Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Midnite Hellion - The Fever

I waited to review this for far longer than I promised so I apologize to Midnite Hellion and Drew for the long period of absent reviewing. That said, I did so because I wanted to wait until the final copy sold out of my distro and, hopefully, their stock. I maintain the belief that it's not proper to review product I am trying to sell for fear that my opinions may influence someone to not buy a release. In the case of Midnite Hellion's debut demo, The Fever, this most likely would be the case. The Fever is not a bad demo, in fact it's a very good demo in some regards but it does have some major flaws, flaws similar to the Horrifier album I reviewed a few months back. The fact that the bands share members, and share styles could be discussed deeper but I'm not going to waste time with the minutia of describing Midnite Hellion as a response to Horrifier. The under currents between the two bands are known to those in the area so whatever that may imply is up to those involved to consider.

Midnite Hellion are an awesome live band. They really hit the nail on the head if that nail was being used to build a stage or show-prop or a doghouse. I was excited to hear the demo, hoping it would capture that energy on tape which, unfortunately it doesn't. At the demo release show they really hit it out of the park - their stage show was exciting and fun to watch, there was headbanging galore and the intoxicated nature of the whole thing was a definite blast into the ever increasingly distant golden age of metal. The main problem though was covered up; Sonny Zackeo is a great live performer but on record, he truly falls short. Falls very short, in fact. He falls flat on his face - and his notes - and is forced to drag himself through a mire of uneasiness and hesitance that is audibly equivalent to watching a good friend get shut down constantly by everyone around him. In the time since this demo was released, the band has changed vocalists and I have not had a chance to get out to see the new vocalist. If they can get that position filled with someone with some serious chops, the band have a good chance of being a local favorite. I don't think that world domination is within their grasp yet though.

To return to discussion of Midnite Hellion as a response to Horrifier, While I felt Horrifier was a confused example of a prodigal possibility, Midnite Hellion is the opposite. Midnite Hellion is a totally focused though mediocre entity at it's heart. The standout performance on the demo falls solely on bassist Bill Dripps with Dan Sclavi and Amadeus Zajac presenting strong - but average - guitar performances. Drew, as a drummer, is not going to do anything that will make you want to struggle through rewinding the tape or picking your head up from the morning crossword puzzle. He's a simple yet effective drummer as were the vast majority of NWOBHM drummers but to stand out, there needs to be more. The standout track on the demo is Cross the Line, but only because it really doesn't fit. It's a fast, thrashy piece that no one seems like they wanted to record. It would have fit better on the Stench album (There's some connections here too) with a song title about dipping children in a toilet full of vomit and excrement or some other ridiculous thing that Amadeus would talk about outside one of the many shows I see him at across NJ and PA.

The strongest song here is the second track, 1903. A bass intro opens the track, displaying some of Bill Dripps' talents. The song crisscrosses between verse and choruses with some gang vocals and solos. It's structured well, stays interesting and has Sonny's best performance as well. In a few places for about three seconds he almost comes across as a student of James Rivera that really didn't take class seriously. The other highlight is the cover of Invaders. Now, most of you don't know this but all my immediate friends do: I loathe that song. It's the biggest pet peeve track of all time for me. The almost lackadaisical and poorly thought out ascending and descending chorus section makes me want to slap my face with large slate slabs covered in vomit and urine. The pain of such an impact would be far less torturous than Bruce Dickinson's whiny vocal explorations. Hearing Sonny attempt those shrill high parts created stiffening fear and curdling blood in all parts of my body upon the thought that I was about to hear my least favorite song get redone by Midnite Hellion, of all possible people. Fortunately, Sonny did something great... he didn't try to hit the glass-shattering high pitched shrieks that Bruce made criminal. The result, a tolerable version of my most hated track! Midnite Hellion do in fact have some things going for them. They are good song writers, and the tracks, with some additional production standards and vocal improvements could in fact be significantly better. The demo's faults aren't really a fault of the band but a fault of what might be a rushed effort to get material recorded and released.

Although the poor production may have been a blessing in disguise, for some reason my tape was panned entirely to the left, with no sound on the right. I tested the other tape I had at the time and it was the same issue... on three tape players, each with two separate tape decks, and a portable walkman. The guitar tone is fairly weak though the separation of instruments is perfect. You can hear the bass clearly, though the bass sounds a bit limp. I don't know how they recorded this so I can't point to anything particularly but the overall feeling I get from the production is that it may have been a four track recording or something in a basement. Ultimately, with a new EP being released in a few weeks and a new singer present, Midnite Hellion may have improved considerably in the time between this demo and the show I saw them play. I plan on being at their EP release show in about a month so, I can only hope that their new EP and singer add the Midnite Hellion the pieces they need to become the awesome band that those guys deserve - they are all awesome people and I wish them the best. I'm definitely going to pick up the EP because with minor adjustments, it could turn out to be an awesome set of songs.

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