Midnight Priest have been a shining star in the Portuguese underground heavy metal scene for several years. The band released a well-received EP and full-length album on Stormspell Records in 2009 and 2011, respectively, sporting Portuguese lyrics and (especially on the full-length) a dark/occult edge that successfully incorporated elements of bands like Mercyful Fate into Midnight Priest’s old-school traditional metal attack. Today, the band has a new singer, Lex Thunder (ha!); a new guitarist, Steelbringer (heh); a new label, the well-respected Slaney Records; and a new album, entitled ‘Midnight Steel.’ It’s the dawn of a brand-new day for Midnight Priest.
My first exposure to ‘Midnight Steel’ came as a bit of a shock because this album differs markedly from its self-titled predecessor. The dark Mercyful Fate bits have been completely eradicated, the vocals are now much more high-pitched, and Lex Thunder sings in English. These are all significant changes to Midnight Priest’s sound, as one might expect when integral lineup changes occur. Subsequent spins convinced me, however, that ‘Midnight Steel’ really isn’t that much of a departure from the band’s catalog. If anything, the musical approach on this album harkens back more to the band’s style on its debut EP, ‘Rainha da Magia Negra.’ As for the other changes, the English lyrics make the songs more accessible to an international audience, and Thunder has a hell of a set of pipes if you like screaming high-pitched metal singers. So it’s all good.
Actually, it’s better than all good. Truth be told, ‘Midnight Steel’ is a fantastic album that holds its own when compared to the top tier of bands trading in the classic metal style today. The songwriting has improved by leaps and bounds over Midnight Priest’s previous albums. These are punchy, catchy anthems propelled by inspired 80s-style riffage, compelling choruses, and hooks galore. Fans of bands like Skull Fist, Axxion, Enforcer, Night Demon, Air Raid, Widow and so on will have a field day with glorious cuts like the NWOBHM-on-speed “Mistress of the Night,” the singalong “When Midnight Comes,” the monstrous “Made of Steel,” and the triumphant rifferama of closer “Thunderbay.” The 30-minute running time (seven real songs plus an intro and two interludes) passes in the blink of an eye, after which there’s an overwhelming urge to push play again. This is well-executed, impressive stuff, and genre fans should not miss it. Would love to see this band gracing festival stages in Europe and domestically, as I’d wager they put on a hell of a live performance, judging by the crackling energy and overflowing enthusiasm displayed here.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~