Review: Midnight Eternal – Self-Titled

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Written By Eddie Z.

Hailing from New York City, Midnight Eternal enters the symphonic power metal fray in a blaze of lightening (and occasional galloping) guitars and high quality production for their freshman self-titled album. The album boasts polished technical skills and an overall cohesive sound.

Midnight Eternal was formed in 2014 between Richard Fischer (guitar) and Boris Zaks (keys). They recorded their debut 2-song demo by hiring session musicians Daniel Prestup (drums) and Mike LePond (bass). Dan stayed with the band on drums after the conclusion of recording. While recording, they hired Raine Hilai as the band’s permanent vocalist. It was after the demo was released when Greg Manning joined on bass.

The band’s first full-length album was released April 29, 2016. It was mixed and mastered by engineer Tommy Hansen, artwork designed by Jan Yrlund. I’m unable to find information if there was a formal producer on this album, or if the music and arrangements were entirely molded by the band alone.

There are great aspects of this album, especially in the playing skill of all the musicians. There are some draw-backs—not every release is a spotless work of perfection, and this CD is no exception.

The bass is practically nonexistent. Symphonic metal bands are often subjected to a generally accepted mixing template where all the instruments are EQ’d into a mix where bass gets squashed and drowned out in favor of showcasing the more treble-based instruments. In the case of this album, either the bass is unfortunately cursed with this mixing affliction, or an even more tragic situation is the culprit: perhaps bassist Greg Manning is sadly uncreative and plays nothing but the root notes of the guitar chords, rendering his parts essentially useless. Without seeing the band playing in a live situation, we may never know.

Another engineering faux pas is that each track seems to start just a fraction of a second into the beginning starting chord—meaning it sounds like the band was already playing music and the engineer cut off the very beginning of the first wave forms. There are no definitive entrances/beginning hits to these tracks, like a half-assed orgasm.

Not to mention, when vocalist Raine Hilai has spoken parts in the album, you can barely make out what she’s saying. It’s all buried under the mix. You’ll definitely want to have the lyrics handy if you want to know what’s going on. It also sounds like there might be spoken parts in their song ‘Believe in Forever’ at about the 2:06 mark, but who knows.

Besides these issues, the mix is great—seems a bit like a deflated compliment, but if these are the only complaints regarding the mix, it’s not bad in general.

The best vocals on this album are delivered by Greg. He’s got great grit and a nice clean tone, excellent for this style of music. Raine has a very nice musical theatre voice, but for symphonic power metal, she’s not the right fit. Unless you’re the kind of person who loves Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda in Broadway’s “Wicked” and want to hear what she’d sound like shoe-horned into a heavy metal environment. Raine’s voice is a bit too nasal, vowels a little too piercing, and her R’s are rather hard. Her high notes, while perfect and on-point for Broadway, completely lack power, which is essential in power metal. Though, it seems the band compensates for this lack of gusto by occasionally having Greg double her parts, giving those moments the “oomph” that Raine can’t give.

There are occasional moments of death vocals in this album. Specifically on their song “Like an Eternity,” you’ll hear them. However, the death vox on this song are less than attractive. They’re more like “high-pitched throat flatulence.” Perhaps it would be better to classify these as “black metal growls.” Some folks can pull off growling, but it doesn’t work in this case.

In terms of the song writing, there are a couple songs that have catchier hooks that stand out, but it’s overall so consistent (or perhaps persistent) in tempo, dynamic, and personality it’s verging on the edge of being classified as repetitive. After a dozen listens or so, some hooks are finally embedding themselves into my memory—but it’s taken roughly a dozen listens. They’re not immediately attention-drawing on the first few spins.

All this being said, as previously mentioned the musicianship is excellent. There’s no doubt that each of these band members knows how to handle their respective instruments. The only hitch is if you, the listener, enjoy the hodgepodge blend of the My Little Pony vocal style with the Sonata Arctica/Helloween music. If you dig it, then you’re in for a good time. However, if you like your frontman (or woman in this case) to rip your face off with guts and glory, you’re gonna be disappointed.

But, fair’s fair. This album doesn’t suck. If you step back and consider the care and time dumped into it and the fact that the musicians are skilled (regardless of your personal taste in performance delivery), you’ll have to agree that this is at the very least a solid. 8/10

 

Midnight Eternal is currently on tour as support for Armored Saint and Queensrÿche. If you’re in the US Midwest, you can check them out at Concord Music Hall in Chicago, Illinois on December 9th.

Check out their video of Signs Of Fire.

 

 

Vocals: Raine Hilai

Guitars & vocals: Richard Fischer

Bass & vocals: Greg Manning

Keys: Boris Zaks

Drums: Dan Prestup

 

Track listing:

  1. ‘Till the Bitter End (3:59)
  2. Repentance (3:39)
  3. Signs of Fire (4:11)
  4. Shadow Falls (3:51)
  5. Lantern (3:34)
  6. Believe in Forever (2:50)
  7. Midnight Eternal (3:19)
  8. When Love And Faith Collide (4:33)
  9. Like An Eternity (5:02)
  10. Silence (4:05)
  11. Pilgrim And The Last Voyage (2:07)
  12. First Time Thrill (8:47)

Purchase Midnight Eternal’s album HERE.

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