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Midnight Murder Mania might seem like a relatively typical release for Razorback Recordings, but in actuality it's one of the label's seminal releases, dropped just as the label was reaching its stride in the earlier 21st century. Alongside Ghoul, Frightmare was probably one of the most rounded and accessible acts on the label, generated a fair share of buzz (at least among my circle), and they also had this 'home court' advantage for the niche, with a roster that included members of other Razorback and associated acts like Lord Gore, Splatterhouse, Whore, Engorged and Blood Freak; including Maniac Neil himself. Basically the lineup was a raucous rogues' gallery of that Portland, Oregon splatter death/grind scene, and this explains why the actual musical output bears so much similarity to those other acts.
Midnight Murder Mania is probably one of the most earnest and entertaining paeans to the fictional killers of slasher cinema in my metal collection, with most of its original tracks adhering to specific flicks like Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, Slumber Party Massacre, Black Christmas, and Maniac. A heavy emphasis on the 80s. A few movie samples are included, but unlike some of their peers in this field they never tend to overdo it, letting the music perform its own hatchet to the faces of the audience. As usual, the music is a mixture of grind and death metal aesthetics with some thrash and punk influences, and it never takes itself too seriously, thanks to the lightheartedness created by the band's mesh of toilet flush gutturals, sinister Carcass snarls and haughty barked lyrics with feel a little 'tough guy'. I've never found the band to be quite so riffy as Ghoul in terms of overall quality, but they incorporate loads of leads, tapped melodies and other techniques to keep the music fresh, varied and multi-dimensional rather than heaping on saturated and banal deathgrind riffs you've heard a million times before.
Structurally there were a lot of riffs in the Carcass (Reek of Putrefaction/Symphonies of Sickness) and Napalm Death (1989-1990), and the band thrives at an uptempo-to-blasting pace with only a few notable breakdowns worth their salt. Most of the rhythm guitars aren't incredibly interesting on their own, but once the energetic drumming and hoarse barks and gargles are applied they definitely cut like a trick or treat bag full of taffy-coated razor blades. The instruments are all quite clear, with a nice churning tone to the tremolo mute riffs and a deep, if not all that exciting bass with an appropriate fuzz. They implement a few brutal 90s death techniques like squeals boringly in pieces like "Slasher Holocaust", but almost without exception the highlights here in the songwriting are all leads or melodies that outclass the rhythms. Drummer is pretty damn good, blasting and grinding with tenacity, though often at the expense of interesting beats or fills.
I doubt this debut was written with the intention of taking over the world...it's functional, fun and remains so almost a decade after its release, but I wouldn't place it past the first few Ghoul outings; more on the level of Splatterhouse's The House That Dead Built. The cover of the Misfits' "Devilock" is translated into a more potent, pummeling form reminiscent of the Frightmare originals, so its a worthwhile conclusion even if this treatment doesn't quite ramp up its energy level or impact. In summation, Midnight Murder Mania's a disc worth picking up if you're interesting in goofy goregrind, though it's not quite that intense. A more comic adaptation of Carcass, perhaps, or the usual Razorback crowd who likely need no introduction. A few stabbings short of setting serial killer records, but you wouldn't want to lock yourself away in a vacation cabin with a few friends if this was anywhere in a 30 mile radius.
In 2002 "Maniac" Neil Smith, known for his bloody deeds with Lord Gore, Blood Freak, Maniac Killer and Whore, gathered four guys around him to form Frightmare "with the goal being to create the catchiest, heaviest most original hybrid of old school death metal, grindcore, punk and thrash they could." And fuck me if they didn't manage in it!
The album starts with a movie sample, and you'll find these throughout the album, but thankfully not very often. They were clipped from the movies such as "The Burning", "Friday the 13th", "New York Ripper". It's those 1970's-80's slasher movies what inspired this album.
'Midnight Murder Mania' assails with rusty yet sharp blades swinging. Within these 11 songs, the band seamlessly surf between death metal, grindcore, punk and thrash (Engorged guitarist Dean Stalkwell played on this album) styles. Hellishly contagious riffage, driving beats, freaky vocals and insane finger-grinding guitar solos/torturing is what Frightmare are all about. There's some occurrences of melodic leads, but they are kept scarce. Anyways, the riff is the king on this album, deservedly so. Well, except for that annoying nursery rhyme riff on 'The Ripper'. The pace is 99% fast with blastbeating or double kick drumming leading the way, so expect no mercy. The vocals are usual for the goregrind stuff: More or less low growling along with the shrieking growl, with various appearances by the sewer gurgle. All in all, despite all the influences, the band found the red thread, and kept it tightly in their hands. There's certainly not a boring moment here.
The production is two-sided, sadly. The guitars sound dirty and the bass mauls, but the drums are weak, no thanks to the flapping kick drums and the toms, but the snare drum too is flat. Yeah, no fuckin' triggers utilized, but still it's a defect, this drum sound business, no matter how organic sound the band wanted to have here. Comic yet brutal artwork from Tales from Uranus artist perfectly fits for the album. The lyrics would have been nice, thank you.
