What is it about music that can so suddenly and so drastically change how you feel?
In their fifth album, Shade of Night, horror music creator and aficionado, Daniel Edenfield of The Night Keep makes simple sounds – which would be powerless in isolation – interact and conspire to fill you with a sense of foreboding, dread and fear. The sheer range of music on this album is impressive and, added to the audio story, makes for a (dare I say it) unmissable indulgence for the horror enthusiast.
That is how I see Shade of Night –
as something that you should listen to, not just as a fan of horror music but as a fan of HORROR.
As someone who likes being terrified, and who yearns for an experience that makes me see shapes in the darkness when I am alone, Shade of Night gave me my fill!
Shade of Night, the Album
There are 44 tracks on Shade of Night, spread across more than four-and-a-half hours of audio, making it considerably larger than The Night Keep’s previous albums, In Musicka and Heretica.
15 of these tracks are the audio for the story, with 23 music tracks setting the mood and the scene between them. A 6-minute Shade of Night title track by vocalist Francessca Belisario rounds up the music.
There are also 5 tracks of bonus features, documentaries, footage and gag reels. A 15-page companion book is also included.
In keeping with The Night Keep style, the music tracks on Shade of Night are mostly instrumental, which works perfectly to create a dark vibe, devoid of human interaction. Haunting Gregorian chants and their lack of recognizable and distinguishable words add to that sentiment. The sole vocal music track is the last one, Francessca Belisario’s title track.
I liked that Shade of Night does not overload on “Boo! Scared you!” with every single track. There is a beginning, middle and end to a horror music album, as there would be in a horror book or movie. This approach complements the audio story well.
The first music track, Southbound, is almost uplifting. Almost. There is still that sense of impending doom that the beat and instruments convey so you don’t forget to what genre you are listening.
The next two, Through the Woods and House on the Hill are quite similar, both in tone and the combination of synth sounds and Gregorian chants (something The Night Keep consistently uses on all its albums).
The tone of the music gets darker as the story does, and by the track A Darker Picture‘, the horror is heavy. What sounds like a tolling bell and intermittent erratic horn heighten the feeling of imperilment. From the first chords of One Portrait Remains, the last track, you know things are horribly, horribly wrong.
Too few horror film scores ever get the recognition they deserve but it is good that music in isolation, without the distracting visuals, can have the same effect on the audience as a film.
Shade of Night is a combination of a horror music album and audio story. Set on Halloween night 1984, it tells the tale of several lives (and deaths) as they intersect at Enfield Manor, a mansion with a disturbing past.
As far as basic plot outlines go, I just described thousands of horror stories and films. However, it is the audio medium and its execution that set this album apart.
Central to the tale are two young boys who have in their possession tapes created by a paranormal investigation team which recently disappeared while exploring the manor. Eager to tell a tale of daring Halloween adventure and exploration to their school friends, the pair intend to record themselves inside the sinister, crumbling edifice.
The other main characters are a reporter and cameraman working for the local radio station, covering the legend of the manor for a Halloween special. They are in audio contact with the studio, where the DJ is interviewing local history and paranormal experts between live links to the duo at the scene.
Back stories of those who entered the manor on that day and in recent years are interspersed with tales of whose presence at the site centuries before laced its atmosphere with malice and malevolence.
We learn of Josiah Enfield, the man with a shadowy past and macabre obsessions who built the manor on a spot where blood had been spilt for untold ages. There is the tale of his female companion, who many suspected of being his mistress and her own sinister history tainted with accusations of witchcraft. Then, there are the tragic lives of Josiah’s five wives and many children.
As the story progresses, the two pairs of modern-day characters arrive and enter the grounds of Enfield Manor. They sometimes seem to catch sounds from the others and come across signs of their presence, and that of people who disappeared there in the recent past.
The dilapidated structure turns out to be a labyrinth of passages and illogical architectural design, adding to the sense of foreboding that starts to creep into everyone there. The music tracks have the same effect on the listener.
What’s a horror story without a twist ending, right? Well, you will get one here and it will literally reframe everything that you pictured from the moment you started to listen to the album.
I am a visually-oriented person and found myself yearning for a movie to accompany the music and dialogue. That is not a complaint – I think it is the highest praise I can heap upon a form of media that I have just begun to explore (and enjoy).
A curious thing I noticed, which sort of is still bothering me, was that there is sound on tracks that you would ordinarily miss if you did not know it was there.
It was by pure chance I caught it. My eye was drawn to the dancing spectrogram of my laptop’s music player while there was seemingly silence on the track. Maybe it was intentional, left there as an Easter Egg, maybe it is just a recording error. Maybe the album artists don’t even know that it is there.
I won’t say where it is on the album but if you do buy Shade of Night, listen to it with the spectrogram on.
I take a very critical eye to anything horror. Good horror makes you think; not philosophy, but about the ‘what ifs’. It makes you fear the darkness in your familiar bedroom and laugh at yourself the next morning, even when you know the dread will return with the coming night’s blackness.
Anyone who has read my film reviews knows that I am a caustic critic (even if I temper them somewhat before publishing). Lame-a$$ crap masquerading as horror, particularly from those morons in Hollywood, irritates me because it disgraces the genre.
There is no doubting The Night Keep’s experience in the genre – with Shade of Night, they have released over 100 horror tracks. The skillful blend of overt and restrained infusions of sounds that jar you into fear are testament to their talent and creativity. The imagination and sheer effort that went into creating Shade of Night in its entirety is truly mind-boggling.
To me, either do horror right or don’t do it at all….
The Night Keep’s Shade of Night album does it right!
You can find out more about The Night Keep, as well as show your support for all the awesome work they do by visiting their sites below:
Official Website: http://nightkeep.com/
Band Camp: Listen on Band Camp
Spotify: Listen on Spotify
Sound Cloud: Listen on Sound Cloud
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