Midnight SyndicateLooking for the right CD to play while carving the pumpkin, or staging a Halloween party or haunted house? Try the latest release from Midnight Syndicate, a duo from Ohio that has been releasing "gothic nightmare" discs for the past eight years.

Their latest, like most of their output, sounds like a lost soundtrack to a creepy movie. There are eerie piano themes akin to those memorable themes from The Exorcist or Halloween, and organ-based tracks with spooky background choirs, a la Phantom of the Opera. There also are string choir segments that bring to mind the more sedate work of Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice).

In between are tracks with background sound effects such as closing doors and creaking, and external "night" sounds from crickets, crows, etc. While there's no speaking or lyrics per se, it's almost like listening to the story of a night in a haunted house. That is exactly what the makers intended, as this CD is advertised as being "set in a haunted Victorian mansion inhabited by the Haverghast family (featured on the band's earlier CD Gates of Delirium).

The band members said the "dark gothic orchestration blended with classic '80s-style horror movie music and chilling sound effects" will "put you in the middle of a haunted house with a sinister history."

More information is at www.midnightsyndicate.com.



Because of the often sinister, abrasive and high-adrenaline intensity of the form, hard rock artists are often identified with the horror genre. Showtime officials pulled together some of the top horror movie directors (John Carpenter, John Landis, Dario Argento) to make 13 mini-movies for the cable network's 2006 Masters of Horror anthology series.

Consequently, it was decided to pair the movies with a soundtrack of metal and hard rock artists. Immortal Records has issued the soundtrack to the series weeks ahead of its debut on Showtime, just in time for Halloween.

Quite honestly, there's nothing particularly scary about any of the tracks on the Masters of Horror soundtrack. The eerie tones of a band such as Midnight Syndicate set the mood for horror much better. But metalheads will love the two-disc collection.

It pulls together new tracks and rare B-sides from Mudvayne, Shadows Fall, Thursday, System of a Down's Serj Tankian, Avenged Sevenfold, Andrew W.K., Alkaline Trio, Funeral for a Friend, Murder By Death and more. One of the more memorable inclusions is the band It Dies Today, which recorded a stomping, evil-sounding metal version of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence."



Speaking of hard rockers, marriage to Gwen Stefani hasn't put any sugar in Gavin Rossdale's pop sense. Distort Yourself, the former Bush lead singer's latest project with Institute, includes members of Helmet and CIV, and is now out on Interscope Records. While the players may have changed, the sound is much the same as Rossdale's grunge rock, gravel-voiced work with Bush.

Megadeth fans can get some new heavy riffage from Megadeth's David Ellefson. The bassist's latest project is F5, and its CD A Drug for All Seasons is out on Deadline Records. The disc has a predictably hard, metallic riff sound, and unpredictably picks an Edie Brickell hit as a cover song. "What I Am" has never sounded so mean.

Ear-shredders the Deftones have a new collection, B-Sides & Rarities, on Maverick celebrating its decade-long history as a band. A DVD, covering previously unreleased live footage and music videos, is packaged with the CD.


Calla Calla
(Beggar's Banquet)

Just in time for the spooky days of fall comes the latest release from Calla, one of the unsung treasures of the moody alternative rock circuit.

The New York (by way of Texas) band's slow, shuffling, darkly intense vibe has spawned three previous albums, and Collisions may be the band's most accomplished effort.

Aurelio Valle's understated vocals are sometimes like a melancholy version of Dinosaur Jr. and almost Cure-ish at other times. The vocals are the perfect complement to the band's sometimes intense and pounding guitar and drum attack that is more often dreamily repetitive psychedelic dark soundscapes.

On some songs, like the slowly building closer, "Overshadowed," there's a reverbed surf guitar sound akin to that of "Wave of Mutilation"-era Pixies. Meanwhile, on pounding rhythmic tracks like "Testify" and "Swagger," Valle's teflon smooth vocals slip into a Robert Smith (The Cure) lazy sing-speak range as the band throbs urgently, guitars intertwining patiently behind him.

Songs like "Initiate" bring together both a dark Cure and echoey Pixies feel.

The disc opens with one of its best tracks, the grandiose, driving build of "It Dawned on Me," where the plucked guitar lines strut with gothic pride. The whispery "hold me close and don't let me go" vocals of "Stumble" reverb dreamily in a strange combo of early 1980s alternative rock and late 1960s pop.

This is what they called "shoegazer" rock in the 1990s, and this CD shows the form still has a potent life in the music of Calla. Melancholic yet strangely seductive, Collisions is a great CD for slipping into the back of a dark room and staring at the candlelight flickering on the ceiling.

Calla will bring its moody, transcendental guitar attack to the Empty Bottle in Chicago on Oct. 30, along with the quirky, upbeat alternative rock of new 4AD Records artist Celebration.