Home // Reviews Archive – Dungeons & Dragons CD
Bedlam Society (10 / 2003) – “This is probably their best work to date. It’s getting to a point were they sound like a full blown real orchestra. Think the game (probably sounds like something out of the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ soundtrack), now imagine the music in all it’s battling energy. Chants, tomming drums of despair, chimes, bells, gongs, all that is D&D. I personally can’t stand any of the role playing games but to have this in the background while throwin done your 12 sided die, certainly would get you tuned and ready to slay. Not to worry terror fans, this is only for one album, more horror to come. Conan, lets roll.”
Cannibal Cam – Bedlam Society
The Crimson (10 / 2003) – Fantasy Soundscape Takes Roleplaying Games to New Level – Fellow barbarians, bards, beastlords, clerics, druids, dwarves, elves, enchanters, halflings, magi, monks, necromancers, paladins, rangers, rogues, shamans, warriors, and wizards: At last, the air of your epic adventures shall be filled with a mystical and powerful soundscape appropriate for your heroic deeds and valiant travels! Such masterful music could only be delivered by Midnight Syndicate, who recently has been officially licensed by Hasbro Properties Group to produce an official soundtrack for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game.
Chances are you’ve already heard Midnight Syndicate’s music before without even realizing it. Most famous for their horror soundscapes, including Born of the Night and Realm of Shadows, Midnight Syndicate is most commonly used in the haunted attraction industry. In 2002, their music was used in hundreds of such attractions, including EVERY major theme park company in America (e.g., Anheuser-Busch, Sea World, Six Flags, Universal Studios, Paramount, etc.); Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion also offered sales of the CDs outside their own gate. Midnight Syndicate’s music has been used in the pre-show for King Diamond, at Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Mansion Halloween parties, in an Alice Cooper short film, a number of theater and film productions, and even The Today Show and Monday Night Football. MS took home the Best Gothic Act two consecutive years from the Cleveland Free Times, and won the Best Music award at the 2001 Spotlight on Theater Awards in New York. And of course, Halloween is MS’s prime time; Halloween 2001 saw MS’s six singles in the Top 20 positions for most downloads on MP3.com, including the #1 and #2 spots
“But horror music, isn’t that basically Goth?” you wonder. Nay, I say, not black lipstick & jet-black hair scare-your-roommate kinda Goth. The orchestration and style of Midnight Syndicate’s music qualify its two members, Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka, as masterfully skilled composers whose works simply are generally written in minor keys. Many of the great composers of ages past wrote similar works in the same similarly eerie minor keys. One of the most famous: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Last time I checked, Bach wasn’t Goth.
Those familiar with MS may have discovered how well the music fits in the background of any popular role-playing game. An admitted Diablo 2 addict (I’ve recently gone cold turkey and have successfully fought off the addiction…for now), I discovered this almost immediately. The dark, haunting, ethereal music made the perfect soundtrack during my quest for dominion of good over evil. The sound of my sword (beware the quadruple-socketed Stimpy’s Savage Rune Sword of Gore!) unleashed upon the minions of hell could not be accompanied by any more ideal background music…until now.
Midnight Syndicate has expanded their genre music to now not only include horror, but fantasy as well. Songs of troubles, destiny, good, evil, cunning, valor, conflict, magic, secrets, and enchanted mystery fill the Dungeons & Dragons Official Roleplaying Soundtrack. “The D&D soundtrack is just amazing,” claims Design Manager Ed Stark, “Every track really touches on something core to the Dungeons & Dragons experience. You can cue up single tracks and run them to repeat for particular scenes, or you can just let the music play in the background.”
Upon trying out the D&D Soundtrack while feeding my Diablo 2 addiction, I found myself becoming more wrapped up in the game than usual (as if that were possible). The dark in each dungeon became more ominous, each evil beast more menacing, each treasure more valuable, each liberated soul more virtuous.
Although I’ve never played an official version of Dungeons & Dragons, I believe this music would have a similar effect for those who play. The same applies to any D&D-esque roleplaying game, like Diablo, Everquest, Balder’s Gate, Morowind, and Magic: The Gathering. Whether it’s on paper, on a computer, on cards, or just played with your imagination and verbal storytelling, this soundtrack not only fits, it BELONGS.
