(Youll notice there are no apostrophes in this review--for some reason the apostrophe breaks this website. Oops!)
Ive been listening to metal for around seven years, and in that time Ive gone through a lot of phases, being a big fan of primarily power metal, then black metal and proggy stuff, to death metal and onward from there. At this point in time a lot of bands I used to enjoy have fallen out of favor with me for many reasons, but the biggest one is the lack of staying power. Bands that lacked real heart, memorable songwriting, the ability to write music that seemed to have a "point" as opposed to just being a few cool-sounding riffs stitched together. That seems to be a big problem in modern death metal in particular; there are plenty of bands who can write a kickass riff or two, throw them together with some dark and dirty production like a smoky barbecue sauce over your meat, extend about four or five minutes then move on to the next cocktail of riffs. But is that really good songwriting? The older death metal bands knew how to make it work; Morbid Angels "Chapel of Ghouls" is a great example of a song with killer riffs that remembers its still a song. A lot of modern bands forget that thats the whole point of this. Its not like theyre playing industrial noise or any of that type of "anti-music" I find myself immersed in nowadays (which has a totally different purpose to it); metal is still, in the end, very much a conventionally structured type of music. So writing a good song is still priority #1. First-wave black metal was good at this as is most heavy metal. Old-school doom (see: Candlemass - Solitude) demonstrated often enough that it could write music that wasnt necessarily "fun" but was still full of killer grooves and possessed a great sense of direction. 2nd-wave black metal started missing the mark more often than not, thrash was hit-and-miss (good: Kreator - PtK, bad: bay area), and progressive metal just generally doesnt know how to do anything right. But in the end, what needs to return to the forefront of thought amongst the metal culture, as Dio often advocated, is that above all metal needs to be about first and foremost good songwriting and fun. Metal works best when it doesnt try to be something its not. Metal is not ambient, metal is not free jazz, and metal is not, idk, David Sylvian.
The reason Satanic Royalty gets a 4.5 rating from me is that Midnight knows this. This album is short, but every second is packed full of spirit and good times. Midnight has the killer riffs but they arent the songs themselves, theyre merely the building blocks to the songs. This band does not use the "sum of its parts" approach to songwriting like many modern death metal bands I can think of thatll knock out a cool riff or three, set up a constant blastbeat underneath and call it a track. The songs here are more than the sum of their parts; everything works together like a proper song should. And just because a band makes music with a message doesnt mean that message has to be deep; the message here is nothing but "fun". Its over the top but certainly isnt cheesy (take note, power metal fairies). You Cant Stop Steel, Rip This Hell, Lust Filth and Sleaze, these are songs for drinking, for partying, for having a goddamn good time, and thats all. Mindless fun, maybe, but not mindlessly put together. It really doesnt take a lot of thought to write good metal songs, and too many musicians are far too involved in themselves to realize that. Youre not special because you play guitar or whatever. Youre skilled if you can shred across a fretboard to hell and back, but in the end nobody cares, at least not anybody who knows what the point of music is. Its about composition, not pure skill, although that certainly could help if youre like Professor Charles Xavier and have some discipline with your ability. A carpenter never shows off his toolbox; he shows off the things he built with those tools. Thats what metal is, or should be all about, but the popular philosophy in metal seems to have shifted over time as the style became less esoteric to outsiders and more acclimating and willing to blend in the influences of styles that otherwise would have nothing to do with it. Adherents to the true course still exist, and with their help we can right the ship and metal can reach a state of total self-actualization or something.
When you write music like Midnight does, oozing with spunk, dirty but not amateurish, and above all focused on bringing good times to your listeners, you help ensure that nothing can stop steel. Ever.
Midnight - Satanic Royalty posted by Corey, Tuesday July 17, 2012 @ 08:03:24 PM