To usher in last Halloween season, Midnight Syndicate released new music with Bloodlines. Members Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka continue the story of the enigmatic Haverghast family, which they first introduced in 2001’s Gates of Delirium. The mini-album adds another layer to their narrative and is a prequel to the 2005 recording The 13th Hour. I’ve listened to it several times and the effects are chilling!
Avid listeners of Midnight Syndicate may be familiar with The 13th Hour. For those who haven’t heard it, The 13th Hour takes you inside a haunted Victorian mansion, painting a picture of the ghostly inhabitants with tracks such as “Family Secrets,” “Sinister Pact” and “The Lost Room.” Bloodlines takes place before the manor has become dilapidated, and the Haverghast family seems to be on the cusp of their impending demise.
The opening title track sweeps listeners in softly at first, then gains momentum with echoing voices in the background heralding a dark presence on the horizon. The foreboding energy permeates throughout the playlist, particularly in “Ancestral Decrees.” There’s a change of pace, and the thumping and drumming reverberations heighten the sense of action. Listening to this track feels as if I’m watching a scene in a horror film, waiting for something startling to happen. The following song “I Won’t Tell” is one of my favorites. It sounds like a dark lullaby, and, from the title, I can’t help but wonder what secret is being hidden.
The next few tracks signal that there’s a gathering happening for a wedding, although it’s likely not a joyous occasion. Is an unsacred matrimonial union transpiring? “A Light in the Attic” is another piece that gets the pulse racing and amps up the intensity. It drives to the climax of the tale, foreshadowing ruin and tragedy. The finale, “Sands of Time,” wraps up the mini-album beautifully. This is my other favorite track. The melody transports the audience to another realm; it’s melancholic and transcends the mortal space that the Haverghast family occupied.
Midnight Syndicate creates music that piques the imagination, and they succeed with the work they’ve produced in Bloodlines. It’s wonderful how the duo presents a story that listeners can interpret in their own way. There’s just enough narrative to set the basis of the plot, but there’s also room for people to imagine their own take on the Haverghast family history. Listeners can enjoy picturing their own scenarios as they hear the music. Of course, I’ve given my interpretation here, but as you go through the playlist, how does the tale unfold in your mind?
To give you all further insight into the making of Bloodlines, composers Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka were gracious enough to answer questions in the following interview.
Q: The story of the Haverghast family first emerged in the 2001 album Gates of Delirium. The tale grew in The 13th Hour and another dimension is now added with the new prequel Bloodlines. What inspired the creation of this family and what made you both want to return to the narrative 15 years after The 13th Hour was released?
Gavin: Based on everything that we had on our schedule for 2021, we knew that doing a full-length album wasn’t a realistic possibility, yet we still wanted to get something new out to our fans. When we started discussing possible themes, the idea of further exploring the Haverghast story came up right away, and we both felt that the shorter-length format of the release would lend itself extremely well to creating what is essentially a musical prologue to ‘The 13th Hour.‘
Q: Can you take us behind the scenes of what it was like working on this mini-album? What did you want to evoke through the sounds and reveal through the tracks?
Edward: For starters, it was a lot of fun. The supernatural and paranormal are at the heart of just about everything we do creatively in one way or another. When we do an album that focuses on that theme, the ideas and music come very naturally. I do feel like we pushed some new ground on this album at times. Whether it was compositionally, arrangement-wise, or stylistically, I think we took things in a slightly different direction musically, while remaining true to ourselves. We really hope fans enjoy the new layers to the Haverghast story this album brings in as well.
Gavin: Since we knew that ‘Bloodlines’ would be closely tied to ‘The 13th Hour,’ there was an initial temptation to try and revisit or recreate the sound and writing style from that time. In the end, however, I don’t think that either of us really ended up doing that—we just allowed it to take on its own identity. For me personally, I decided to treat this album as a bit of an experiment and completely changed my approach to writing. Where I would have normally focused on challenging myself creatively as a songwriter, I tried to step back as much as possible and let the needs and character of the music take the reins.
Q: I mentioned in a past interview with you two how I felt that the illustrations on your album covers give the listener a teaser of what they’re about to hear. How did you settle on the imagery you wanted to depict for the Bloodlines cover?
Edward: We have had the opportunity to work with some absolutely amazing artists at every point in our career. Especially since our music is instrumental, the images that go into the packaging are absolutely critical in helping spark listeners’ imaginations as they put together the world or story they’re hearing on the album. As a prequel to ‘The 13th Hour,’ we definitely wanted the cover art to tie in directly to ‘The 13th Hour’s’ artwork. Keith Parkinson, the artist who did the cover to ‘The 13th Hour,’ is sadly no longer with us as he passed away in 2005.
After a long search, we came across Eddie Mendoza. He’s been a concept artist for some of the biggest names in the digital entertainment industry and creates these absolutely amazingly detailed scenes that you can really lose yourself in. He was the perfect complement to Keith’s style. The idea behind ‘The 13th Hour’ is that it’s a journey through the haunted Haverghast family mansion. For ‘Bloodlines,’ we wanted the cover art to show a scene from a room inside the house. This was tricky because everything had to be just right. Eddie absolutely nailed it. When you look at the cover to ‘Bloodlines,’ that is absolutely what I imagine the inside of the Haverghast family mansion to look like. From the woodwork to the trees out the window, the detailing is exquisite. The wedding dress plays a key role in the ‘Bloodlines’ story; however, the way Eddie chose to integrate it into the image came from him and it’s perfect. It’s absolutely one of my favorite Midnight Syndicate album covers to date.
Q: Any plans to continue expanding on the Haverghast family legacy in future albums? Or do you think you may want to tell an entirely new story featuring different characters?
Gavin: That possibility is definitely still open, given the right idea, but it’s not something that we’re actively planning for or driving toward. I think we’ll know if/when the next chapter in the Haverghast story is begging to be told, but not being tied to it—not having to continue it—allows us the creative freedom to make sure that if it does happen, it will be something that both of us feel very strongly about.
Edward: The Haverghast family is a part of the Midnight Syndicate universe so you never know when their legacy will be continued or cross over into another album. Those interested should check out the track “Midway” off of our ‘Carnival Arcane’ album.
Q: Lastly, will Midnight Syndicate be performing tracks from Bloodlines live anytime soon?
Gavin: Although it would certainly be nice to feature a newer track or two in our next live show, it’s really all about allowing the needs of each particular show guide the song selections. One of my priorities has always been to vary the setlist up from year to year. We have so much material to pull from, and I think that doing this is a key part of making each show a unique and interesting experience for our audiences. We’re still in discussions right now with Cedar Point regarding plans for this fall, but if it’s looking like we’ll be back for the 2022 HalloWeekends season, Ed and I will sit down with the show outline and see if any of the material from ‘Bloodlines’ would be a good fit.
To purchase Bloodlines and find out where else you can listen, visit the Midnight Syndicate official website.