Of course, the CD need not accompany gameplay. It is perfectly fine for a simple relaxing break to let your imagination write the story to which the music corresponds. After all, this is Ed and Gavin’s goal, to “create music that stimulates listeners’ imaginations, transporting them to worlds and movies of their own creation.”
Midnight Syndicate has four previous albums solely dedicated to the goal of creating “gothic/horror soundscapes for the imagination.” The first of these was Born of the Night, released in 1998. The setting of the album is a Dark Tower on a rocky mountain, which few have explored and none have returned. The music takes you on a journey deep into its dungeons… The next album, Realm of Shadows, guides the listener down from the Dark Tower, past Raven’s Hollow, and through the ruins of a village known for strange shadows and a curse. The third album finds the listener en route to the Gates of Delirium at Haverghast Asylum, where the new tenant may find out if the terrible legends of Haverghast are true… The fourth, released August 2002, is Vampyre: Symphonies from the Crypt. Its ethereal tunes take the listener through a cemetery and into the catacombs, where mystery and horror await…
Andy Sokol – The Crimson
DnD Gate (Germany) (11 / 2003) – “Even though the music on this CD comes out of Computer and Synthesizer, it is truly excellent and in all cases perfectly arranged. These Arrangements can easily mess with the commercial big Soundtracks from movies and TV. Because of it’s general theme the CD is outstanding good suitable to be used at roleplaying sessions – either as mood-based songs for single scenes or as background music for the complete session. So far the CD has reached its goal – being suitable for Fantasy-Roleplaying Games. But the included music is also suitable for being listened as a normal CD without playing roles (preferable turn up the volume, darken the room, lighten some candles and close your eyes for this!). Rating 4.7 out of 5.”
Gordon Gurray – DnD Gate (Germany)
Darker Than The Bat (Belgium) (10 / 2003) – “Midnight Syndicate has released the first officially licensed soundtrack to the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game. The game was originally released in 1974 and is now in its third edition. Featuring the signature blend of orchestral instrumental music and carefully crafted sound effects, the CD is designed to be a simple yet dynamic way to lead you through the game. Twenty one tracks plus two bonus tracks are a nice gift by Douglas and Goszka. A usual each one of them provides some track but this time you can also a song they worked on together (Behind Door). With this new masterpiece they go more into the direction of modern classical composers such as Trevor Jones. Still the typical Midnight Syndicate gothic horror touch is still there added with samples and even some spoken words in Craft Of The Wizard. More than one hour of great dark atmospheric soundscapes and orchestral music that could accompany any dark scene you have in mind. Excellent!”
Peter-Jan Van Damme – Darker Than The Bat (Belgium)
Living Dead Girls (09 / 2003) – The new release from Midnight Syndicate, Dungeons & Dragons, is a series of 23 recordings to accompany Wizards of the Coast, Inc.’s Dungeon & Dragons Role Playing Games. With a new audience comes a new voice from Midnight Syndicate. With the first track the duo of Goska and Douglas make clear that Dungeons & Dragons is not simply a redressed gothic horror album. Dungeons & Dragons makes much more use of percussive elements than previous Midnight Syndicate recordings, both in instruments and in the rhythmic elements of the songs. This cd shows Midnight Syndicate using more than the classic cymbol crash to emphasise a harmonic change, but actually uses bass drums, snares, timpanis and even samples of marching boots to create some of Midnight Syndicate’s most impressive rhythmic motives. These motives work their way into both the melody as well as the percussive elements of the songs, creating a CD that is less like a static atmosphere and more like a progressing storyline.
The Dungeons & Dragons release brings a wider range of songs than Midnight Syndicate produces for their Gothic Horror Soundtracks. Gozska and Douglas have proven their sense of musical appropriateness and for me proven themselves as talented composers beyond the field of Horror. Dungeons & Dragons displays for the first time the diversity and musical craft Midnight Syndicate is capable. The duo has a true insight for music, and masterful skill which realizes their vision.
