Midnight are a band as noteworthy for their utter lack of social media presence as they are for their Kill ‘Em All style Metallica meets old school black metal sound, with lyrical themes sadistically violent and satanically sleazy enough to make Earth A.D. era Danzig clutch his pearls. The Cleveland, Ohio speed thrash project of one man known only as Athenar (though he is joined live by at least two likeminded and similarly clad leather fiends) calls to mind a bygone era of smoky basements and hazy record stores, walls festooned with outlandishly offensive artwork and photos touting the latest and greatest in metal, punk and hardcore. It’s a taste for danger and the unknown impossible to quench in the Information Age, similar to the 80’s VHS worship so coveted by filmmakers like Ti West and Adam Wingard.
Athenar’s latest monument to “lust, filth and sleaze” is Shox of Violence, a 4 track EP unleashed on CD, digital and most importantly, vinyl and cassette earlier this week. Shox offers some of the catchiest compositions and crispest production we’ve yet heard from Midnight. Each of the new songs, “Death Scream”, “Who Gives A Fuck”, “Ready For Destruction” and “Groin Gripper” (yes, with a name like “Groin Gripper” it has to be good) is an instant classic picking right up from where 2014 LP No Mercy For Mayhem left off, with a breakneck pace, insanely driving riffage and soloing, and of course Athenar’s blackened rasp, as fierce as ever, at the helm.
In classic, Spinal Tap-esque overindulgent metal fashion, all but the vinyl versions of Shox include 21 (yes, 21) bonus tracks. Here we have a collection of deep cuts, b-sides, demos and covers from the NWOBHM usual suspects like Venom and Girlschool, as well as the pre-MTV fame, Randy Rhoads led Quiet Riot. If you’re not really interested in a history lesson about metal in general or Midnight in particular, this is basically all just a lot more Midnight, which is never a bad thing. The deep cuts up the raunch factor considerably though, which may be a problem for some. I feel like the less than enlightened views towards sex just add to the “time capsule” factor of Midnight‘s oeuvre. Tracks like “Vomit Queens” and “Sadist Sodomystic Seducer” were never going to win Athenar any awards from the ACLU anyway, and they can only help his chances if he ever decides to run for President.
With a third LP on the way and a renewed focus on touring behind the project, Midnight seems poised to progress even further into the annals of metal’s elite, which is great news for anyone that’s come into contact with Athenar’s curious and interesting blackened speed thrash beast over the years. If there’s a band out there more deserving of increased exposure and less likely to change their ideals as a result, I can’t think of one.