Synth Album Review: "Undead Nightmare" by Lazer Squad
I went into Lazer Squad’s Undead Nightmare album expecting an unmitigated horrorfest, but there’s a lot more light, air and sparkle to the album (along with an unbridled sense of energy and fun). That isn’t to say that the title track is light and airy because it nails the horror vibe nicely. It’s just that, as a whole, the album was not oppressive or heavy.
One of the elements that I enjoyed about the album was the eclectic nature of the musical styles that are represented on it. The tracks on the album include everything from darkwave to trance influenced music to pure synthwave, but none of the variety feels out of place and the production of the album gives everything a cohesion that makes it work well.
Undead Nightmare has quite a bit of shimmer and flow apparent in it. There are shiny arpeggios, floating moments of extending synth notes and warm, wistful synth melodies that conjure up neither the undead nor any feelings of terror. I’m not complaining as I’m a sucker for the warmer side of synth music and I think that Lazer Squad did quite nicely with that aspect of the album.
Beats and bass are another crucial factor to the album. There’s that heavy, rich well of bass that rises up and lends support to all of the tracks and the beats run the gamut from slower tempo to trance dance, but they are always powerful and effective at conveying the right feeling in the music and at moving the tracks at the suitable speed for each one.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear the strong trance influence on “Lightyear Bus” and “Awesome Wells.” It is a variation from the (still appealing) classic synthwave beat and it gives a slightly different feeling to Undead Nightmare. It’s never a bad thing when one sees the evolution of a genre’s sound to embrace elements that it formerly eschewed and that energetic trance feeling did work rather well on the tracks where it appeared.
Now I’ll run through the tracks that I enjoyed on Undead Nightmare and give you my sense of what it was about them that captured me so intensely.
The album’s title track "Undead Nightmare" caught my ears because it captured the “horror vibe” well. The track opens with a reverberating bell sound that extends for longer than any real bell would along with the caw of ravens and a dark bass throb that’s heavy and thick. Slightly dark arps move in and out of the track as that hollow bell tolls. This isn’t a super melodic track, but it is one that creates a tense atmosphere aided and abetted by a rather nervous sounding high synth and weighty bass pulsing under it.
“Lightyear Bus” is the tranciest track on the album. I am enamoured of the lambent, flitting arps that flicker through the track and the liquid sound of the synths on the track. It has a spacious feeling over that solid, trance-like beat. The arpeggiation further adds to that sensation of soaring that dominates the track. The piano chords that come in add another nice dimension. This is a track that reminds of my favourite classic trance music.
I am a fan of music that strongly evokes the feel of deep water and “Diving in the Deep” definitely does that. Deep synths flow like water currents and there’s a sense of sinking down into blue water with the heavy bass throb and slowly developing and extending synth lines that move in a logn sweep. This track has the feeling of being carried through water, of moving with a gentle but insistent current in the depths.
Undead Nightmare is an album that has a fun and engaging energy about it. Lazer Squad is clearly a producer who takes real pleasure in creating enjoyable music because it certainly shines through on this album!