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In the past decade there has been a lot of new metal bands playing music in the old school vein. While a large amount of them accomplish releasing phenomenal music that sounds straight out the 80's, others play in the old school style but sound rather modern and others fail terribly and just end up ripping off their influences. Midnight are a band that succeed in writing amazing music and their debut "Satanic Royalty" could be mistaken as an album released in the early 80's.
If I had to label Midnight's sound I'd say black/speed/punk, a mixture of Venom, Motorhead with some hints of Discharge and a small amount of Bathory's debut and it works perfectly. It's rather shocking how fantastic Jamie/Athenar song writing is taking into consideration this is his first full-length, although it was released 8 years after forming and he's put out a large amount of EPs, splits, compilation it still surprises me. He accomplishes writing very memorable tracks that have made me press to repeat button seemingly hundreds of times but most importantly there's not one bit of filler on this record. Each track is short and highly energetic, taking no time to fuck around just straight forward 'punk metal', which makes it impossible to get even the slightest bit bored while listening. I don't think there's a metalhead out there who wouldn't like these songs and that speaks volumes. Overall, the song writing is great, all tracks are memorable and there's no filler, that should be enough to satisfy anybody.
The instrumentation is rather simplistic but loaded with raw energy and just as everything on this album, it reminds me a lot of Venom. As far as guitar work goes, speed metal and punk are the two main styles. I read a lot of reviews about these new(no, not nu-) metal bands that state "they aren't doing anything new" and you know what... Midnight aren't either. Is this bad? Are these guys just a rip off? No, they aren't. Musically, they're just very influenced by Venom and Motorhead but it still sounds very fresh. I won't go into detail about the music because Venom+Motorhead+Discharge+Bathory's self titled = what you'll find musically here. I do hate bands who *rip off* their influences but I don't care if a band makes their influences noticeable. No metalhead would be able to complain about the nice, energetic riffs here, the punky Motorhead styled drumming and so on. As for the vocals, they're somewhere between Cronos and Quorthon but lean more on the Cronos side, I personally really like them.
I'll touch on the production quickly. This sounds old school as I've said many times but I don't just mean musically, I mean the overall atmosphere. It's raw but not too raw, it's right at the point where I'd believe it was recorded somewhere between '83-'87, hopefully that gives you a rough idea. I think any fan who's been looking for a band that actually has the old school atmosphere will love this record, oh and check Witchgrave out too.
In reality, there's not much more to get into. "Satanic Royalty" isn't anything new, I could go on and on about the music, lyrics, etc. but the reality is, if you like Venom's first two records then you're going to like this. If you're someone who can't like a band unless if they're original, don't listen to this. If you're someone who likes old school metal and wouldn't mind if Venom, Motorhead, Discharge and Bathory's s/t had a baby, then this is for you.
After nine long years, Cleveland based sleaze machine Midnight finally rise from the mire and unleash their debut album of unkempt and filth laden speed metal upon the rabble, and what an album it is. In short, what is essentially the grime enveloped bastard child of eighties Satan loving shock merchants Venom. The Venom influence is so obscene that “Satanic Royalty” could almost be mistaken for a lost recording from the UK legends, and I’d be fairly certain that they’d also be the first to admit that this is nothing but shameless adoration at the altar of Cronos and co. But when it’s as good as this, why the fuck should anyone care?
The album’s title track explodes out of the blocks with the energy of a caffeine soaked cokehead, riffing straight from NWOBHM legends Tank and Athenar’s obnoxious snarling. Hell, Athenar could well be Cronos himself minus the receding hairline. The central hook to the song is absolutely enormous, dragging you into Midnight’s vortex of bitches, booze and blasphemy before spitting you out a disorientated mess. First impressions were “They can’t keep up such a high level of quality and ferocity throughout can they?” Amazingly they do, every single track on “Satanic Royalty” is nothing but high octane speed metal strewn with blistering heavy metal soloing and neck breaking riffing tied together with maniacal vocals.
