Right off the bat, the fact the OGRE logo is an homage to the Cannon Films logo should tell you All Hallows’ II is going to be great. It’s the fourth collaboration between synthwave outfits OGRE (a.k.a. Robin Ogden) and Dallas Campbell, and is a sequel to their All Hallows’ album from 2015.
All Hallows’ II is a fictional soundtrack to a horror movie which revolves around the mysterious Shepheard Institute of Psionic Inquiry, missing persons, cults and horrifying rituals.
Musically, this sits very nicely in the current synthwave/darkwave/retrowave (whatever you want to call it) subgenre, with bands drawing influence from the sounds of the 1980s and the iconic horror soundtracks of the decade. The OGRE / Dallas Campbell output shares common ground with the darker, more atmospheric proponents like Pentagram Home Video, Drokk and the soundtrack work of Disasterpeace, Sinoia Caves and, of course, John Carpenter.
In terms of the listening experience All Hallows II is meant to be taken as a whole. The intent, as per a soundtrack, is to slowly build unease and atmosphere rather than pitch catchy tunes. It leans between eerie soundscaping and urgent synth driven tracks that land somewhere in between Steve Moore’s The Guest (2014), Disasterpeace’s anxious work on It Follows (2014) and an Emergency Broadcast System.
The Path Set Before Us trades a nice line in Sinoia Caves influence, sinisterly darkening like a black clouded horizon and coming across like missing tracks from Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010). While 911 and The Gate Is Open get jittery and suspenseful as they channel Escape From New York and John Carpenter’s iconic back catalogue. Forest Clearing / Laughing Shadows opts for a different kind of iconic horror influence as the proggy bassline drags us firmly into Goblin territory.
The interesting thing to note about All Hallows’ II is that it’s a concept album. There’s more to it than just music inspired by a film that might exist. There is actually a fully developed story to accompany the album. Traditionally the preserve of prog rock, the concept album could not be better suited to the synth bands and projects currently championing it. Indeed OGRE and Dallas Campbell have form in this area, having created the original All Hallows’ album together, as well as a re-score of Night Of The Living Dead. OGRE solo projects also included the album 195, the soundtrack to a fictional science fiction movie, and the excellent Ballard lp from last year, which gave us sixteen tracks of Carpentarian synth, based around the J.G. Ballard short story Zone Of Terror.
With All Hallows’ II OGRE and Dallas Campbell have provided us with a wealth of supplementary material in the form of a case file providing fragments of the story, designed to accompany each track. The listener is given information to partially fill in the gaps, leaving the rest to the imagination. Newspaper articles, missing persons reports and interview transcripts all serve to flesh out detail and give weight to a concept full of Lovecraft inspired dream-horror and cosmic insinuation. It’s similar to the way Alan Moore complements his work with faux-novel extracts and newspaper reports to bring context to Watchmen or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The case file also brings to mind the backstory that coincided with the release of The Blair Witch Project (1999), in particular the book The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier which complied police reports and articles and all manner of ephemera to support the building of a legend.
By the end, the uninitiated could well be forgiven for not knowing All Hallows’ II is not a real movie. Such is the attention to detail they’ve even gone so far as to have a mock production company ident as the first track. Conceptually, OGRE and Dallas Campbell have gone all out, crafting an album that in less accomplished hands might fail to transcend the trappings of novelty record. But All Hallows’ II is far from a novelty, rather it’s a thorough and creative exploration of an idea. OGRE and Dallas Campbell have created a movie that is explored sonically and aesthetically, yet crucially without the one thing you might reasonably expect – the film itself.
Set for a digital and (appropriately, considering its influences) cassette release on 25 January, All Halllows’ II is going to be something worth checking out for both horror fans and soundtrack aficionados alike.
The album will be released on Jan. 25 and is available to pre-order here.