Living Dead Girls
Movement Magazine (10 / 2003) – Anyone who has been reading my reviews over the last several years should know that I really love these guys. They have crafted some of the finest gothic/horror soundtrack music that I have had the pleasure of listening to. And, ever since I first heard their music I have been saying that with talent like this, it won’t be long before they start getting noticed. Well, I was right. Not only has their music been used at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, but it has been used on The Today Show, Monday Night Football, Playboy Mansion Parties (Hope the guys got invited!) and the opening music for black metal guru King Diamond. Now, Wizards of the Coast has commissioned the lads (Edward Douglas/Gavin Goszka) to create the official soundtrack to the Dungeons and Dragons Role Playing Game (I wish they had done the soundtrack to the movie, then at least there would be one good thing about it.) Now, just because this says it’s for a game, does not mean you have to be a gamer to enjoy it. If you have been listening to their previous works then you won’t be disappointed this time around. And, if you thought they created nightmarish horror music soundscapes, then just wait till you hear what they can do with a fantasy background as their inspiration!
As with most of their CD’s, Ed & Gavin try to create a basis for a story within the music. However, they encourage the listener to envision whatever idea’s and feelings the music create’s within their own imagination. The journey is for the listener, the music just sets the stage.
The song titles certainly do read like the chapters of a novel, each one trying to capture the perfect mood for the title of each track. I can hear some familiar sounds from some of the bands earlier CDs, but the music has taken on an epic flavor which works beautifully for the albums premise. There are some powerful moments on the album, take for example Skirmish, Heroes’ Valor, Deep Trouble, and my favorite Beast of the Borderlands which sounds so close the opening strains from the Conan soundtrack, that it’s scary. These songs conjure up images of armies doing battle, daring rescues, and confrontations with terrifying monsters from the nether regions of fantasy lore. Then there are the quiet moments that create an atmosphere of tension and awe as you visualize ancient magic being summoned, or the ruins of forgotten cities being discovered. A good example of this would be Craft Of The Wizard, Secret Chamber, and Ancient Temple. I could have easily seen these guys scoring the Lord Of The Rings Soundtrack (no I’m not kidding) ,and they do it all with synthesizers! They managed to make all the arrangements sound very symphonic which really adds to the flavor of this CD.There are even some neat samples of battle sounds (Final Confrontation ) and right after the very last track you can hear the sounds of rolling dice which I thought was hilarious.
Once again Ed & Gavin have outdone themselves with another spectacular album. They have shifted perfectly from horror to fantasy with no problems, and created a wonderful soundtrack for the fantasy film of your mind. As I stated earlier, you don’t have to be a role playing veteran to enjoy this CD. If you are just a fan of great soundtracks then trust me, you’ll love this album! And, with a total of twenty three tracks you definitely get your money’s worth! Where can I get this fantastic CD you ask? Well, try the bands website for starters www.midightsyndicate.com, or several mail order music outlets such as Amazon, CD Baby, Metropolis Records, and Isolation Tank. If you just can’t wait for mail order, then try your local Hot Topic and Spencer Gift stores as they stock the band’s CDs on a regular basis. Anyway, just go out and buy it ok? Now, would someone please send Peter Jackson a copy!
Chris Harvey – Movement Magazine
Paragon Magazine Interview with Edward Douglas (10 / 2003) – Ahh, nothing satisfies more this time of year than a good scare, right? We all look for it. for some reason, we purposely seek getting a little bit of a frightful thrill around Halloween. That’s what makes the season so much fun. Well, while you’re out this year shopping for your Halloween decorations, be sure to pick up a CD by Midnight Syndicate. These guys know how to send chills down your spine. And they don’t need cheesy, cliche sound effects or twisted voices to get the job done. They take music to a whole new level. Try listening to a CD of theirs while you’re alone in a dark room, or out driving through some dimly lit backroad. Fun stuff….
Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka, the geniuses behind this extraordinary musical soundscape called Midnight Syndicate know exactly what they’re doing. And because of their love of horror movies and scary stories, they know how to invoke emotions within their listeners that will leave you pretty paranoid of the dark. Their music is a favorite this time of year, featured especially at haunted attractions. Some of you have probably already been to Halloween stores this time of year where a Midnight Syndicate CD was blaring. The music creates the perfect atmosphere to scare the shit out of someone.
