Midnight Credit: Hannah Verbeuren

Midnight are pretty much the nightmare that heartland parents feared during the satanic panic of the 1980s, when metal bands’ imagined lyrical (and moral) transgressions meant they were considered about as family friendly as murderers. Midnight’s music is nihilism with a beat, rudderless and apolitical; they’re as likely to cover 70s midwest punks the Pagans as black-metal innovators Venom. Athenar, the band’s founder and sloganeer, launched the culty Cleveland act in 2003 with a short demo often referred to by the title of its first track, “Funeral Bell.” Recording everything himself (though he usually uses a backing band live), Athenar went on to refine Midnight’s mix of punk and metal on a series of EPs—often splits or tributes—that led up to the band’s debut studio LP, 2011’s Satanic Royalty. Midnight’s latest full-length, January’s Rebirth by Blasphemy (Metal Blade), doesn’t break new ground, but the track “The Sounds of Hell” might be the closest to a hit the group can get—it sounds like Motörhead covering the Ramones. It’s also one of the more lyrically palatable tracks on the album, opening by referring to the “din of warfare” rather than, say, being dragged through fire by a “seductive beast” that’s broken free from “ancient bloody chains.” The song “Devil’s Excrement” might be about an unleashed evil creature—or the joys of taking an especially nasty shit. It almost doesn’t matter, because Athenar emphasizes each line of the chorus (“Devil’s excrement / Must unload”) with guitar drama straight out of 1987. Rebirth by Blasphemy also includes a few uplifting moments, surprisingly, though “positivity” by Midnight’s standards is likely to refer to clawing your way out of a grave. The new album continues the traditions Midnight established in 2003: they drive their music with anger and disgust, and they’re too evil to die.   v