Midnight Syndicate

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Midnight Syndicate
Origin Chardon, Ohio, US
Genres Dark ambient
Ethereal wave
Neoclassical dark wave
Years active 1997–present
Labels Entity Productions (1997–present),
Monolith Graphics (1998)
Associated acts Destini Beard
Nox Arcana
Parlormuse
Website www.midnightsyndicate.com
Members Edward Douglas
Gavin Goszka
Past members Scott Angus (1997)
Mark Rakocy (1997)
Dennis Carleton (1997)
Jamie Barbour (1997)
Ray Portler (1997)
Christopher Robichaud (1997)
Joseph Vargo (1998–2000)

Midnight Syndicate is an American musical group that has been working mainly in the genre of gothic music since 1997 and is based out of Chardon, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.

The band refers to their CDs as "soundtracks for the imagination" or "soundtracks to imaginary films." Most of the songs on their thirteen albums are characterized by a blend of instrumental music and sound effects and are commonly used to provide atmosphere during the Halloween season, in haunted attractions, and in the role-playing game industry.

History[edit]

Formation and early years (1996–1998)[edit]

Composer/filmmaker Edward Douglas formed Midnight Syndicate in 1996 shortly after releasing a micro-budget, direct-to-video horror film called The Dead Matter (1996)[1] which he directed and scored and would later remake.[2] Midnight Syndicate's self-titled debut album was released the following year.[3] A majority of music on the album was written, arranged, and performed by Edward Douglas. Contributors included Scott Angus, Mark Rakocy, Dennis Carleton, Jamie Barbour, Ray Portler, the rap act Dark Side, and Christopher Robichaud. Douglas coined the term cine-fusion to describe the album. Cine-fusion is described in the album's liner notes as

"a blending of movie soundtrack music and pop music... a compilation of soundtracks to movies that do not exist. The goal of the music is to stimulate the imaginations of listeners so that they are able to transport themselves to worlds or movies of their own creation."

Musically, the album contained an eclectic blend of styles including everything from dark instrumental music (of which three tracks appeared on future releases), rock,[4] rock-a-billy, techno, rap, new age, humor-pop, jazz, and space. Movie-style sound effects were employed in some tracks. In March 1998, a multimedia show was produced by Douglas and his company, Entity Productions, to support the album. The show included a blending of original short films, live music, animation, and stage performers.[5]

Breakout (1998–2000)[edit]

In 1998, Douglas teamed up with gothic fantasy artist Joseph Vargo, and the two decided to create an exclusively dark-themed instrumental Midnight Syndicate album. Vargo developed the storyline and concept of a musical journey through a haunted castle, with the music reflecting his gothic artwork.[6][7][8] Composer Gavin Goszka, formerly a solo artist in a project called Lore, also joined Douglas and Vargo in the new Midnight Syndicate line-up. Together, they created Born of the Night, a groundbreaking album that appealed to fans of gothic music, the horror genre, and haunted attractions. Douglas and Goszka wrote and performed the music on the album while Vargo served as executive producer and creative director of the project, as well as writing and performing the vocals and narrations, and designing the cover art and packaging. The album and songs were also titled after several of Vargo's most popular paintings. Born of the Night was independently released in September 1998 through Vargo's Monolith Graphics and Douglas' Entity Productions, hitting the horror market just in time for the Halloween season. It was Midnight Syndicate's first critically acclaimed gothic-horror soundtrack and proved to be an instant success,[9] establishing Midnight Syndicate's trademark sound.