But Midnight Syndicate’s music goes beyond just being All Hallow’s Eve’s soundtrack. Check out their discography. They’ve got six albums of terror and imaginary journeys through darkness that’ll excited you no matter what time of the year it is.
Paragon got the opportunity to interview Edward Douglas who helped us understand much better how they are able to produce the music they do consistently. We’d like to think we successfully tapped into Ed’s mind just enough to see why he’s so great at what he does.
Midnight Syndicate is a very distinctive group, producing “soundtracks for the imagination,” that stun and horrify the listener. How did you guys form Midnight Syndicate, and what gave you the innovative idea to create such unique albums? Who was it that stood up one day and said, “Lets take some background music, throw in some eerie sound effects, and make people feel as if they are living a horror movie!?”
E: When I developed the idea for Midnight Syndicate in 1991, the goal was to create music that would transport the listener to a world or movie of their own creation – music that would provide an escape from reality. Originally it was not all dark and orchestral as we’ve become known for. The first CD, ‘Midnight Syndicate’ (1997) was a mixture of rock, rap, industrial, and new age among other styles. All over the place musically and thematically but tied together by the goal of creating this alternate world. Unfortunately the themes and styles of music were too eclectic and too varied for the disc to be completely effective. It was after that disc that I decided to do an album with a more focused theme and sound. The dark instrumental tracks on that first disc were the strongest (and my favorite) so the dark sound of Midnight Syndicate took from there. Additionally, at the time there were no good Halloween CDs. You had the cruddy $1 sound effect cassettes and the Monster Mash-type compilations but no real good quality, instrumental Halloween music offerings. We saw it as the perfect avenue to help take our music to the fans without having to rely on traditional methods (like radio, concerts) which we realized wouldn’t work for what we were doing.
It’s quite difficult to categorize the work you do, so how would you describe yourselves?
E: Gothic Fantasy Nightmare Soundtracks – I have to include the word “Fantasy” in there now after the ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ CD which definitely has more fantasy elements than the more strictly horror-themed discs we’ve done to this point. The CDs we do blend orchestral instrumental music with select sound effects designed specifically to immerse the listener in this imaginary world that we try and create.
Obviously, your albums aren’t the type that would be found in stores like Sam Goody. Nor are your songs the type that would be heard on the radio. Where do you want your music to go? Are there any particular audiences or groups of people that you’d like to reach with your music?
E: Our fans are a diverse group. We have a lot of heavy metal and gothic music fans that enjoy our discs. Additionally there are a lot of Halloween and Horror Movie aficionados and artists in the Haunted Attraction industry that make up a good part of our following.
Have you reached these goals? Where can your music be heard, and where can your albums be purchased?
E: Every year things are getting bigger, which is good to see. Halloween is a big time for us. We’ve been used on Monday Night Football and The Today Show during this time of the year. We’ve also had our music used for Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Mansion Halloween parties and as pre-show music for King Diamond’s world tour in 2001. Each year the music is licensed for use in hundreds of haunted attractions worldwide. In addition to the many great independently operated haunted houses, this year’s list includes Universal Studios, Paramount Parks, Six Flags, Sea World, Cedar Faire, and Busch Gardens. As far as purchasing the CDs, most good Halloween outlets carry our music – the largest being, Spencer Gifts. During the rest of the year, people can find our discs online as well as through gaming/hobby stores and at Hot Topic stores that have music departments. In 2004 we will be showing up in more independent record stores as we work to make our music more readily available outside of the Halloween season.
All of your albums delve deeply in the darkest places of the human mind, and evoke some of the most terrifying emotions through the music and the sound effects within it. You do this in tracks that range from several seconds to a few minutes in length, without the aid of any lyrics, and hardly any vocals, aside from spoken word verses, correct? How do you produce album after album of such an intense, dark nature? Does dark imagery and sound appeal to you both? What inspires the music?
