We’re barely into 2014 and Toronto’s traditional heavy metal scene is already raging. After a great album from Skull Fist, the next band to put out a record this year was Midnight Malice. “Proving Grounds” is their debut, and aside from a short demo put out 4 years ago, this is their only release. It’s not a particularly long or inventive album, but “Proving Grounds” is exactly what fans of the other locals (Axxion, Phantom, Cauldron, etc.) will be seeking. Kicking things off is “Dead of Night”, which shows your standard traditional heavy metal fanfare. There are harmonized riffs, catchy vocals, and a lot of attitude. The song, along with most others on this record, is pretty upbeat and gets by on its energy. As one would hope, this spirit is enhanced by the guitar solos, which are pretty reckless sounding. It doesn’t sound like they’re always 100% in key, but that makes things sound more improvised and dynamic. It also helps that the solos show up frequently throughout the album.
“Proving Grounds” continues pretty much exactly where “Dead of Night” left off, as does “Flying Low”. Some of the riffs will especially appeal to fans of some more energetic NWOBHM and speed metal bands such as Raven, Saxon, and Anvil. It isn’t until the fourth track, “Lady Killer”, that things take a bit of a twist. This song has more of a glam metal feel to it, primarily because of the vocal lines in the chorus. It’s still a speedy riff-dominated song until the chorus, but this track might be where Midnight Malice loses some people. “Lady Killer” certainly doesn’t feel out of place, just a bit different. Aside from this deviation, the band generally marches on with that feel-good style of heavy metal. It’s so much fun that this album feels far too short. Then again, it is these compact albums that always do well because there’s no filler. Midnight Malice caps things off with yet another highlight, “Pray for Death”. This song opens with some melodic harmonized leads that are sure to please Maiden and Priest junkies, before evolving into the more standard riff fest like the 7 tracks before it.
Ultimately, it's hard to see anyone being dissatisfied with this album. While there are a ton of bands playing this style of metal these days, Midnight Malice is one that is well worth hearing. “Proving Grounds” sets out to be a fun collection of songs, and that’s exactly what it accomplishes. Buy this record and take a trip back to 1982!
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"Dead of Night"
"Pray For Death"
4.25/5 or 85%.
Written by Scott