(Editor’s Note: Longtime Vehlinggo contributor Christopher Webster writes about OGRE and Dallas Campbell’s sequel to their beloved synth score for a horror film not yet made. You last read about this release in November, when Vehlinggo premiered a track and announced the pre-order.)
Rock ‘n roll is full of concept albums. Musicians love to dream up characters and take them on a spiritual journey through a record. From The Who’s Tommy” to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and beyond, rock has a rich history of musical meta-narratives.
Perhaps more than any other modern genre, the synthwave movement owes its existence to taking the idea of meta narrative to the next level. Many of the artists working in the scene either take on fake personas themselves, or market their records as movie soundtracks for lost 1970s and 1980s films you’ll never get to see.
Composers Robin Ogden (OGRE) and Dallas Campbell have a habit of taking things further than most, and with their latest team-up “All Hallows’ II” they’ve invited listeners to investigate a missing-person case involving a mysterious health cult called The Shepard Institute of Psionic Inquiry.
To that end, the album released today comes bundled with nearly 40 pages of case files documenting a mysterious event from 1983 when police broke down the doors of The Shepard Institute and found the remains of dozens of patients inside.
The package and story was developed by narrative designer Faye Simms, who has experience working in games (Recompile, most recently). Through a collection of newspaper articles, flyers, letters, interviews, photos, testimony, and more, the reader/listener is encouraged to bring the narrative together by examining the evidence. The composers say they know what happened, but rather than laying out the story they wanted to implicate the listener into a more interactive experience.
35 years ago investigative journalist Ellis Ledstone admitted himself as a patient to an alternative healthcare facility, The Shepard Institute For Psionic Inquiry. 6 months later, police would break down its doors to discover the remains of a dozen patients in The Institute’s basement. Until now, the events leading up to that night have been largely withheld from the general public. For the first time ever we attempt to piece together that story.
The album itself is a sonic powerhouse that will please synthwave fans, cult cinema buffs, and even prog-rock die-hards. Featuring a killer blend of live drums, bass guitar, and synths, it offers much more than what we’ve come to expect from the standard #retrowave release.
While the album is available digitally — the case files bundled as a PDF — the definitive version of All Hallows’ II seems to be the limited-cassette pack which includes all kinds of extras:
- A hard copy of the 38-page All Hallows’ II case file
- All Hallows’ II Limited Edition C46 cassette, with variant cover art
- All Hallows’ II: CODA Limited Edition C26 (15 additional cuts and b-sides).
- Psionic Realignment Meditation cassette tape
- Original Shepard Institute Of Psionic Inquiry flyer
- Download cards for All Hallows’ II: CODA and Psionic Realignment Meditation cassette tape
- Digital .pdf download of the All Hallows’ II case file
Speaking to Ogden recently, he revealed what I expected: he’s an ardent fan of vintage RPGs and text adventures, as well as modern interactive fiction; and was currently reading his way through the old Fighting Fantasy game books created by Ian Livingstone, Steve Jackson.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the team behind All Hallows’ II has gone to such lengths to make the album such a rich, interactive narrative experience for listeners.