E: I think that both Gavin and I have dark sides that we like to explore. For as long as I can remember I’ve been into ghost stories, horror movies, and gothic/horror/fantasy imagery. That being the case, when it comes time to express myself artistically, the darker music comes naturally. We draw inspiration from a lot of sources but mainly from those I just mentioned. I love Hammer horror films, the art of Joseph Vargo, Alchemy, and Keith Parkinson, as well as Stephen King, Tales from the Crypt comic books, and roleplaying games.
Your albums can also be considered soundtracks to horror movies, and each album has its own unique theme (Vampires, Asylums, Hauntings, etc.) Are you guys into horror movies and stories? Is your music a sort of release for your imaginations and darkest thoughts?
E: Of all the sources of inspiration, horror films and their scores are probably the biggest for us. John Carpenter, Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal, Wojciech Kilar, and Hans Zimmer, are just some of the great composers that have had a huge influence on our music. The imagery and stories that appear in the movies also supplies plenty of ideas. The CDs are definitely releases for our imaginations and the goal is that it will do the same for our listeners.
Two of your albums, Born of the Night and Realm of Shadows, mention a place called the Dark Tower. Gates of Delirium takes place at Haverghast Asylum. Tell us more about these places. Where did they come from and what inspired them?
E: All of the albums’ settings take place in the fictitious world of Linfaldia which was conceptualized while first putting together the concept for Midnight Syndicate. The Dark Tower, the setting for ‘Born of the Night’, was thought up by Joseph Vargo. A few years later, he even released a book of short stories called ‘Tales from the Dark Tower’ which all revolve that setting. ‘The Born of the Night’ disc and book compliment each other nicely for a good nighttime read. ‘Realm of Shadows’ is set in the town of Arcacia which was referenced in several songs on the first self-titled CD and accompanying live shows. Haverghast Asylum was inspired by turn of the century asylums that Gavin and I toured before beginning writing for that disc. There’s a map in ‘Realm of Shadows’ and ‘Gates of Delirium’ that give clues as to how these three places tie into each other.
Who writes the chilling descriptions found on the back of each album?
E: Artist, Joseph Vargo wrote the descriptions for the back ‘Born of the Night’ and ‘Realm of Shadows’ as well as the narration that is performed on those two discs. Since then, it’s been me although I called in a writer to help with the ‘Dungeons & Dragons’disc. We spend a lot of time on song titles and the text in the packaging. We try and give enough information to spark the imagination but hopefully not too much as to limit the listener’s interpretation of the CD.
Another great thing about your albums is the artwork. Describe for us the artists that you’ve worked with, and the art that they created for your albums. It’s important to have art that complements the music, so what do you look for in an artist and his/her work when considering them for your album art?
E: Well Joseph Vargo was more than just the artist for the first two discs. He was integrally involved with the production of ‘Born of the Night’ from its inception to its completion. Not as much musically but as far as developing the cohesive look of the disc, adding the voice-over elements and working as a kind of Executive Producer. That role carried over to a lesser degree with ‘Realm of Shadows’ as well. I had originally approached Joseph because I really liked the traditional gothic styling of his artwork. It helped that he was based in Cleveland too so we could meet in person and work hand-in-hand on the project. For ‘Gates of Delirium’, we wanted to integrate more actual photos on the packaging and offer a different look. Mark Rakocy (who did the design for ‘Midnight Syndicate’) is one of the finest graphic designers and photo manipulators I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. The silhouette shot of Gavin and I that he developed during that period has become the trademark Midnight Syndicate image we still use to this day. When it came time to design the packaging for ‘Vampyre’ we wanted to go back to a more traditional feel. Keith Parkinson is, simply put, one of my favorite artists – Gavin’s as well. The work he did on the D&D module Temple of Elemental Evil is a personal favorite and exactly what we were looking for the disc. We knew he could do a tremendous job and he did. I was extremely happy with the end product. Like Joseph, his style is an excellent reflection of what Midnight Syndicate is all about. For ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ we ended up using material from all the D&D rulebooks and accessories. I’ve always been a huge fan of Dungeons & Dragons artwork so having free reign on that material was fun.
Your latest release, Dungeons and Dragons, is actually a soundtrack for the role-playing game, in addition to being a separate Midnight Syndicate release. How did this collaboration come about?