In March 2000, Realm of Shadows followed suit with the same flavor of dark instrumental music and another gothic setting. Douglas and Goszka wrote all of the music for this album while Vargo wrote and performed the opening narration and theme story. Again, the songs were titled after Vargo's artworks. Both albums were featured as official soundtracks for Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights, and used in several other major theme parks during Halloween, such as Busch Gardens, Cedar Point and Thorpe Park's Fright Nights event.[10] The heavy metal band King Diamond also featured tracks from Born of the Night as opening music for their 2000 US tour. Afterwards, Vargo and Midnight Syndicate chose to work separately of one another on future projects.[11]

Rise (2001–2006)[edit]

Midnight Syndicate's third gothic horror soundtrack, Gates of Delirium, was released in 2001. This time Douglas and Goszka teamed up with two members who worked on the first Midnight Syndicate CD, Mark Rakocy (graphic design) and Christopher Robichaud (vocals). Set in a Victorian haunted mental institution called Haverghast Asylum, Gates of Delirium was the first Midnight Syndicate disc to feature the fictitious Haverghast family,[4] a theme the band would revisit on future discs such as The 13th Hour. Gavin Goszka has since called Gates of Delirium "a personal favorite" from the Midnight Syndicate library.

During the 2001 Halloween weekend, six of the band's mp3 singles were in the Top 20 for all of MP3.com (#1, No. 2, No. 7, No. 10, No. 12, and No. 19) registering over 100,000 listens in three days. The title track from Born of the Night remained at No. 1 for over a week with two tracks from Gates of Delirium maintaining their positions in the Top 40 as well.[12]

In August 2002, the band released their fifth studio album Vampyre. The vampire-themed disc was the first Midnight Syndicate disc to feature a cover designed by fantasy artist Keith Parkinson.

By this time, the band's popularity with role-playing gamers who used their discs as background for their sessions had grown to where they were exhibiting at gaming conventions. It was at one of these conventions that the band was approached by designers from Wizards of the Coast.[13] The result was 2003's Dungeons & Dragons: Official Role-playing Soundtrack, the first officially-licensed soundtrack to the classic roleplaying game of the same name. The album (whose fantasy themes were a departure from previous releases) was generally well received by music critics and the gaming community and helped the band build their following in Europe.[14] Some of the tracks were later used in computer games Baldur's Gate - Dark Alliance II and Shadowbane expansions Rise of Chaos and Throne of Oblivion.

In August 2005, the band returned to darker themes with their seventh CD entitled The 13th Hour. Featuring vocal effects by Lily Lane of the horror-rock band Lazy Lane and cover art by Keith Parkinson the disc is set in a haunted Victorian mansion and features tracks like: Fallen Grandeur, Grisly Reminder, and Family Secrets.

Out of the Darkness (Retrospective: 1994–1999) was released in 2006 and featured re-recorded versions of tracks from Midnight Syndicate, Born of the Night, and Realm of Shadows, along with some of Edward Douglas’ early horror film scores including The Dead Matter (1995). Fantasy artist Rob Alexander designed the cover.[8] The track Into The Abyss was featured as the outtro on the Misfits 2013 live album, DEA.D ALIVE! [15]

The Rage and The Dead Matter (2007–2010)[edit]

In early 2007, the band temporarily shifted from creating "soundtracks to imaginary films" to composing music for actual projects when they completed the score to Robert Kurtzman's, The Rage and wrote music for Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 17's Carnival of Carnage. The Rage: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released in February 2008.[16]

In September 2007, Douglas returned to filmmaking as director, co-producer, and composer of an updated remake of his 1995 horror film, The Dead Matter.[17] During this time, Gavin Goszka started a solo project called Parlormuse which featured Victorian era songs re-recorded in a modern folk rock style.[18]

In August 2008, the band released The Dead Matter: Cemetery Gates, a CD of music inspired by the themes from the new The Dead Matter movie. Midnight Syndicate's first two music videos were made for the songs Dark Legacy and Lost from the disc. In the finale of the music video for Dark Legacy, Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka are shown playing on stage at the historic Phantasy Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio. It marked the first time they had played together live.[19]

