Friday 16 September 2022

Midnight - Let There Be Witchery (2022)

Country: USA
Style: Black/Speed Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 4 Mar 2022
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website

Athenar, the jack of all trades who is the entirety of Midnight in a studio environment, is ahead of himself with this album, because it's only two years since the previous one, Rebirth by Blasphemy, and everyone knows that Midnight albums arrive like clockwork every three years. Maybe that's a positive impact of the COVID pandemic, a pleasant side effect to the unpleasant lack of touring of the last couple of years. Whatever the reason, I'm happy, because I like Midnight.

I should clarify that I like the other Midnight better, the live Midnight that expands the line-up by hiring a couple more musicians and blitzes through their set like a punk-infused speed metal band getting paid by the song, so they'd better finish this one quickly and start up another. I like what I hear from studio Midnight too, but they're a lot slower. These songs may end up as still more punk-infused speed metal on stage but, on virtual vinyl, they're more akin to proto-extreme metal, the sort of thing I was so enthralled by in the early to mid eighties as bands developed the sounds that would grow into black metal and death metal and what have you.

The most obvious examples of that this time out is Nocturnal Molestation, which is a catchy combo of Venom and Hellhammer, and Let There Be Sodomy, which features Athenar's most recognisable Cronos impression against a Teutonic power/speed metal backdrop. I dug both of these, of course, because this sort of thing is my happy place, taking me back to my introduction to everything rock and metal all at once, courtesy of Tommy Vance's Friday Rock Show, in 1984 and 1985.

The catch is that, nostalgia aside, the genre has moved on rather a long way since then and I can't honestly say that Athenar does this better than anyone else. This isn't Black Metal, let alone what spawned from it, and it frequently makes me think of Cronos way back in 1979, when Venom were a completely unheared of nightmare of a band, figuring out just how raw and deviant he could make the Motörhead sound. Songs like Devil Virgin could have been on a Venom demo a year later. And I came in with At War with Satan, so I knew how far that sound could go. Midnight don't go that far.

Half of me appreciates what Athenar does with Midnight, because he's utterly reliable. He churns out another ten songs every three, ahem two, years that are pretty akin to the ten on his previous album and the one before that. They sound good, especially if the revolutionary years in the early eighties in the UK and parts of the continent are special times for you. However, even if they were, you're going to be well aware that what was revolutionary then isn't revolutionary today and that realisation is the biggest downside to what Midnight do.

There are other bands out there trawling that same source material but they're doing it in a more contemporary fashion, bringing the sound up to date, even if it remains fundamentally old school. Athenor apparently has no interest in doing that at all, so Midnight sound less vibrant—on record—than bands like Reaper and Inculter and Bütcher, even an old school band like Sodom, given their most recent album. I highlighted "on record" because I've seen Midnight live and I know how much they blister on stage, but that's a different Midnight to what Athenor gets up to in the studio.

What that boils down to is that, if you know Midnight already, this is more of the same, but, if you don't, this is as good as any album to start out on. It'll do the same job as the others. If you want a sample first, check out Nocturnal Molestation or Snake Obsession or Let There Be Sodomy first on YouTube. If you like them, you'll like everything else. Maybe, for something just a little different, I would suggest More Torment, because it's Midnight as a slow and lumbering heavy metal monster in search of food. But variety isn't what you'll get here. You'll get Venom in 1980. And, if that's not a birthday present for you, knock a point of my rating.

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