E: For years, roleplayers have been using our discs as background for their gaming sessions – especially for the darker-themed games like Ravenloft, Call of Cthulu, and Vampire: The Masquerade. Support grew to the point that we started setting up at gaming conventions in 2001. It was at our first show that one of the heads of Wizards of the Coast came up to us and asked if we would be interested in doing a soundtrack specifically for Dungeons & Dragons. Needless to say we were very excited by the opportunity. Not only were we fans of the game but Dungeons & Dragons sessions often provided inspiration for the music on some of our other discs. The writing for the D&D disc came very natural and working with the developers at Wizards of the Coast was great.
Tell us about the process you go through when writing the material for your albums. Do you guys work together or separately, producing your own songs, or helping each other?
E: First we decide upon the setting that we are trying to create and then fill in as many details on that setting as we can. After that we both go to our own studios and write for the disc. Although we write separately, we continually bounce ideas off each other throughout the process to make sure that what we are doing is cohesive and on track for the disc. Once all the material is written and arranged we come together and work together on the mixing and mastering processes.
What instruments do you use to obtain such eerie, deep, and sometimes spine-chilling sounds? How do you choose exactly which sounds to use at certain times to create the perfect atmosphere within the music?
E: I think instrument choice comes naturally. When you have a specific image or setting that you are writing towards, the sounds and sometimes even melodies fall in line themselves. Before I begin writing, I pick pictures and images that I feel reflect the world I’m trying to create musically and keep them near to me in the studio. I think that helps me maintain focus. For the Dungeons & Dragons disc I had the floor covered with D&D module covers and artwork.
Where do you see Midnight Syndicate going in the future? Are you planning on releasing more albums?
E: Absolutely. Although it may not be released until February of 2005, we are already developing rough ideas for the next disc. It’s early right now but we’ll definitely be going back to our more horror-stylings on this one. We plan on taking a little longer with the production and make it something really special. We both have some ideas already and are looking forward to starting work on that towards the end of this year.
Are you satisfied with how far Midnight Syndicate has come thus far, or are you striving for higher levels of success?
E: I am really happy with our progress so far but know that there’s still a lot left to do. Because of our style of music, it is very hard to tour, or get spins in clubs and radio. As a result, there are still a lot of people out there looking for the kind of music that we do that don’t know about Midnight Syndicate. Fortunately for us, we have some of the greatest fans in the world. Word-of-mouth is critical for us so their spreading the word and turning others on to what we’re doing has allowed us to grow and continue producing CDs. As far as other future plans, I’d like to explore scoring films. I produced an independent horror film called ‘The Dead Matter’ in 1996. Scoring the production was the highlight for me. I’m very interested in pursuing that area further although to this point, our schedule hasn’t allowed us to take on any additional projects.
Do you ever perform your music live?
E: I think the most difficult element to Midnight Syndicate is the fact that, because of our style of music, we can’t just walk into a bar or venue, set up, and start playing. Making personal contact with your fans is really important to an artist and not being able to do that has been very frustrating (especially over the past three years). Most bands that have been fortunate enough to see sales and support like we have, have already toured the US and Europe. We haven’t played out since before ‘Born of the Night’.
We did do a show in March of 1998. It was a multimedia concert to promote the first ‘Midnight Syndicate’ (self-titled) album. The concert blended original film, live music, computer animation, and theatrics. It was a very involved and resource-intensive project. So much so that it has really held us back from developing a new one. We were considering it at the end of 2001 but when we looked at our time schedule we had to choose: develop a show and tour or release a new CD. We couldn’t do both. Needless to say we decided it best to begin writing for ‘Vampyre’ since it had already almost been a year since ‘Gate of Delirium’s release. Production on ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ began almost immediately after ‘Vampyre’ finished.
What are you planning on doing this Halloween? It has to be your favorite holiday!
E: It is. I’ll be hitting plenty of haunted houses in our area and renting a ton of horror flicks for midnight viewings. We just had our first child, Mary Kate, earlier this year so we’ll be getting her dressed up and taking her out for her first trick-or-treating adventure.
Lisa – Paragon Magazine