When you listen to Cleveland’s Midnight, you get the feeling the band has been around forever. But that’s not the case: Sweet Death and Ecstasy is only Midnight’s third full-length. In the studio, this is a one-man project created by the mysterious Athenar. 2014’s No Mercy for Mayhem was well-received, a sloppy, catchy black ‘n’ roll album that successfully merged Motorhead with Venom. Can Midnight keep it going here?
Midnight more than keep it going: they up the ante in every way. The first thing we notice, of course, is the shocking cover art. While the art for No Mercy for Mayhem and Satanic Royalty was weird and disturbing, Sweet Death and Ecstasy more than borders on offensive. That fits with the whole schtick of the band, and it’s up to the listener as to whether you’re deeply offended or you roll your eyes and chuckle.
As well, with song titles like “Penetratal Ecstasy” and “Bitch Mongrel,” you know offending people is top priority – no wonder Athenar is always seen masked. But let’s dive beyond that for a few minutes (35, to be exact, the length of this 8-song album) and check out the songs.
Midnight switch things up a bit on Sweet Death and Ecstasy by bookending the album with two slower-paced, lengthy songs. Known for short blasts of blackened, punk-tinged speed metal, opener “Crushed by Demons” and closer “Before My Time in Hell” are both more traditional metal, and they’re also both excellent songs, with great riffs and pacing, and stellar arrangements that one wouldn’t expect from an act like this. After many listens, they actually come off as the strongest songs on the album.
The middle six-pack of songs is more what we’ve come to expect from Midnight, short and fast with Athenar barking out the lyrics much like Venom’s Cronos of old. The riffs are plentiful, as is the chaos and speed. The production perfectly suits the material as well, with raw guitars to the fore and no effects to speak of.
Midnight are a polarizing act. In this age of political correctness, and with everyone on social media offended by everything, I can see Sweet Death and Ecstasy offending people en masse. And that’s fine: we all have the freedom to be offended. But putting those feelings aside for half an hour lets us hear a superb album that’s probably going to find its way onto a number of year-end lists.
(released December 15, 2017 on Hells Headbangers Records)
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Listen To Midnight – “Penetratal Ecstasy”