doubts. I figured it was one thing to conceive a concept album around a haunted house like they did with THE 13TH HOUR, but how would the 'creepiness factor' translate to a circus? Wouldn't that subject matter be too narrow? Wouldn't they be catering to those haunts and a fraction of their fan-base that have (or are planning to have) Evil Circus type haunts? Once again my doubts proved to be unjustified. After all - this IS Midnight Syndicate we're talking about. Who else could take a theme like a circus and completely turn it on its head?

What we have here with CARNIVAL ARCANE is a richly layered album that, yes, has a distinctly circus-like theme; but also is so much more than that. While many of the tracks can only be interpreted one way (such as the terrific second track 'Midway' featuring some great vocal work by MS alumni, Jason Carter (my 4-year-old son listened to that track, heard the clown that rides by, and said: "That's the creepy-clown, right Daddy?"), or the track 'Carousel Ride' for example) others songs on the album vary between a mirthful but macabre sound to strangely magical - reminiscent of the music found in the Harry Potter movies. In fact, the only track I didn't like was #23, 'Sea of Laughter' which went on a little too long for my tastes, and indeed, there is perhaps more dialogue on this album than on any other by Midnight Syndicate - but it works. Yet woven in between these numbers are those classic sounding Midnight Syndicate tracks that we've come to know and love (like the bombastic 'Welcome To The Carnival' and 'Pulling The Strings') much of which will make for superb background music for any home haunt or Halloween party, no matter the theme.

When the final 'Epilogue' had run its course (and the hidden 26th track had played out as the twisted troupe rode off into that weird gloom just before sunrise), I found that Midnight Syndicate's CARNIVAL ARCANE had exceeded my expectations and proven that even a concept album based around a narrow subject like a demented circus can provide sufficiently creepy atmosphere and real shivers. I have no doubt that there will be a huge number of Evil Circus haunts popping up this year all across the nation come October! Another solid effort from those maestros of the macabre in Ohio, this album is definitely worth owning if you're a fan of the band, a lover of insane clowns, evil carnivals, or simply want to bolt the door, lock the windows, and stay up late.

Hey - did that clown just wink at me?

Buy it here:

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