The lyrics are another thing altogether, they’ve got everything from the divine “Marching out from the catacombs of hell, Kingdom’s falling, Bred to destroy the children of Christ” to the peaceful “Skullz will crack brains explode” and they even manage to make room for a love song in the ever so subtle “Lust Filth and Sleaze”; “You give me lust you give me sleaze, I'm gonna bust when you're down on your knees”. And who says romance is dead eh? If you’re looking for the ultimate leather studded and alcohol soaked soundtrack for 2011, then you can’t look much further than this.
It never deviates from what would be expected of a Venom worship band but remains surprisingly diverse and so engaging that even after repeated listens it never gets old. This is the hurdle where most others attempting the same fall, and Midnight overcomes this with spectacular ease. “Satanic Royalty” is nothing but pure unadulterated mayhem manifested from a gutter somewhere in Ohio with no aim other than to defile and disgust. Bursting with the raw energy of the genre progenitor’s Discharge and Venom’s NWOBHM-esque demonic racket with the vulgarity of Blackie Lawless, Midnight offer thirty minutes of altogether unholy and thoroughly indecent speed metal which is certain to get the adrenaline flowing and horns throwing. Venom even released a new album this year as well, but why bother when Midnight are currently doing Venom better than Venom themselves?
Ohio's Midnight is certainly a treat for us US fans, who have likely long been starved for a proper hybrid of traditional speed and heavy metal with a grimy black metal overtone to call our own. Of course I'm jealous of the Japanese heavyweights Abigail, Metalucifer and Barbatos (at least one of which these guys are friends with and have appeared on splits with), but the time is right, and it only took the underground legend Athemar (aka Jamie Boulder) of the painfully unappreciated Destructor to make it happen. After about eight years of touring, a handful of EPs and split appearances, the cult has arrived where it belongs (Hell's Headbanger Records) and delivered its first full-length, Satanic Royalty. And, would you know, it rocks.
The most obvious comparisons in style would be to those Japanese acts I listed above, or to trace back much further to the explosive NWOBHM sounds of Motörhead, Venom, Tank and other barroom brawlers. Certainly the riffs follow those basic, dirty tenets that hard rock and 'eavy metal have been glued to for going on four decades now. Simple patterns attempt to hook the listener, and the leads and vocals to finish him or her off. Speaking of which, 'Athenar' definitely has a style redolent of Deceased's King Fowley, a steady and constipated bark which fits well over the pummeling choices in chords fit for bloody knuckled street fighting. Where Midnight tends to differ from some of its peers abroad, however, is in the production values, which are quite solid here and loud as opposed to raunchy filth. No, those aesthetics are manifest straight through the lyrics, voice, and rhythmic bluster alone.
Within the first three tracks of the album, Satanic Royalty has already shown us a good deal of variation which the band holds up through the remainder of the tracks. You've got the title track with its broad swath of rock/punk chords and epic melodic breaks, or the slicing speed metal of "You Can't Stop Steel", one of my favorites on the record; or then the more traditional power blues metal of "Rip This Hell". Deeper into the roster, they go even wider with the doom-like, occult overtures of "Black Damnation" and the bass-fueled punkish burst of "Holocaustic Deafening". Personally, I found that the more directly speed metal pieces like "Lust Filth and Sleaze" or "Violence on Violence" were the defining moments for me, but that's not to say that where they deviate there is any sizable dip in quality.
Satanic Royalty flows rather well from fore to aft, with the only possible obstacles being the predictability with which a lot of the guitar patterns are structured, seeing that they've drawn on decades of tradition and chosen not to deviate from the norm. But it's not like you'd be checking out a band like this for its originality, merely it's excess and lethal spin on a classic sound. To that extent, Midnight have a success on their hands, an album that will prove both fun for breaking bottles over each others' domes or picking up the ladies (or gentlemen) of the night. Well, in an ideal world perhaps...but something like Satanic Royalty certainly gives me hope that those days of 80s 'edge' might well be ahead of us as well as behind. Exciter meets Deceased: does that sound appealing? If not, I hate you.