Midnight
Hellish Expectations

The idea that I, some dumb schmuck from the fuck-all dregs of nowhere, could actually offer anything that might change your opinion of Midnight or indeed this, their latest offering of dick-swinging, occult-obsessed Blackened Speed and Punk, is goddamn laughable. In fact, I’ll just come right out and say this right from the get-go (because the fuck does it really matter?) – whatever type of way you feel about Cleveland’s sons of sadism and debauchery? Hellish Expectations will change none of it. Not even a little.

The thing is, for me and for the similarly-depraved out there who just can’t get enough spit-riddled, blood-and-probably-cum-stained sleaze, this is a good thing. I’d be ripshit if it were anything different. I’d probably riot.

At this stage in Midnight‘s long and, frankly, outrageous career – here’s where we’re at: A new album isn’t really any cause for Midnight mastermind Athenar to start pushing any boundaries. Fact of the matter is, he could even start recycling a riff or two and it’d probably be a minute before anyone really noticed or much cared (I’m by no means accusing him of this, I’m just making a point). True, the man himself did admit that he wasn’t totally feeling the output of Let There be Witchery – and maybe it was the slightly softened edges or even the hint at melody he injected into some of the tracks that put him off, because if you really want to get down to the brass nails here, Hellish Expectations is a decidedly more harsh affair. The Midnight sound has always been catchy and accessible (to a point), but this time around the production offers very little in the way of cushioning. It’s sharp, in-your-face, and lives directly in opposition to every advancement the world has made in the science of audio recording. Hellish Expectations is, at its core, Midnight at its most distilled and basic form.

 

To that point, “Expect Total Hell” very much rises to the occasion, immediately culling the likes of Venom and Hellhammer with an omnipresent spirit of Motorhead always lingering around the edges – Athenar makes no bones about his intentions with his first tortured, distorted scream, tossing any illusions of a gentler, restrained Midnight right off a cliff as he barrels ahead with signature simplicity – assaulting fans with the typical sort of fast, seething riffs that would fit the bill whether you were at a Black Metal or a Black Flag show, and the Rock n’ Roll as fuck solo just helps to set the tone even further, adding the kind of rock god machismo needed to make for an altogether sleazier, hornier affair. It’s the sort of frenzied, full-assault attack that makes a Midnight show the sensory overload experience that it is, which, is really the only reason for Athenar to keep writing new material, right? It’s all in service to the live show, which is ideally where one should experience Midnight in its full glorious mayhem anyway.

To that end,  I suspect “Masked and Deadly” could, and should become a new crowd favorite in short order, armed with a SUPER catchy guitar lead and possibly autobiographical lyrics that should immediately get stuck in any longtime fan’s brain. The more Rock-forward “Slave of the Blade,” and uber-catchy Motorhead worship of “FOAL (Fuck Off and Live)” also have all the hallmarks of becoming new live favorites, the latter boasting perhaps the most Midnight of all Midnight refrains of all time (I wish I could share the official video here featuring Athenar pretty much constantly flipping double-birds and ditching sticks to play drums directly with his fists, but apparently that’s all just too cool for YouTube to handle).

What has always endeared me to Midnight, and what Hellish Expectations has achieved in spades, is Athenar’s ability to reach out and appeal to the common metalhead. Prime example: a look at the track list may look like your prototypical collection of devil worshipping anthems and general misanthropy – and to be sure, that kind of thing is there for those that seek it – but it actually gets far more clever and, dare I say, wholesome than that. A quick glance and a track like “Deliver Us to Evil” could easily be mistaken as some mindless, throwaway metal trope, but the song is actually about ordering some metal records, sitting at home, and the anticipation of waiting for them to arrive at your doorstep. Like I said, very clever! And wholesome! And a feeling any metalhead, you, me or anyone else is all too familiar with!

That’s just one example Athenar himself has revealed, but it opens you to wonder what other kinds of normal, everyday headbanger shit he’s actually writing about. Is “Dungeon Lust” about finding yourself helplessly attracted to the new, mysterious Tiefling who’s joined your D&D party? Is “Mercyless Slaughtor” about the fictional metal band Merciless Slaughter from the “Mondo Metal” issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic book series? Probably not! But it’s also not hard to imagine Athenar chilling in his basement reading comics while waiting for his last order of metal albums to arrive. The possibilities are endless! If there’s anything maybe I can convince you of that might change your opinion about Midnight, it’s that Athenar is you, Athenar is me, Athenar is the spirit of every average shmo who just fucking loves Heavy Metal. I think we can all appreciate that.

Athenar seems to have made a really concerted effort to trim any fat that might have been forming to make for a truly authentic Midnight experience, and the result here is another high-quality, no frills event that fits in to the band’s catalog of bangers like a fingerless glove. If this review seems a bit flippant or like I haven’t given it enough effort, it’s not because I don’t think it deserves attention – far from it. There’s just not a whole lot to say here that you probably don’t already know about this band, and talking excessively about it serves no one. So I’ll just leave it at this – Midnight fans, rejoice with me! Hellish Expectations rules. Non-Midnight fans, uh, keep doing your thing, I guess? Athenar is going to keep plowing ahead just fine without you the same as he always has.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
March 22nd, 2024

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