Midnight – Hellish Expectations (Metal Blade Records)

Monday, 4th March 2024
Rating: 8.5 / 10

The one-man army known as Athenar returns for the sixth Midnight full-length platter, the appropriately titled Hellish Expectations. Ubiquitous in output (scroll Metal Archives for his lengthy discography of demos, EPs, split, or live offerings beyond the albums), no one will dispute the blackened speed metal approach attacks in a caustic fashion, the purity effective while wasting no extraneous energy in spots to impress others. Composing the follow-up to Let There Be Witchery over the course of one weekend, its apparent that the lethal dose of venomous metal remains at peak levels for these ten tracks – sure to entertain the legions who savor the gut-punching atmosphere that is the essence of this style.

Simplicity is key to the Midnight style – riding that punk-infused ethos across blackened, speedy metallic lines where the drums pummel, the bass thumps in low end magnificence while the guitars and vocals slice through the aural register as weapons on a crusade of destruction. Athenar can throw down a killer lead break when he wants to – right out of the gate on opener “Expect Total Hell” – yet uses feedback / distortion to major effect on the next thunderous salvo “Gash Scrape”, where his infectious bellows and raspy roars take on another venomous veneer. Even spots of NWOBHM riffs meet Motörhead groove come to mind on the mid-tempo “Slave Of the Blade”, while the one-four-five chord progressions reach a fever pitch on “Deliver Us To Devil”. These are anthems for the devoted – seething in angst, dripping in that bestial spirit that rages yearning to break free. Over in a scant twenty-five minutes and change, closer “F.O.A.L.” contains those rally cry movements in terms of a proper riff/vocal combination, another wild lead break, plus chilling lyrics where ‘for your soul to rest, no rest from the reaper’ occurs.

Usually artists twenty-plus years into their career start to shift gears or go for greener pastures as they become bored with their art. Not so for Midnight, as Hellish Expectations keeps the foot firmly on the gas – unleashing another killer set of tracks sure to add to the live show experience when the group comes around again.

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