Punk and black/death metal are closer brethren than one might think. Obviously, punk’s influence on metal is undeniable, but when a band like Cleveland’s Midnight comes along and seamlessly mashes both styles together, it becomes even more evident how the different genres are all branches of the same tree. There are also some strong elements of NWOBHM, thrash, crust… I can go on and on, but what Midnight really hammers home is that when you throw them into a big pile, light it on fire, and piss on it, besides that horrible acrid cloud of pissmist, you get what can best be described as rock and roll.
With a slew of seven inches, live releases and one album (2011’s Satanic Royalty) already in the can, on No Mercy for Mayhem, Midnight have truly penned some gloriously nasty stuff, and like the bastard child of Venom, Cirith Ungol, GG Allin and Motorhead, what really stands out is their attitude. Visions of a skull-ringed, black-nailed middle finger sticking out of a leather biker glove dance in your head while listening to these 11 ditties that show mastermind (and sole studio musician) Athenar has some serious songwriting skills. He knows how to avoid overplaying on any instrument, allowing the songs to deliver the message rather than become a showcase of dexterity or virtuosity.
The guitar intro to “Penetratal Curse” sets an eerie stage that the first track proper, “Evil Like a Knife,” blows all to fuck and right out of the gate it’s clear the listener is in for a good whipping. “Prowling Leather” opens with a riff that sticks in your head like an ice pick. The title track is my favorite (and the slowest) track on the album, showcasing a perfect combination of beauty and melody shining through a deep layer of filth. Athenar is a master of interjecting pop sensibilities into his songs without losing grasp of the ugly beast at the core of each, and the resulting hooks are murderous tools.
“Aggressive Crucifixion” is a stand out track that showcases Athenar’s vile yet intelligible vocal delivery, a catchy chorus, and just enough repetition to ensure it’s stuck in your head without a hammer having been used. The dirty, raw production stands alongside albums like Venom‘s Black Metal and Motorhead‘s Overkill in feel, but with a fullness that many classic albums lack and it fits the material perfectly, with just the right amount of buzz on the bass for a sound that sits alongside the guitars instead of getting lost in them.
No Mercy for Mayhem is solid from start to finish. No filler, no frills, just a whole lot of “fuck you!” A fine reminder that at the core of great music, of whatever genre, is the great song; something many bands in extreme genres have abandoned for the sake of extremity itself. You new bloods that wonder what we old coots love about sloppy old metal can get a prime modern-day example of it right here, and those of us that miss the good ‘ol days can get a powerful dose that stands alongside the albums that made us love this stuff in the first place.