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Music Review: Twilight Theatre

Looking for something besides novelty songs (“The Monster Mash”) or instrumental soundscapes (Midnight Syndicate) to haunt your Halloween party? Well, here’ a little good, old-fashioned rock and roll in the form of a concept album that journeys deep into the dark side of the human soul, combining rhythmic riffs with spooky lyrics – all wrapped up by spoken word introductions that provide background and historical information on the subjedt matter (Stonehenge, Nostradamus). Although Halloween is not specifically mentioned, the occult subject matter makes Twilight Theatre appropriate listening for the October season.

The double disc set, from artist Robert Jackson, contains 33 tracks, clocking in at over 85 minutes. Listening to both CDs in a single sitting might be a bit of an endurance test, but the spoken word passages indicate that this album is not meant as background filler for a party; Jackson wants you to listen closely and contemplate the subject matter.

This is not really scary Halloween music; the intent is not so much to evoke fear of the dark as to cast a light into the darkness. The introductions on CD 1 (titled “Act 1,” in keeping with the “Theatre” theme) concentrates mostly on historical information. As we move into “Act II,” the introductions become increasingly focused on interpreting the psychological and symbolic significance of everything from UFOs to twins to shadows (both Freud and Jung are invoked, sometimes in the same breath). Though far from a rock opera or any other familiar form of theatre, the result is a bit like a “Theatre of the Mind,” taking you on a psychological exploration, with Jackson as your guide into the unknown.

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The music itself examplies the virtues and deficiencies of garage band rock, in which raw power is intended to compensate for raw talent. The guitar-based songs emphasize heavy power chords, but the music is a bit conventional considering the outre subject matter. The melodies are adequate but not particularly memorable, and the vocals are frequently weak, particularly when there is an attempt to emote dramatically. At times the recording sounds almost like a demo – it is easy to imagine that a more soaring vocal style would benefit the tunes – but then suddenly this perception will be erased by blistering guitar solo (or, in at least one case, a fiery duet).

If you have an ear for super-slick recordings, you had best listen elsewhere, but if you enjoy the unvarnished power of rock in its raw form, this record could be for you. In particular, fans of concept albums and/or macabre subject matter should find this journey an interesting one to take.

Get more information about the artist at www.robertjackson.net