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Imperial Sky Destroyer - 75%

Sweetie, January 12th, 2021

Probably one of the more anticipated debuts of our time, Midnight Spell finally cast their vision from the Between The Eyes demo into full-length format. For those unaware, these Miami, Florida based metal maniacs cast an old school-inspired heavy metal dish with leanings towards glam and speed alike. So it should go without saying that their style is pretty concise, with Sky Destroyer capitalizing on vocal harmony and gentle force.

Weirdly, this did not grab me the way I anticipated off the bat, but not necessarily in a negative sense, either. There’s a bit of a split between the two halves, and the back half made the front half easier to appreciate. Essentially, it eases you in strictly familiar territory, using on-the-nose tactics. “Midnight Ride” is a striking number, filled with booming drums and powerful vocals to blend in perfectly with the classic metal revival acts. You also get the soothing “Lady Of The Moonlight,” capturing early Dokken feels with its calm approach despite harder rhythms. The bassline and solo in particular are swell.

Once you cross the instrumental divider “Mercy,” things progressively flow into more of a Queensrÿche-meets-Van Halen tone. This track itself alters the mood with minor keys and slight spice, acting like a bridge. Songs like “To The Stars” and “Cemetery Queen” merge this approach with more involved musicianship, pumping out structural density that leaves no empty space. The latter utilizes slower build with drawn-out wails in an incredible way, taking the slot of my favorite track.

Altogether, Sky Destroyer leaves you with a disc that steers a familiar vehicle into a forest that’s a bit more original, if only a bit. None of these things are overly in-your-face, nor do the speed or sleaze overtake any of the traditional integrity. Though I could see Midnight Spell doing more with what they’ve got, their first full-length offering was solid and satisfying.

Originally written for Sleeping Village

Glimmer Of Steel In The Black Shines (Blade In Hand Held High) - 89%

CHAIRTHROWER, January 8th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent

Miami's Midnight Spell has duly delivered, if its well-anticipated debut full-length, Sky Destroyer (under CD and limited edition cassette under Poland's Iron Oxide Records, further one-off purveyor of Italian newcomer, Konquest), is of any indication. Following an April, 2019 four-track demo - which included hyper-congruous Savage cover of "Berlin" (from 1983) - the twin axed Dade County, Florida quintet presents us with this novenary glam rock-meets-"evil occult" themed, thrash-y (80s retro-chic) heavy metal slab of juvenile, albeit maturely seasoned, hits such as reprised "Between The Eyes" and "To The Stars", alongside alternately chthonic night sky defilers in vein of "Blood For Blood", "Lady of the Moonlight", "Midnight Ride" and, last but not least, banging "Cemetary Queen" she-beast...

Gleeful excitement is warranted, thusly: a mixture of high octane, palm muted riffing and front mage Paolo Velasquez's stratospheric, oft Sean Harris (of still-active NWOBHM legend Diamondhead) reflected, upper strata yelping, in tandem with a tightly knit, none-too-groveling battery, heralds opener "Blood For Blood", one of the darker, or less sunny and liberating, cuts - yet, an apt, four-minute introduction permeating revelatory glimpse of said operatic crooner's distinct, tell-tale, tremulous warble (a la Mandy Martillo, of Satan's Hallow), as well as six-string slinging symbiosis of Denver Cooper and The Hammer. Since both swear by same melodically compressed and trilling, bend-happy minor pentatonic playbook, it's tough to tell them apart. One could even mistake Midnight Spell for a lone-guitar act, so fluently interchangeable are their various, innocuous segues.

A prime example avails itself, early on, whence loose, yet-decidedly-"metal"-in nature main riff yields shadowy, stop and go tempo acceleration (as bridge) before the solos, amply demonstrating Midnight Spell as more of an aggressively rampant, not-so-cheeky contender within wide World of so-called genre revivalists. To wit, Holland's Cobra Spell and Germany's Viper Queen are more in line with big hair bands from the 1980s, such as Motley Crue, Ratt and W.A.S.P., while these guys clearly aren't afraid to jam sinister vistas; "Lady of the Moonlight", for all its nocturnal, witch-y candour, remains an iconic piece of sanguinely expunged, dyed-in-the-wool glam, with its clean, refreshing mid-point break and sweet, Van Halen-ish leads. (It also harks back to Def Leppard's timeless "Lady Strange", as much in musicianship as star-struck and fawning, succubi succumbed lyrical scope).

