Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Christmas is a Time of Ghosts

 A Review Midnight Syndicate's Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering
By Shane Parkey

             It seems like every year as soon as Halloween is over, if not sooner, you can’t walk into a store, restaurant, or elevator without being inundated by Christmas music. Every year it seems to start sooner and sooner, and it’s really easy to get burned out on the holiday spirit when all you hear is some Christmas standard being destroyed by the latest flavor of the month pop star. Enter Midnight Syndicate. The duo, known individually as Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka, are mostly known for their soundtrack work on haunted rides, video games, and movie scores. This year, deciding to branch out from their gloomy roots and release their first Christmas album, Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering, they would take a chance and put their own minor-key spin on some classic Christmas tunes and throw in some original themed compositions, as well. 

What happened is a Christmas miracle.

              Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering is exactly that. The songs on this album call back to a time when the Christmas season was more about the gathering together of loved ones and reflecting on the year that had passed and not the over-commercialized spectacle we have all been led to believe that it is in past years. The opening song “Christmas Overture” welcomes you in, but at the same time, catches you slightly off-guard and lets you know this isn’t Bing Crosby. From there, the group takes you on a holiday-themed dark ride that at one moment will make you smile with joy, then in another make you tear up from the memory of a lost loved one or a long gone memory from a Christmas past. Christmas standards such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Greensleeves” are given new life with beautiful arrangements, while the normally campy “Up on the Housetop” is given a dirge-like quality that may have you believing it’s Krampus with a bag of sticks and not the jolly ol’ elf who’s paying you a visit this year. The rest of the album follows suit with a healthy mix of re-imagined standards (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “The Parade of the Tin Soldiers”) and original tunes (“Little Helpers”, “Winter Storm”) that stand shoulder to shoulder with the re-arranged and re-imagined classics. 

             When asked about their approach to a Christmas album, Goszka said “Our goal was to treat each song in a way that would merge familiarity with originality” and (to) “…make this collection uniquely their own”. Midnight Syndicate has done exactly that with this album. This is a collection of songs that you could put on as a soundtrack to your holiday festivities, but would be equally at home as you sit by the Christmas tree glow in the darkness while communing with the Yuletide spirits.

            The holiday season, and Christmas especially, is an emotional time of year for a lot of people for a variety of reasons. That theme plays a large part in the sonic landscape of this album. Happiness, sadness, joy, melancholy, elation, and gloom are just a few of the emotions that are reflected in these songs, yet no singular emotion overtakes another, much like most of us at Christmas time. It is the ability to weave the fine line between the light and dark sides of the holidays, at least musically, that makes Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering one of the best albums, holiday or not, that this author has heard in recent memory.     

For more info on Midnight Syndicate, go to www.MidnightSyndicate.com

Shane Parkey is Mortis' Resident Musicologist and host of our monthly music segment, The House of Wax. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneParkey and follow The House of Wax @MortisWax. 

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This article may not be duplicated or reproduced without express written consent of its author, Shane Parkey, or Mortis Media.

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