The symphonic metal band from NYC, Midnight Eternal, has released their self-titled debut album on the European label Inner Wound Records. Like many reading that sentence, I found the NYC part as a bit of a surprise, but it’s all true and given their label, things do start to make sense.
Midnight Eternal began a few short years ago in 2014, when Boris Zaks and Richard Fischer of Operatika invited Daniel Prestup (Spider Rockets, Rivera Vomma) and Mike LePond (Symphony X) to join a band. Soon after singer Raine Hilai was asked to join on vocals and Greg Manning (Spider Rockets, Zamora) took over on bass guitar. Given the pedigree of the band members being largely symphonic metal – based and with female vocals, a number of bands for comparison arise, including the well-known Epica, Delain, and Nightwish, just to name a few. As a testament to the quality of the band, shortly after their two song demo was released, the band started getting offers to play shows and during 2014 and 2015 played with the likes of Kamelot, Dragonforce, Delain, Xandria, Doro, and oddly enough The Agonist and Quiet Riot (assuredly not all on the same bill). During the summer of 2016, the band will hit the road supporting Queeensryche and Amored Saint, which will certainly increase their fan base. For a debut album, the band has managed to pull in some well-known names for the recording with Eric Rachel (Skid Row, Symphony X) handling the engineering and Tommy Hansen (Helloween, Pretty Maids, Jorn) handling the mixing and mastering.
With symphonic metal, one has certain expectations and Midnight Eternal hit many of those in the beginning of the first track “‘Til the Bitter End”, a song that starts out with heavy keyboard presence and some atmospheric background vocals. I will admit that I basically was not ready for Raine Hilai’s vocals as on hearing them I was first picturing perhaps a young Cyndi Lauper behind the microphone. That being said, she does show some impressive upper range and the vocals do work even if they were a bit less forceful than expected. The band has some European power metal overtones as well and in many ways could fit into that genre a bit better on the album. Production and mixing are very clean although the keyboards and vocals do tend to dominate the sound.
“Repentence” opens up with some guitar and keyboard harmony and the pace quickens a bit as the band shifts into a song akin to something Dragonforce would produce. In what will become a theme for the rest of the album, Raine Hilai’s vocals continue to shine, but for some reason do inspire thoughts of late 80’s/early 90’s pop music. True to form, the song does feature some strong guitar solos and some interplay between the keyboards and guitar that is reminiscent of things you might hear from Ritchie Blackmore projects like Rainbow and Deep Purple.
“Signs of Fire” is the first video from the album and really does serve as a good introduction to what you will hear on the rest of the album. One theme for me is the general softness in the mix. On many of the songs there are some interesting riffs and guitar parts but they tend to be mostly buried beneath the keyboards. Even a song like “Shadow Falls” which is likely the heaviest on the album and features some rapid fire riffs and intricate guitar parts seems as if the band was told to turn it down after the opening guitar leads. Things do get better later in the song during the keyboard and guitar solos but as soon as the vocals come back the instruments tend to become a bit faint.
Two exceptions to the fast European power metal on the album are the mostly acoustic duet “The Lantern” and “Silence” which features some piano mixed into the regular keyboards and seems as if it would be at home as the “metal” song on some 80’s movie soundtrack.
The song “Midnight Eternal” to me sums up all that I like and don’t like on the album. You have the guitar leads with keyboard accents to open up the song but again the drums are a bit too quiet in the mix and the bass nearly absent and this is exacerbated once the vocals begin. The song arrangements, however, show the band can write really well, though some may say they are a bit formulaic. Guitar solos show the prowess of Richard Fischer but as with other aspects of the album, there seems to be a lack of fire or passion, although this could be due in part to the production/mixing, which I have mentioned before that I am not a fan.
Midnight Eternal have delivered a collection of strong songs on their debut album, especially considering the relatively short time the band has been together. For those who’ve read this far, it should be obvious that the majority of what I didn’t like in the album centered around the production and mixing and I would imagine much of that would be very different in a live setting. Raine Hilai’s voice is strong, beautiful, and unique in the scene, which means some may not be overly appreciative but there is no denying the talent. For those looking for some unique European power metal with symphonic undertones that is a bit different than the standards in the genre, you should definitely check out the New York City band Midnight Eternal.
Written by John Jackson
01. ‘Till the Bitter End
03. Signs Of Fire
04. Shadow Falls
05. The Lantern
06. Believe In Forever
07. Midnight Eternal
08. When Love and Faith Collide
09. Like an Eternity
11. Pilgrim and the Last Voyage
12. First Time Thrill
Raine Hilai – Lead Vocals
Richard Fischer – Guitars
Greg Manning – Bass
Dan Prestup – Drums
Boris Zaks – Keyboards
Record label: Inner Wound Recordings, April 2016
Video for ‘Signs of Fire’
Lyric video for ‘First Time Thrill’