Listening to Midnight’s full length debut Satanic Royalty was like getting beaten in the temple with King Diamond’s old bone mic and loving every skull-crunching delivery. Plain and simple: The album rocked. ROCKED. The Venömhead hybrid was a perfect balance of sleaze and virtuous heavy metal thunder, and it helped to keep my pretentious “exploratory” side at bay when it needed a rest. It’s all well and good to seek out wondrous new musical realms, but it’s also exhausting, and fuck if I don’t just want to get wrecked on bourbon whiskey and blast the unholy shit out of some early Hellhammer and Motörhead records sometimes, too. Midnight is the ultimate modern embodiment of that side of heavy metal.
The pure headbanging brilliance on Satanic Royalty was not the result of magical fluke, but rather of years of ass-busting hard work on a wide variety of EPs, splits, and compilation appearances. The full length thusly showed a band at full strength, but as these early recordings will attest to, Midnight was pretty damn special right from the first riff. Complete and Total Hell captures the vast majority of this material, and despite the decrease in titular profanity, it’s an upgrade over the band’s earlier compilation Complete and Total Fucking Midnight. Like that release, this new comp includes the debut self-titled EP (later called Funeral Bell), the White Hot Fire single, and a barrage of unreleased tracks and rarities, but where Hell passes Fucking Midnight is with the inclusion of the Farewell to Hell EP, which contains some of Athenar and company’s best pre-Satanic Royalty material.
The differences between each of these releases aren’t as notable as the differences they all show with Satanic Royalty, and even those are quite negligible. There is certainly a rougher edge, and the knack for hooks was developed over time, but the most notable difference (which again, is negligible) is a tendency towards more extreme influences in the early going. Whereas the full-length spewed forth a nearly 50/50 Lemmy-Cronos black heavy metal combination, this material contains plenty of nods to other early underground acts. There is a good splash of Celtic Frost-by-way-of-Discharge tossed in (“Servant of No One”), and hints of early Bathory are all over the place as well (“Strike of Midnight” or the obvious homage of “It’s a Sacrifice”). But this is still very much the Midnight heard on the full length, with some of the Fast Eddiest Fast Eddie riffs never written by Fast Eddie strewn everywhere, such as those in “All Hail Hell” or “Berlin is Burning.”
So really, if you drank in and regurgitated the drunken swagger that was Satanic Royalty, there will not be a moment of real surprise within this nearly 80-minute package, which is exactly the idea. The prevailing formula was always Motörhead and plenty of other classic metal, blackened up with extra nastiness, topped with Venomous lyrics delivered by a shredded throat. Riffs, riffs, and more galloping riffs piled over with plenty of rusty hooks. This is “Black Rock’n’Roll” after all. Lemmy always insisted that Motörhead was a rock’n’roll band, and Midnight is certainly 100 percent that, while also being 100 percent heavy metal and exceptional at both.
Most of all, Midnight is a flag-bearer of tradition, and even in their embryonic state, they were more fit to carry that flag than many stalwarts twice their age. Satanic Royalty firmly announced the band’s presence but the nearly 10 years of material they’d compiled leading up to that album was of exceptional quality as well, making Complete and Total Hell a no-brainer for fans of all things (un)good and (in)decent in the world of heavy metal.