While I have a soft spot for the epic and possess the attention span to love a long record if it justifies the quantity with quality (like Tyr’s Hel), sometimes brevity in heavy metal is refreshing. Wanting more songs like “Prowler” doesn’t take away from the greatness of “Alexander the Great”—they’re just doing different things, and it’s not a zero-sum game anyhow. I like focus and consistency, so a whole record of quick and quality heavy metal songs is always something I keep an ear to the ground for. This year the ground decided to scream “Midnight Priest” at me—a bit rude, but I can’t argue with the results.
Aggressive Hauntings is the type of record which wants to take the length and punch of Judas Priest’s “Electric Eye,” Mercyful Fate’s “Gypsy,” and Iron Maiden’s “Purgatory” and make a whole record of it. Apart from a wonderfully campy super-spooky haunted house organ intro, this whole record is made of catchy metal tracks that rarely breach the four-minute mark and overstuff themselves with cool riffs in the vein of Judas Priest and classic Mercyful Fate with the focus on their simpler, catchier stuff and standout soaring guitar solos. The theatrical vocals aren’t at the level of Halford or the King, but they’re a lot of fun nonetheless with an oft-used falsetto and a decent midrange clean. Thankfully Midnight Priest knows their limitations; hooks are centered around the actual range of the vocals as to not strain them into places they can’t reach.
There’s a lot of fun to be had here. “On Your Knees for Metal” is one of those mandatory songs about how great the genre is, and the music sells it convincingly. While other bands sometimes fade songs out for the last 15 seconds, on “Funeral” Midnight Priest decide to transition out of the climax of the song with one more guitar solo and end right after it. That is making the most of your runtime. “Black Leather” is a triumphant closer that has some Visigoth muscle to it, ending the record strong and making a replay nearly inevitable. “Iron Heart” would be a Firepower highlight if Judas Priest played it—and that’s my favorite Priest record since Painkiller. The wonderful guitar interplay in the “Holy Flesh” midsection is the stuff great metal is made of.
Aggressive Hauntings is the type of album that sneaks up on you in quality and longevity—the twentieth listen is exponentially better than the first. With no duds and subtly brilliant sequencing, Aggressive Hauntings is truly great fun for people who want energetic heavy metal with no ballads or ten-minute epics. Having spent over half the year with at least one Midnight Priest song stuck in my head at any given moment, it only seems right to pass the joy on to you. ‘tis the season of giving after all, and Aggressive Hauntings is a trad metal gift that keeps on giving unless riffs, solos, and fun make you crabby.
Tracks to Spook Yourself With: “Funeral,” “Ecstasy,” “On Your Knees for Metal”