The winter holiday season is layer upon layer of tradition and symbol drawn from disparate cultures over thousands of years, pagan and Christian, natural and supernatural, Yule and Christmas, Winter Solstice and the birth of Christ, with common themes of rebirth, renewal, reconnection, reckoning, and redemption. Like its evil twin Halloween, Christmas is also about spirit intruding into the world of flesh, with Halloween shrouded in eerie darkness while Christmas is bathed in sacred light.
The Victorians, who shaped our modern Christmas, sensed a deep connection between the eerie and the sacred. They also saw the icy chill and stillness of winter as analogous to death. As a result, the telling of ghost stories was as integral to their holiday as boughs of holly, sleigh rides, St Nicholas, and presents. The most popular Christmas story of all — besides that of the birth of Christ, of course — is a Victorian ghost story that happens to have a happy ending, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The continued popularity of A Christmas Carol and its many popular culture adaptations assures us that the Victorian Christmas ghost story tradition carries on, though in forms we might not always recognize as such.
And so to Midnight Syndicate’s new instant classic album, Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering, wherein the leading tunesmiths of Halloween bring their spooky sensibility to Christmastide. For almost two decades, Northeast Ohio-native composers Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka have been known as Midnight Syndicate, creating symphonic, gothy soundtracks to real and imaginary horror films that have become a staple of haunted attractions, amusement parks, stores, and homes worldwide throughout the Halloween season. In 2014 they branched out to perform live for the first time, bringing their thrilling musical show, Legacy of Shadows, to Cedar Point for its 18th annual HalloWeekends seasonal event.
In Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering, the gothy duo arrange and perform a wide variety of seasonal favorites and a few originals that work remarkably well as a soundtrack for Yuletide festivities, and as a satisfying expression of their ever-expanding musical and recording sophistication. The scene is set evocatively: “As fierce winter winds cut across the frozen landscape, a welcoming golden glow beckons from the windows of a venerable country mansion. Decorated in the festive trappings of Yule, its stately walls seem to offer a much-needed respite for the weary traveler. But the holiday spirits are restless and eager for company this night, as the haunting strains of melodies old and new call forth from the shadows.”
Lovers of Christmas music in general will appreciate their exquisitely produced, alternately lovely, stirring, haunting, and festive holiday reveries. And the band’s loyal fans will enjoy the subtle subversion of the whole affair, where the shift from major to minor key can make all the difference in mood and tone.
In keeping with their Victorian, steampunkish vision of the holiday, most of the compositions covered are 19th century or earlier traditional carols or classical pieces, including “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “Greensleeves,” “Coventry Carol,” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” Original highlights include Douglas’s brooding “Night of the Krampus” and Goszka’s gusty “Winter Storm.”
Midnight Syndicate has made the season their own – the Christmas spirits of past, present and future will approve.
READ MORE “WEIRD CHRISTMAS”:
Talking Weird Christmas Customs with Gerry Bowler on After Hours AM/America’s Most Haunted Radio
Werewolves of Yule
Mari Lwyd – The Party Animal Horse Skull of Wales
Krampus – The Rise of the Anti-Claus
Talking Krampus with Novelist Richard Kadrey on After Hours AM/America’s Most Haunted Radio
The Yule Log
The Macabre Adventures of St. Nicholas
Santa Claus and the Magic Mushroom
Midnight Syndicate on After Hours AM/America’s Most Haunted Radio
SCROOGED Should Be On Your Christmas Horror List
by Midnight Syndicate [Linfaldia Records]
by Midnight Syndicate [Linfaldia Records]