(Review) Carnival Arcane by Midnight Syndicate

Carnival ArcaneCarnival Arcane, the new studio album from Gothic horror soundtrack musicians Midnight Syndicate, might be a high point in the band’s already stellar and legendary career.

With Carnival Arcane, band members Edward Douglas and Gavin Goska mine the sights, sounds, fun, and pervasive darkness of popular carnival music. What they have produced is a memorable and lengthy album (25 tracks all told) that blends historical realism with the recognizable fantastic elements that has helped make Midnight Syndicate one of the most popular instrumental-only groups in the world.

The music here represents the widest range and scope that I’ve heard from Ed and Gavin. The CD opens with a rush, a “Welcome to the Carnival” that pulsates with dark energy and foreboding. Immediately after “Canvas Wonderland” invites the listener into a light, melodic… bouncy trance with a drumbeat that marches you right along into the heart of the album.

By this point, you will recognize that Carnival Arcane is doing more than presenting a theme or ideas with its music. We’re becoming part of a horror story that Douglas and Goska are sharing. This blending of narrative and music is what pushes Carnival Arcane from being an excellent pastiche of carnival themed tunes into a rare beast that deserves your attention.

Standout tracks include “Dr. Atmore’s Elixirs of Good Humour and Fortification” (jaunty and fun!), “Alura the Snake Lady” (a Middle Eastern epic that will have you thinking of Charlton Heston…), “Under the Big Top” (another that reminds me of a 70s classic–The Prisoner), and an untitled track at the end of the album that puts a nice, quiet creepy punctuation to the whole experience.

My favorite is the melodic and menacing “Freakshow”. Soft, discordant piano playing accompanies some rather creepy whistling with what sounds like a mal-adjusted accordion cranking in the background. And yet, this might be the song that will bring more mainstream fans to Midnight Syndicate due to the craftsmanship on display.

“Having done this for almost fifteen years now, we really wanted to push the boundaries for this ‘imaginary soundtrack’ style we’ve created by further integrating the sound design with the music,” states Douglas. “This feels more like a ‘virtual movie’ than anything we’ve done before.” To that extent, I fully agree.

The CD is available now through the band’s website, as well as iTunes and Amazon.com. It will be available at select Hot Topic stores starting August 8th and at Halloween retailers, including Halloween Express and Halloween City, this September.

Buy Carnival Arcane from Amazon

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