No Mercy For Mayhem

Generally speaking, metal lost its edge a long time ago. Today, the reckless, brazen, go-fuck-yourself attitude is all but a speed-damaged haze of the hedonistic days when Motörhead  bombed through more booze, drugs and women than half the poodle-permed pretty boys poncing around the Sunset Strip during the 1980s. Or when the facetious Satanism Of Venom – a bare-chested, leather-clad occult trio that put fear in the heart of fans of the NWOBHM and gave a bloody birth to black metal in the process –  spat fire in the face of the mainstream.

In 2014, bands are too preoccupied with music technique, how they’re perceived on social media and, consequentially, how many "likes" they get on their Facebook pages to have the balls to just run wild and channel the animalistic instincts of their forebears. Metal is too soft; too safe; and too sweet (Babymetal are a genuine draw, for crying out loud). The politically correct culture of our modern climate has dampened the danger of what was once outsider music, and instead public scorn upon bands for tossing around a pint of pigs’ blood while Alice Cooper and Blackie Lawless were more acceptably, and legitimately, extreme 30-odd years ago.

Metal bands need to reclaim the danger, to frighten and thrill, and leave their musicianship secondary to arrogance and abandon. One metal band pushing in that direction by rejecting sanitisation, righteously embracing their inner hellion and having fun with standing out like a middle finger amongst the rest of the blunted stumps, are Midnight. Just like Motörhead and Venom before them, Midnight’s ramshackle punk-thrash-and-roll vomits up brew of warm beer, cheap drugs, and bad intentions. But unlike Motörhead and Venom, Midnight are entirely helmed by one man: known to his mother as Jamie Walters, and to the scourge of the underground as Athenar. Bullet-belts, horror t-shirts and black hoods make up his attire, while his attitude comes straight from the spunk and piss-stained genes of metal and punk’s past provocateurs.

Midnight’s live shows (Athenar pulls together likeminded reprobates to turn his solo-project into a hissing and spitting full band) either evolve into a drunken disaster or emerge a fist-pumpin’ revelation – and that’s exactly what we need from our metal musicians: un-fucking-predictability. Granted, on record Midnight are slightly more predictable, such is the nature of recordings versus live shows; but just like The Sex Pistols before them, the energy and the brashness is not lost on the loosely-played tracks that form Midnight’s hell-bound speed metal debutSatanic Royalty, their dozen or so splits/EPs/compilations, and now their equally exciting second studio album – No Mercy For Mayhem.

Quite possibly Hells Headbangers’ best band, though Nunslaughter and Shitfucker might skin you alive for referring to Midnight as such, the Cleveland-based band perfectly suit the underground label’s reputation for rotten sounds. But oddly,No Mercy For Mayhem has genuine break-out potential. For example, the title track is one of the best metal/rock songs you’ll hear this year. There’s effortless cool in the spiked blues licks and solos, and the gnarled chorus call of "No mercy for mayhem!! No mercy for death!!" is as anthemic as underground metal gets. Couple that with a song that matches the sleazy brilliance of its title, ‘Prowling Leather’, and you’ll already have your dole money recouped. Like the stomping ‘Woman Of Flame’, ‘Prowling Leather’ wields sharp hooks and bounds over bucking, mid-paced hard rock grooves while conversely the thrash-fuelled gallop of ‘Evil Like A Knife’ evokes Metallica’s ‘Hit The Lights’ if Kill ‘Em All had more Venom than Diamond Head in its blood. There’s also greater NWOBHM adoration creeping into the concise 36 minutes (the running time inclusive of the oddball bonus song ‘Destroy Tsunami’s Power’) of No Mercy For Mayhem which adds variety to the punked-up speed metal that has made the band an underground concern for 10 years and counting. ‘The Final Rape Of Night’, ‘Try Suicide’ and ‘Whiplash Disaster’ on the other hand, all thrum with the speed and aggression of proto-thrash together with the sloppiness and insolence of punk rock, as Midnight corkscrew around you like hooded bandits rallying around a wagon rammed to the tits with cocaine.

There might be nothing new to be found on No Mercy For Mayhem, and Midnight’s influences are surely worn boldly as a badge of pride throughout, but the songwriting is really effective in its simplicity, the sound bigger and bolder, and the hooks sharper than a switchblade. Additionally, because the album is tightly-packed with no one song outstaying its welcome, the replay value is huge, thus a greater appreciation of Athenar’s songwriting skills forms while you spend time thrashing around to it on repeat, shouting aloud the superbly clichéd and nonsensical metal lyrics (see: ‘Aggressive Crucifixion’). It’s also refreshing to find an album that defies the need for pseudo-intellectual critique and instead engages your adrenal glands, kicks you in the groin, and elevates your blood pressure to the perilous levels of an obese, financially-ruined banker’s. But not only that, the most essential point to take from this album is that the vulgar, defiant spirit of heavy metal and punk rock lives, as chaos returns.

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