Midnight Dice – Hypnotized Review

[Artwork by Lauren Gornik]

Yes, this slice of Chicago-styled awesomeness came out three months ago, but 1) we didn’t cover it for reasons of insanity, and 2) it was only available as a digital download, which changes this week when the good folks at Hoove Child Records finally drop a snazzy looking cassette version. (Side note: If you’re one of those heartless cads who looks down their very stuffy nose at tapes, a CD and LP variation will follow in late fall through Germany’s Underground Power Records.)

News of a physical release gives us a second chance to redeem ourselves and underline the truth that A) Hypnotized is one of the year’s best classic heavy metal short-players, and B) the loss of Satan’s Hallow after just one full-length, while about as unfavorable as unfavorable can get, feels mitigated because four out of the five players went on to form this here Midnight Dice project.

Release date: September 4, 2020. Label: Hoove Child Records.
What’s new? NUTHIN’, BUTTERCUP. And thank goodness for that. Actually, that’s not entirely true. While Midnight Dice continues to speed forward with extremely mindful eyes on metal’s rearview mirror, the overall approach with this new project has a pinch more sass compared to the gauntleted approach of Satan’s Hallow. So, a little more Fifth Angel in lieu of, say, Omen. Or, to put it another way: “tuff” in defiance of tough, but still managing to conjure all the steely thrill of records such as Shok Paris’ Steel and Starlight, Hellion’s Screams in the Night, Wild Dogs’ Reign of Terror and Savatage’s Hall of the Mountain King—four records hand-picked because they could very well represent production influence as much as they do musical persuasion. Clearly, Midnight Dice owes its sound to 1987, but Hypnotized goes the extra mile by sounding as if it were literally yanked out of the 80s in the same way that last year’s wonderful release from Italy’s Vulture’s Vengeance, The Knightlore, did. Accordingly, it would be prudent for the band and all involved in engineering this EP to memorize the board settings and simply make it the standard moving forward into a debut full-length, because it sounds terrific.

The instrumentalists behind Midnight Dice—Steve Beaudette (Lethal Shöck) on guitar, Patrick Glockle (Fer de Lance, Hitter) on drums, and Jose Salazar (Black Sites, Professor Emeritus) on drums—represent some of the best the current Chicago uber-underground scene has to offer in terms of speed, doom, hard rock, prog and epic US power, and all these maneuvers bring Midnight Dice…well, not too much in terms of sound influence, but it’s clear that a wealth of experience and a genuine passion for heavy metal as a whole exists in the band’s ranks. Beaudette in particular deserves a firm salute for killing it on all these burning leads and crafting the sort of cheeky 80s riffs that, depending on his penchant for headbands and clever hats, could get him mistaken for Chris DeGarmo.

By now, you’ve noticed the belting power of vocalist Mandy Martillo. Doro Pesch is the most frequent comparison, and for good reason—much regarding Hypnotized feels as brash and acid-washed as 1987’s Triumph and Agony, and like that record, a significant factor behind its success is the emotion and grit behind the vocals. Suffice to say, in the long history of exceptional women behind the heavy metal mic, Mandy Martillo certainly has the chops necessary to to be spoken of alongside frequently unsung heroes such as Anne Hull (Hellion) and Sandy Kruger (Sacred Few), and just as she did for Satan’s Hallow, she cinches the deal for vaulting Midnight Dice from silver to gold status.

Is Hypnotized made-to-order for you? That depends on how you feel about the style of metal that bubbled to the surface in late ’86 and throughout ’87 that produced gems such as Inside the Electric Circus, The Ultimate Sin and any of the other examples listed above. I’m fairly certain Midnight Dice don’t have the big hair and big cocaine addictions that often walked hand-in-hand with the scene back then, but they sure as hell have the big swagger, big reverb and big flair required to ensure they’ll make an even bigger noise for 80s’ metal enthusiasts once a debut eventually lands. Until then, Hypnotized is more than enough to give you an appetite for more. Much, much more.

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; That was my skull!

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