Think back to college. Or maybe you have to go back to high school. Maybe you were homeschooled and didn’t go to either. In that case, let’s just have everybody think back to the first time they held a lukewarm beer in a plastic cup while watching a band perform in a wood-paneled basement that was inexplicably carpeted in something far too thick for walking on. As you stood there tracking wet dirt, dew and mud all over these poor people’s shag carpet, you rocked back and forth, eyes closed, as a band performed sans-stage. Maybe the singer came over towards you in the crowd and motioned as vocals poured forth into the microphone and crackled out of the borrowed PA system.
The times we live in are most certainly uncertain, making the title of Midnight Prey’s debut LP prescient or appropriate or whatever. But it can be said in every time that the times are uncertain. And that’s the point. Midnight Prey is timeless. Since the moment Charlie Christian first fired up an electric guitar and cranked out a few blues licks through an over-gained amplifier, the sound of a crackling guitar has reached through the speaker and anointed the very electric souls of those of us fortunate to communicate via music. It doesn’t matter that Midnight Prey’s music could have been made at any point in the last 100 (give or take) years. It doesn’t matter that they are pumping out epic power-trio tunes in Germany and not England or America. What matters is that they have been infected, probably through abduction and genetic splicing, with the transcendental geneticism of so many rockers before them.
Uncertain Times opens about as metal as the album gets. The whine of a guitar diving into a riff backed by driving drumbeats and thumping bass. “Stoff” is a romping track full of intricate picking that feels intentionally sloppy in that “garage-esque” style of music. Calling to mind Nation of Ulysses, The Makers and McLusky, Midnight Prey seem to lean far outside the confines of heavy metal for their inspiration, drawing from noise, garage rock and plenty of pure rock and roll. The result is a cocktail akin to a musical version of straight dope. Expect to feel high off these jams, tunes and rhythmic jaunts across Uncertain Times before replacing the needle and doing it all over again.
The third track is another infectious gem that uses galloping riffs paired with that sloppily intricate picking technique that hits your veins like 50cc’s of that stuff Michael Jackson used for falling asleep, mixed with whatever helped keep guys like Iggy Pop awake for weeks. The pacing is perfect for whatever activity you’d like to pair with a Midnight Prey album. That activity could be fishing, cocaine, a string of armed robberies or a night of bromance and UNO. Whatever it is you’re doing, tracks like “The Tower” will help get you to your emotional destination with nothing more than lower back pain and a penchant for cheese fries.
“We Lose” is perhaps the trio’s darkest take on their sound. Without changing much save the vocal delivery, the band draws on influences such as Bauhaus to produce a Danzig-on-Amped-Up-Cocaine take on goth-tinged rock. Winston Ziller’s vocals move from energetic to imploring, urging ever onward as the track surges into a flutter of action anchored by yet another infectious-as-tetanus riff. The track even features a stripped down solo of nearly clean guitar that meanders between psychedelic and surf rock as the pick slides from a bridge position to a neck position that utilizes the classic distortions pumped out by these overdriven single-coils.
The title track, placed in the sixth position on the LP, should be enough to assure the listener that Midnight Prey have no intention of quitting. Their pacing, enthusiasm and drive know zero limitations in this mortal, physical world. The track features a central riff extremely characteristic of Midnight Prey’s urgent songwriting style. It’s not enough to simply chunk out chords in a catchy pattern, just like it’s not enough to simply pick out a few interesting soliloquies on the guitar. The two must be combined into an intricate riff that sounds effortless and lends itself to an amped-up hard-strummed version as the vocals lean on that internal gain pedal and strain beyond the capacity of the vocal box from which they make berth.
Sure, you wake up, drink your tea (preferably not chamomile) or coffee (preferably espresso) and click on Last Rites (obviously set to your home page) to check out the heaviest of metal reviews. Maybe you weren’t expecting to hear about rock and roll, but you can’t have heavy metal without rock and roll, and you can’t have Midnight Prey without heavy metal. You can’t have denim without wear marks, and you can’t have quality life experience without a series of mistakes and blunders that lead you in the right direction.
Midnight Prey is the culmination of all of that. The emotional fallout of our dumbest and most public blunders turned into the brilliance of experience that only those who have fallen can understand. Midnight Prey are rock and roll that transcends boundaries, that brings people together, that fuels your Menorah when Chanukah has long since past. It’s the miracle of music and nostalgia that makes you excited to wake up every once in a while. It’s the best times informed by all the worst times, but advanced and separate from those low points. Midnight Prey is life.