On July 30, 2010 The Dead Matter movie was released on DVD along with a Midnight Syndicate "greatest hits-style" compilation CD called Halloween Music Collection and an EP entitled The Dark Masquerade featuring gothic artist Destini Beard performing operatic vocals and lyrics to various Midnight Syndicate recordings. The Dead Matter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was also released on July 30. The CD featured the score by Edward Douglas, other music that appeared in the film, and several remixes of Midnight Syndicate tracks by other artists.[20]

Recent projects (2011–present)[edit]

In August 2011, the band released its fourteenth studio album, entitled Carnival Arcane. The theme of the CD surrounds a fictional turn of the century traveling circus called The Lancaster Rigby Carnival. The CD was inspired by research into carnivals of that time period and Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.[21] In 2012, the album won the Best CD category in the 2012 Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.[22]

In August 2012 Destini Beard released the followup to her 2010 EP, The Dark Masquerade. The full-length CD once again featured Destini's original vocals and lyrics blended with previously recorded Midnight Syndicate tracks. The disc featured a remix by Pat Berdysz of the Electro-industrial band Encoder and an original song written and performed entirely by Destini entitled, My Last Goodbye. The CD is set in a haunted Victorian hotel and features cover art by Destini's father, fantasy artist, Ed Beard, Jr.[23] In February 2013, the band's song Into The Abyss from their Out of the Darkness CD was featured as an outtro on the Misfits live album, DEA.D Alive.[24]

In 2013, the band scored the horror creature feature film, Axe Giant: The Revenge of Paul Bunyan. The film is a dark contemporary take on the legend of Paul Bunyan and premiered on the Syfy Channel in June of 2013.[25] In July of 2013 the band released a new studio album entitled Monsters of Legend. Featuring images from Bride of Frankenstein and Werewolf of London on the cover, the album was influenced by classic Universal Monsters, Hammer Films, Amicus Productions, and Euro Horror films from the 60's and 70's as well as composers like James Bernard, Bernard Herrmann, and Max Steiner.[26]

In March of 2014, the band announced plans for a series of live multimedia concerts entitled Midnight Syndicate Live! Legacy of Shadows that would run at the amusement park Cedar Point's HalloWeekends event beginning in September of 2014. They also announced that they would be teaming up with special effects artist, Robert Kurtzman who worked on The Dead Matter as well as director Gary Jones and Face Off contestants, Beki Ingram and David Greathouse.[27][28]

Musicianship[edit]

Influences[edit]

Douglas cites film composers Danny Elfman, James Horner, John Carpenter, Hans Zimmer, heavy metal acts King Diamond and Black Sabbath, radio dramas, and horror film scores as primary musical influences for Midnight Syndicate. He has cited Hammer Film Productions, the art of Joseph Vargo, Alchemy Gothic, and Keith Parkinson, the books of Steven King, Tales From the Crypt comics, and Role-playing games as sources of inspiration.[7][29][30][31] He has said that Joseph Vargo's input was critical on the Born of the Night CD.[32] In a 2010 interview, Goszka cited similar musical influences (Elfman, Carpenter, King Diamond, and Sabbath) as well as Dead Can Dance.[33]

Legacy[edit]

Impact on Halloween music and haunted attraction industry[edit]

The group's music is commonly used as atmosphere for Halloween-themed events, stores, and parties (including Hugh Hefner's), as well as home decorating for trick-or-treating. Heather Adler credits them as helping to legitimize the genre of Halloween music (music for the Halloween holiday), elevating standards in the genre, and inspiring other musicians to create similar projects.[8][34][35][36] On September 11, 2009, AOL Radio released a list of the Top 10 Best Halloween Music CDs as ranked by AOL/CBS Radio listeners. Three of the ten CDs were Midnight Syndicate discs (Born of the Night No. 8, Realm of Shadows No. 4, and Vampyre No. 3), ranking behind Danny Elfman's The Nightmare Before Christmas and John Carpenter's Halloween soundtrack.[37]

