Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This week, we have a special treat (or is it a TRICK) for Halloween – the spine tingling ambience of Midnight Syndicate’s Born of the Night (Entity Productions). Astute readers will notice that this particular entry is not, in fact, metal. Or metallic hardcore. Or even industrial. It doesn’t even have guitars! It is, however, close enough to qualify for this column. It’s not like this magazine doesn’t cover Zombi and other similarly metal-adjacent acts, especially when that music is made by dudes who clearly have an impressive collection of King Diamond and Dead Can Dance vinyl next to their collection of obscure 80s horror movie VHS tapes. Hell, the intro track to every Cradle of Filth record sounds like this, so why not a whole album of dark ambient stuff?
Midnight Syndicate started, unsurprisingly, as the project of an Ohio-based zero-budget filmmaker named Edward Douglas. Apparently it was more fun to make the score for his horror movie that it was to make the actual movie, and so Midnight Syndicate was born. A project dedicated to making “soundtracks to imaginary films,” its self-titled debut was a weird hodgepodge of different styles that never really cohered. It wasn’t until Douglas hooked up with composer Gavin Goszka and (mediocre) fantasy artist Joseph Vargo and decided to go full-on John Carpenter that things got scary good.
1998’s Born of the Night succeeds in conjuring the creepy vibe of Goblin, prime John Carpenter, and whoever did the score for Phantasm II (see: “Dark Tower”) using those artists’ weapon of choice, the synthesizer. It’s tough to draw that feeling of dread out of the listener’s mind using that instruments without coming across as cheesy, and while they come perilously close at times, they ultimately stay out of that spike trap. Even though the album is intended to work as one piece, there are still some stand out tracks – the chilling “Darkness Descends,” gothic organ of “Gargoyles,” the epic, melancholy “Solemn Reflections.” Pretty memorable considering the source material doesn’t actually exist.
Midnight Syndicate aren’t exactly unsuccessful – they’ve carved out their own little cottage industry, and their music gets used all over the place, from Universal theme parks to Monday Night Football – plus they did the official Dungeons & Dragons soundtrack, for you super nerds out there. King Diamond even used this album as preshow music during some of his tours. That said, you probably had no idea it was them when you heard them. I guarantee the music found here influenced a thousand metal album intro tracks. So if you need a soundtrack for your Halloween party this weekend, you really can’t do any better than this (except I guess the score to Suspiria, but that’s pretty much the pinnacle of this stuff).