With 'Midnight Murder Mania', Frightmare have made killing fun! It's like all those slasher movies; it's not scary for a seasoned freak, but it's full of those moments where some poor bastard's head gets thrusted through a coat hook, or someone's eyes get goughed out. This is gore, not horror. Think of something like Haemorrhage mixed with Engorged-ish FUN, and you got Frightmare right about there. Pizza, beer and this, mmmmmmmmm.
(originally reviewed for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2008)
Those crazy bastards that brought you 'Lord Gore', 'Engorged' and 'Bloodfreak now have another extraordinary project by the name of 'Frightmare'. Every bit the monster that the aforementioned bands are and twice the horror movie freaks, 'Frightmare' have based an entire album on the great era of horror, the 70's and 80's. There is an eeriness afoot when every beginning utilizes samples from the likes of 'Friday the 13th', 'Maniac' and other famed slasher movies of said era.
The music here is something to be appreciated. It has a very thrashy sound which reminds me of "Autopsy Torment' and 'Eaten Back to Life' era 'Cannibal Corpse'. 'Frightmare' even utilizes solo's which is unorthodox for grind metal. This is an instrumental paradise although the bass does get lost behind the rest of the band. The music is catchy and is what you would come to expect if you enjoy 'Razorback' bands like I do. Though lyrical content and vocals are the norm for death/grind I find it refreshing to actually base the songs on something that we all might relate to. I have seen all the movies 'Frightmare' sing about and get more into the music due to that reason.
I enjoy the production as it is murky and dark which helps to give the music texture and a scary aura that is befitting an outfit of the likes of 80's influenced death/grind. I hope that every listener has had the enjoyment that I have had while listening to 'Midnight Murder Mania' and appreciates it for its musical attributes and dedication from its creators. The world of Razorback is upon the metal world strong and vibrant constantly releasing surprise after surprise.
For listeners of 'Lord Gore', 'Fondlecorpse' and 'Bloodfreak'.
Maniac Neil is quickly becoming a goregrind genius in my book. This release by him and RazorbackRecords (who also never disappoints) is amazing. I ordered this online about a week ago because I can't find it anywhere else along with the other Frightmare album Bringing Back The Bloodshed and I finally got it the other day. With an amazing mix of styles and genres including death, grind and thrash Frightmare has created an awesome fucking album. There is so much diversity here that literally anyone can enjoy it.
The guitars are amazing, my favourite parts are all the fills and leads and even solos (yes you heard right) they do. They sound so good and always fit well with the songs. Nothing ever sounds out of place. For instance in the song "Be My Bloody Valentine" the beginning sounds very grind/death and then goes right into a thrash riff. Sounds weird but it flows so well and sounds so good. Don't get me wrong though they also have some great riffs and grooves that really give the album replay value. I could find myself going back to this album every now and then whenever I need a good goregrind fix and can't find any good bands.
The bass is pretty much in the background and you never really hear it (unless there's a fill, I forgot if there are any). The vocals are really good, but nothing new or different. Got your growls and screams and all that. Fits with the music well. What do you expect from a goregrind band? The drums are good, lots of blasts and what not, good tempo, etc. Everything played on this album is really good but for my the guitars are the highlight for me. I could listen to it all day, it's still stuck in my head.
To sum up this album... BUY IT! It is well worth your money. The songs rock, the musicians who play them rock and even the lyrics rock! They're all about slasher flicks. That's just good clean blood splattering fun. If you want a good listen, this is the right place to find it. I highly recommend this to anyone who just wants to hear some good music. There's even a little treat at the end at the album, they do a cover of The Misfits' Devilock. I don't what else I can tell you to convince you that you should get this album, just get it!
"Friday The 13th"
"Be My Bloody Valentine"
"Frank Zito, The Maniac"
Now, to understand the perspective on which I am taking for this review, you have to understand this. I am what some may consider a metal elitist (and many people that utilize this site may consider themselves that as well.) For me to listen to a grind band and say they are "decent" is mostly unusual. I listened to this band, due to my friends amazement with gore-inspired grind bands such as Ghoul, Lord Gore, etc. Usually if I hear a song with a sample that starts it off, I will change the song and dismiss as being hardcore trash, but it was a tad-bit different with this album.
Yes, most of the songs begin with samples, usually off of some horror, slasher flick from way-back-whenever. And yes, the vocals consist of monotonous growling. But still this isn't a bunch of garbage like I almost thought it was. The song that actually hooked me to this album was, "Friday the 13th" which is one of the songs that has a true melody, and isn't a bland assault of br00tality (note the difference between 'brutality' and 'br00tality'). They actually utilize harmonious, melodic guitarring in this song, of course it eventually evolves into a relentless assault on the ears. Now, being an avid fan of black metal, brutal death metal, and blackened thrash/death metal, I don't mind the assault on the ears, but in this situation I am using it in a derogatory sense. Something which is typical of grind bands is that they will do anything to stay tr00 to the br00tality of their music and stray away from genuine musicianship and talent.
They get an average grade because they're not terrible. Their music is rather memorable. But still, they're a typical grind band. They employ blastbeasts, squealing, growling, and monorhythmic riffage in their music. They're nothing special and they're nothing great. They're actually lucky I didn't toss their album before giving them a listen (close-minded, eh?). If you're truly into this stuff, you probably shouldn't be on this site... this is a metal site, and this material is pure grind; deathgrind, goregrind, whatever you want to call it, it's still grind, it's not metal.