They were the first company to produce soundtracks of quality specifically for that industry.[8][38] In 2005, Leonard Pickel, editor of Haunted Attraction Magazine estimated that "75-90% of the attractions in the industry had at least one Midnight Syndicate CD." The music is also used by amusement parks like Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens, Kings Island, Six Flags, and Cedar Point that hold Halloween-themed events such as Halloween Horror Nights, Howl-O-Scream, and Fright Fest.[8][35][39]

Impact on role-playing game industry[edit]

Midnight Syndicate has a significant following in the role-playing game community.[35][40] Their Dungeons & Dragons CD broke previous sales records for gaming soundtracks in its first month.[18] Their The 13th Hour CD won the Origins Award for Best Gaming Accessory presented by the Academy of Adventure Game Art & Design, marking the first time a role-playing soundtrack or music CD had won the award.[41] In 2007, Midnight Syndicate teamed up with Goodman Games to produce Cages of Delirium a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure based on Gates of Delirium which came packaged with the CD.

Distribution[edit]

When record labels and distributors rejected the band's first two CDs, Douglas began building his own distribution network by selling CDs out of his van with Goszka and cold-calling hundreds of stores.[35][42] Today Midnight Syndicate's CDs are self-distributed to thousands of retailers worldwide through Entity Productions, Inc. and its partners, making them one of the largest distributors of Halloween-themed music.[38][43] In addition to Dee Snider's Halloween-themed music act, Van Helsing's Curse,[44][45] Entity Productions also distributed the 2010 version of The Dead Matter movie.[46]

Discography[edit]

Studio Albums[edit]

Soundtrack Albums[edit]

Compilation Albums[edit]

Collaborative Albums[edit]

Film[edit]

  • The Dead Matter (2010)

In popular culture[edit]

Midnight Syndicate's composer credits include the scores to the films The Rage, The Dead Matter, and Axe Giant. Additionally, their music has been featured in television programs such as Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People of 2002, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, Monday Night Football, NBA on TNT, Syfy's The Possessed and Halloween-themed programs on the Travel Channel[35][47] including recently, the reality show Making Monsters.[48] The music has also been used as theme music in independent horror films like Dead & Rotting, Revamped, Witchouse 3: Demon Fire and Song of the Vampire (AKA Vampire Resurrection).[47]