"Midnight Ride", for its part, is a head strong highway carouser, matching an Enforcer/Saber/White Wizzard-like level of hard-driven rambunctiousness, complete with vigorous high-speed drumming, rangy background chants and a mighty tonsil exposing refrain. However, the aforementioned allusion to rather scabrous climes rears its ugly head once vibrant and mercurial instrumental "Mercy" crests the rise. Thanks to teetering, Arabesque riff pattern and scintillating, preemptive matrix of flashy leads, you'd think Egyptian plagues of biblical proportions are raining down upon the weary, unassuming traveller. Initially, I'd esteemed the song's placement as totally incongruous and/or jarring, but, looking at bigger picture, now view it as innovative slice of torso collapsing, High Priest sonic wizardry - especially when the brief, yet jam-packed, titular throttler comes our way.

It's something wicked, alright, as the comparatively byzantine, angular crescendo continues on "Sky Destroyer" proper. Consider! A plethora of spiralling pop-up leads and vile vizier poking, exploratory bass handsomely assures vivid impression of apocalyptic eaglets spewing fire and lightning upon insouciant, caroming heads, the swampland, yonder. For guitarists, that whammy bar takes on wildly wrung (and ever-young) dimensions, at times, making me worry the darn Floyd Rose implement will spring right out of s(pr)ocket! As inferred, "Cemetary Queen" marks a high point, along with "Blood For Blood" and "Lady of the Moonlight" - insofar as new tracks are concerned. (The two older ones veer largely towards the rock n' roll, as opposed to "heavy thrash" spectrum, and make for an apt inclusion. Also, I'd have had no issue with them featuring EP's "Bitter End".)

Incorporating yet another element to its glam-cum-thrash proclivity is the down-stepped, mildly doom-y vibe of "Cemetary Queen"; sluggish, wheeze-tinged power chords, nefariously plonking bass, a tumbling drum roll induction, twisted scratch-rapped and knuckled chord taps (of a seriously villainous mien) all mesh together to form a ghoulishly frigid (un)glam sandwich capped by slow-burning catharsis, not to mention cold, stark church bell tolls akin to Wolf's classic crepuscular creeper "Make Friends With Your Nightmares". Velasquez really gives 100% throughout this graveyard grinder of the first order, before return to wistfully intoned form with "To The Stars"' catchy-as-Hades last second re-incarnation. Again, the latter's empowering, seizing chorus and classy, extended lead trade-offs roll out the retrofitted red carpet with flourish.

Sealing Sky Destroyer with zeal is cheesy, gang-squired closer, "Headbang 'til Death", the snappily waltzing, new wave of British heavy metal inspired, mid-pace feel of which never gets old. Starting with a simple and mellow "swing" riff, jaggedly hooking bass line and rollicking, Clive Burr evoking drums, this serendipitous and stimulating accompaniment to Soulthern (of Brazil)'s similarly festive or jocose, if not grammatically amusing, "Rock You 'till Die" eventually coasts into high gear, never once taking its eye off the prize. If "Mercy" permits an aerial, technical view of the band mates' individual skills, "Headbang 'till Death" assures a fun, collaborative rallying cry which bequeaths fitting end to Midnight Spell's first official foray. Glam metal fans looking for something with bite and a bit of fright, your search ends here!

"The thirst, the dream, the challenge is finally unleashed
Back against the wall for much too long
In a world of fake, weak, and superstars, we stand against the fate
So come on, be ready, it’s time to rise on top

Now we burn the night, like lightning we will strike
Maniac rockers ‘til the end of days
Oh you’ve been warned, we’ll send you to the floor
Sing our song, we know you’ll ask for more and more and more!"