Chain D.L.K. review of Shock! Horror!

Published: 17/01/2011

One of the drawbacks as an independent music reviewer for Chain D.L.K. is that new CDs to review usually come in a lump-sum package, mostly when enough have accumulated at the Urselli address to ship, and often some time after their release date. So it is either feast or famine; no new releases to review, or LOTS of new releases to review. Like all Chain D.L.K. reviewers, I do this not for the money (because there isn't any!), but for the love of the music, and the opportunity to expound on it. The free CDs aren't a bad perk either for expanding my music library. As this isn't a J-O-B, my (free) reviewing time is limited to what I can accomplish in spare time when I'm not working making a living, which seems to consume most of my time. Fortunately, I have the ability to listen to new releases while I'm working, so at least there is time for the music to simmer in my psyche before I get down to writing about it. The reason for this little preamble has to do in some way with why this review is so far from the release date of October 25, 2010, interned as a Halloween promotion. Of course, there might be some Chain D.L.K. readers that believe every day is Halloween to some extent, and the timeliness hardly affects them. But this is not a 'Halloween CD' in spite of the October 31st promotion. This is one interesting little excursion in the realm of Dark Ambient.

The artist known as Synoiz is one Graeme Donaldson from Sunderland in the North East of England. Originally setting out to create his own brand of angst-ridden synthpop, Synoiz found himself much more involved in ambient soundtrack work. Synoiz cites game soundtrack composers Matt Uelmen (Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft), Steve Henifin (Blood Omen: Legacy of Cain, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem) and Masami Ueda (Resident Evil 2 & 3) as some primary influences on what is done here, but since I don't play computer video games, I have little frame of reference in that regard. However, I DO know quite a bit about Dark Ambient music having an extensive collection of it, numerous reviews of Dark Ambient artists here at Chain D.L.K. to my credit, and have dabbled in the genre as a musician myself.

I'm not sure that 'Shock! Horror!' is an appropriately descriptive title for the music on this maxi-single CD. When I think of shock and horror, I tend to over over-the-top jarring, hair-raising or even gruesome images and possibly painful musical events. (Megaptera come to mind; so does Brighter Death Now, and a host of others.) This stuff is a lot more subtle than that. Macabre, unsettling, eerie, spooky all come to mind when listening to this Synoiz release. Although two of the tracks on this CD are remixes of the ('Shock! Horror') title track, they only bear a passing resemblance to each other with some elements. The title track kicks off the CD with a bit of a low drone tone, an unearthly processed ghostly voice, some extended low, murky piano notes and a repeating pattern of chalky, slightly abrasive pitched synth noise, and other vaguely spirit-like howling, as well as very subtle intermittent percussion that will emerge more prominently in subsequent tracks. Perhaps the most overt of all music on the CD, there is still a creepy subtlety to it that does not overwhelm, but does immediately immerse you in a nightmarish mood. Track 2, 'Indrid Cold' gives the impression of receiving radio transmissions from the dead, as it begins with radio frequency twiddlings giving way to unintelligible (processed) voices and other sonic effluvia. About a minute and a half into it, a pulsing bass is introduced along with minimal metallic tapping percussion. A deep processed string line is the only real melodic content here. Things warp, the metallic percussion turns into light hammering and before you know it, it's over. A curious piece.

Track 3, 'Shock! Horror' (Sinister Mix) begins with the sound of thunder and low moody strings before the ghostly moaning voice and the repeating pattern of chalky, slightly abrasive pitched synth noise are reintroduced. Other voices (a mournful woman crying, an unearthly bird, spirit moanings) appear and subtle percussion gives way to heavier, more defined ritualistic percussion for a while. It could have gone on longer and built up more suspense into some type of climax. Kind of like wine-tasting; when you find one you really like, you want the whole bottle, not just a sip. Last track, 'Shock! Horror' (Acoustic Edit) has a neoclassical aura about it with its string themes, piano rumblings and more spirit voices moaning in anguish. The percussion that was sparse and intermittent on the first track is given a little more play here. The overall effect is incidental soundtrack music for a very bleak film.

I found it interesting that each time I listened to the CD, it sounded a bit different. There are things you will pick up on subsequent listening after the first, and it is brief enough to dive right back in again to see what you missed. To me, this seems more of a sampler of what Synoiz is capable of, and hopefully a new full CD of this type of music might be forthcoming from Synoiz in the near future. If you go to Synoiz's website, you can get a free digital download of this music if you sign up for the newsletter. Synoiz is a project to watch as the music here is indicative of an artist to be reckoned with in the field of Dark Ambient.