It was used in the now-discontinued audio drama, The Byron Chronicles.[49]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Interview with Edward Douglas, FEARnet, October 2008.
  2. ^ Michael Gingold, "The Dead Matter: From Midnight music to a movie", Fangoria Magazine (New York, NY), August, 2010, Pg.6.
  3. ^ US Copyright office Midnight Syndicate album © date 1997-09-17
  4. ^ a b Interview with Gavin Goszka, Federico Marongiu, "Midnight Syndicate", Music Extreme (Argentina), 2001.
  5. ^ Charles Cassady, "On Fright Night and Beyond the Spookiest Sounds", West Life, October 25, 2006, Pg.11B.
  6. ^ Radio Interview with Joseph Vargo, Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka Station WERE 1300, (Cleveland, OH.), October 1998.
  7. ^ a b Interview with Edward Douglas, Paragon Magazine, October 2003.
  8. ^ a b c d e Cover story on Midnight Syndicate Leonard Pickel, "Midnight Syndicate: Setting the Mood for an Industry", Haunted Attraction Magazine (Charlotte, NC), June 2006, Pg. 24-28, 38-41
  9. ^ John Soeder, "Gothic Horror Rock Featured This Weekend", The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), March 2, 2000.
  10. ^ Jeff Niesel, "Soundbites", Scene Magazine (Cleveland, OH), October 14, 1999.
  11. ^ Interview with Midnight Syndicate Peter Iorillo, "Something Wicked This Way Comes", Dark Realms Magazine (Cleveland, OH.), Issue 1, January 2001, Pg. 20-23.]
  12. ^ Midnight Syndicate News
  13. ^ "Welcome". Utter Trash. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  14. ^ Bernard Van Isacker, "Midnight Syndicate: Success Comes From Within Yourself", Side-Line (Bruxelles, Belgium, July, 2005.
  15. ^ Midnight Syndicate Blog January 15, 2013
  16. ^ Midnight Syndicate News Archives July 30, 2007
  17. ^ IMDB.com listing for The Dead Matter
  18. ^ a b Carl E. Feather, "Syndicate Ready for Halloween", Star Beacon (Ashtabula, OH), October 8, 2008, Sec. B, Pg. B1.
  19. ^ Midnight Syndicate Video Shoot Update Gregory Burkhart, FEARnet News, March 12, 2010
  20. ^ Midnight Syndicate Spec-Ed DVD Gregory Burkhart, FEARnet News, May 27, 2010
  21. ^ FEARnet "Carnival Arcane" Gregory Burkart, August 15, 2011
  22. ^ Rondo Award Winners David Colton, April 3, 2012
  23. ^ Drive-In of the Dead Interview with Destini Beard Mark Zahn, June 20, 2012
  24. ^ Midnight Syndicate Blog - January 2013 January 15, 2013
  25. ^ The Wrath of Paul Bunyan Clips Start Swinging Steve Barton, June 13, 2013
  26. ^ Aaron Von Lupton, "Listen To My Nightmare", Rue Morgue (magazine) (Toronto, ON), August, 2013, Pg.61.
  27. ^ Midnight Syndicate Announces Live Halloween Show 'Legacy of Shadows' FEARnet, Gregory Burkart, March 14, 2014
  28. ^ Catch 'Midnight Syndicate Live!' At Cedar Point's HalloWeekends Bloody Disgusting, Jonathan Barkan, March 17, 2014
  29. ^ FEARnet interview with Edward Douglas, October 31, 2008.
  30. ^ Geek In the City GITC Interview with Edward Douglas, June 17, 2009
  31. ^ Black Gate Black Gate Interview with Edward Douglas, July 29, 2010
  32. ^ Creatures of the night come alive on new CD interview with Midnight Syndicate, Chronicle-Telegram, October 1998
  33. ^ Halloween Blues Interview with Gavin Goszka, October, 2010
  34. ^ Heather Adler, "Haunted Harmonies", Rue Morgue (Toronto, ON), Issue 50, Pg. 131
  35. ^ a b c d e Scream Kings Jason Bracelin, Scene Magazine (Cleveland, OH), May 25, 2005, Pg. 10-13.
  36. ^ Trevor Tuminski, "Hymns from the House of Horror", Rue Morgue (Toronto, ON), Issue 100, Pg.49.
  37. ^ Best Halloween Music CDs Sara Anderson, AOL Radio Blog
  38. ^ a b John Horton, "Scary Music Writers Accomplish Their Ghouls", The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), October 17, 2006, Sec. A, Pg. A1.
  39. ^ Jim Vickers, "Scream Songs", Cleveland Magazine (Cleveland, OH), October 2006, Pg. 30.
  40. ^ Jeffrey Lee, "Background Music for Role-playing Games," Examiner, August 5, 2009
  41. ^ The Origins Awards
  42. ^ Jennifer McKevitt, "Art of Darkness", News Herald (Mentor, OH), October 29, 2006, Sec. E, Pg.E1.
  43. ^ Carl E. Feather, "A little night music", Star Beacon (Ashtabula, OH), October 30, 2006, Sec. B, Pg. B1.
  44. ^ Van Helsing's Curse website
  45. ^ Midnight Syndicate's Van Helsing's Curse Store
  46. ^ Mark Koestner, "Dawn of his Dead", News Herald (Mentor, OH), July 30, 2010, Pg. C10.
  47. ^ a b IMDB.com listing for Midnight Syndicate
  48. ^ Midnight Syndicate Blog
  49. ^ Darker Projects website

External links[edit]