(Cold Town 2017)
If you’re a fan of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, listen up. The name Midnight Messiah may not ring a bell, but Elixir damn sure ought to. Elixir’s The Son of Odin from 1986 is a bona fide classic, with songs like “Treachery (Ride Like the Wind)” standing the test of time brilliantly. When Elixir split for good in 2012, vocalist Paul Taylor and guitarist Phil Denton turned over a new leaf with Midnight Messiah, which retained many hallmarks of the classic Elixir style but added a burst of fresh inspiration. I had the unexpected good fortune of seeing Midnight Messiah perform live at Water Rats in London in June 2013 when I flew to England with my pals in Widow for a one-off opening for the mighty Grim Reaper. Midnight Messiah had the middle slot on the bill and they were great, playing tunes not only from their Root of All Evil debut but also some old Elixir stuff. Not long ago, Midnight Messiah retired from the live arena because of health issues, from what I understand, but they’re still alive and kicking. The band recently released their second album, Led into Temptation, available for a reasonable price via their own Cold Town Records. My CD came with a handwritten note signed by both Denton and Taylor, thanking me for supporting the band and saying they hoped I would enjoy the album. Pure class.
After a few spins, I’m pleased to report that Led into Temptation is a very enjoyable release, indeed. It’s definitely true to Taylor and Denton’s NWOBHM roots, but it also moves toward more contemporary metal realms, on the one hand, and more in the classic rock direction, in the other. What I mean by that is that Midnight Messiah aren’t afraid to put some variety into this record. Songs like “The Merry Widow” (whose origins pre-date Elixir, if my information is correct) and bonus track “Right Place Wrong Time” both channel Thin Lizzy beautifully. Then there’s stuff like the high-octane opener “Second Coming” and the super-catchy “Go to the Light,” which capture the true NWOBHM spirit and will have you singing around the house for days. Denton (who is credited with most guitars, plus bass and the occasional keyboard) has a knack for strong riffs and melodies, and Taylor has that kind of ageless Biff Byford / Tony Martin voice: a little road-weary, perhaps, yet still rugged and laden with distinctly British character. Two songs, in particular, are worthy of emphasis. Proper album closer “While Heaven Bleeds,” is a six and a half minute tour de force with a towering, foreboding Iommi-esque riff, a lumbering tempo, and an emotional vocal performance from Taylor. The song suddenly takes off at the four and a half minute mark with a gold-plated riff, a somewhat faster tempo, and the most gripping vocal on the album. Stirring stuff. Then there’s “The Sinner Must Die,” sporting a tough-as-nails riff, a devil-may-care attitude, and a relentless, hard-driving beat, interspersed with a beautiful guitar harmony in the chorus section and even a glorious Maiden-type bridge. The whole album’s worthy, but “While Heaven Bleeds” and “The Sinner Must Die” earn top marks for sure.
As is true of many self-released albums these days, Led into Temptation does have some sonic issues, most notably that it was mastered quiet so you really have to crank up the volume on this bastard to hear it at a suitable level on the home stereo. On the plus side, it has a very natural, honest sound, which is refreshing in an age where so much new music is quantized and triggered and ProTooled to death. But make no mistake: Led into Temptation is a high-quality modern-day NWOBHM entry that is unfortunately flying under the radar. It was released with little fanfare, and I’m puzzled as to why, particularly given the Elixir pedigree. Midnight Messiah did a fine job here, and genre fans would eat this up if they knew about it. So all you Elixir fans, NWOBHM hounds, and devotees of well-written honest heavy metal from the heart, give Midnight Messiah a chance, won’t you? You can order your copy at www.coldtown.com.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~