Coming off some great EPs and beastly full length Satanic Royalty, Midnight crept into the hearts of many an leather-donned ‘head through a combination of Venom’s proto black metal and Motörhead’s, well, everything. Speedy, riffy, raunchy, and generally irate —just how we order it. There wasn’t an ounce of originality in any of it, but it was so expertly crafted and executed that it didn’t matter; we were sold. Still, deep down this was novelty music, and would likely be treated as such by many a listener.
This prediction was blown to smithereens by Midnight’s set at Maryland Deathfest in 2013, when they absolutely owned the large outdoor crowd. A lot of people love this shit, and a lot of people want more of this shit.
Man-of-all-crafts Athenar is more than happy to oblige, delivering No Mercy for Mayhem (*wink wink nudge nudge*) into sleaze-hungry ears everywhere. Once past the intro – the use of which is an odd choice for this band – it instantly feels like jumping right back into that same warm and fuzzy Midnight Vibe. As before, the riffs generally take on a dirty Fast Eddie feel, while solos emphasize the “rock out” mentality. The vocals remain a real highlight, as Athenar maintains his ability to sound both parched/shredded and phlegm-ridden.
While the overall feel of No Mercy for Mayhem is exactly the same as past Midnight material, there is a slight increase in the overt rock and rollness of it all. This comes across mostly from the increase of Motörhead riffs and rhythms (“Evil Like a Knife,” “Degradation,” most other songs) and the occasional insertion of some good old-fashioned boogie (“Prowling Leather”). “The Final Rape of Night” injects the middle of the album with a serious dose of relentless blackened rage, but for the most part the balance of sound on No Mercy for Mayhem is tipped slightly to the rock and roll side of Midnight’s “black rock and roll” formula. In other words, some songs sound even more exactly alike than they did before. (This is not necessarily a complaint. No one wanted a ballad, right?)
Overall, one can’t shake the feeling that this new album isn’t quite up to the level of Satanic Royalty. Athenar’s performances are all still top notch, and the whole thing is still dripping with magnetic personality, but there are fewer absolute scorchers in this set than there were on the previous full length. Think of it as Satanic Royalty if it lacked songs like “Lust Filth and Sleaze” and “Shock ‘til Blood.”
Ever-so-slight letdown aside, No Mercy for Mayhem remains another very strong and ludicrously fun album. It probably won’t elicit the same drunken grin as your first spin of Satanic Royalty, but it further proves that no one can quite match Midnight for hybridizing some of 1981’s best.