The cover painting on Midnight Priest’s third full-length album feels like an homage to Iron Maiden’s “Twilight Zone” single and the music therein doesn’t dare dissuade from that notion. Aggressive Hauntings may be the band’s first album to not have the word ‘midnight’ in the title, but it retains the rabid devotion to the classic metal trifecta of Maiden, King Diamond, and Judas Priest. Its high-octane style picks up right where 2014’s Midnight Steel left off, albeit with more weight in its presentation.
Such an approach demands energetic performances and thankfully the musicians deliver that in spades. The guitars drive the songs in an aggressive yet flamboyant fashion as the rhythms exert a polished crunch and the leads cycle through some fun acrobatics. The drums also keep a steady tightness whether aiming for straightforward beats or power metal speeds and the bass builds up to Harris prominence on songs like “Ecstasy.” The vocals are a little trickier to place, still rooting in some Diamond-isms with an overall raspy character, but they get the job done.
A reliance on high speeds and three-minute runtimes can make the songs on this album feel admittedly samey at times, but there are plenty of great tracks on display. While there isn’t some room for horror beyond the organ on “The Law,” the title track and “Holy Flesh” satisfy that itch with their LaRocque-style guitar cadences. Elsewhere, “Sin for Satan” brings in some Accept tinges with its more mid-tempo pacing and tracks like “Iron Heart” and “On Your Knees for Metal” lean more on blazing Judas Priest-style fun.
As much as I prefer the more atmospheric treatment on Midnight Priest’s 2011 debut, Aggressive Hauntings is probably the band’s most balanced and accessible effort thus far. It doesn’t set out to be the most unique listen even within its own demographic, but the focused songwriting and tight musicianship keep it fun without falling into junk food territory. It sits in good company with the best of such bands as Satan’s Hallow, Ram, and Traveler.
“Sin for Satan”