In a year packed with NWOTHM releases from established bands, almost all of whom extend the same musical formula displayed on their previous releases, it’s exciting to hear from a new group delivering a full-length debut. Enter Lethal Night and their first album, Visions in the Night. The colorful, but rather poorly illustrated artwork hearkens back to classic ‘80s underground metal releases like Attacker’s Battle at Helm’s Deep, Amulance’s Feel the Pain, and Axewitch’s Visions of the Past, and the album’s cover art turns out to be an excellent indicator of what’s in store. Musically, the album falls into similar camps as those vintage recordings, aligning closely at times with Attacker’s and Amulance’s raucous and high-speed style of American power metal and other times with Axewitch’s midtempo, hard-rock-fueled heavy metal. As with those releases, Lethal Night frequently turns out remarkable songs that belie the quality of the album cover.
The band’s rowdy and slightly loose playing style gives their music plenty of energy and delivers some some genuinely thrilling moments. The sound production also has a nice old school grit, with gravelly guitar tones and a touch of reverb on the vocals adding a classic dungeon sound, even if the recording tends to sound a bit foggy.
Following a beautifully occult instrumental intro, Lethal Night wastes little time getting down to the business of hammering out scorching hot heavy metal from the reignited forges of metal’s classic era, and the title track kicks things off with the most speed and energy of anything on the recording. A rip-roaring riff and rhythm combo ignites the song on the verse, and Steven Villa enters the picture with a soaring vocal style that whips up the flames to earth-scorching temperatures. A perfectly timed break arrives near the midpoint, dropping the tempo for some excellent guitar solos that begin vigorously and build into a full speed assault. It’s impossible not to feel energized as the band rips through nearly seven minutes of inspired speed metal.
Remarkably, the first three full-length songs on Visions in the Night are all over six minutes in length and somehow never wear out their welcome. The perfectly planned structures of each one provide meaningful breaks and riveting guitar solos, and every time the band returns to a song’s opening section late in the track it feels fresh and exciting all over again.
“Steel Champion” follows on the heels on “Visions in the Night” with another uptempo metal attack, opening with Villa shrieking out “Let me hear your battle cry!” The song doesn’t reach the same frenetic pace of the opener, though it pounds out its verse and chorus sections with plenty of energy. Lethal Night then takes the pace down another notch for the immensely heavy and satisfying “Mary,” which delivers one of the most engaging and authentically old school riffs in NWOTHM to date. The coarse, deep, and grinding tone of the guitar perfectly compliments the playing, creating the kind of classic heavy metal sound found on Ruthless’ 1984 release Metal Without Mercy.
Unfortunately, the band can’t sustain the phenomenal first half through the remainder of the recording, and Visions in the Night quickly loses momentum near the midpoint.”Powermad” arrives with more of a midtempo, hard rock attitude than the preceding songs, and though the track is a competent and likable effort, it’s missing the same spark and excitement that opened the recording. An unremarkable guitar solo late in the piece leaves “Powermad” on a flat note, causing the song to conclude without ever fulfilling its potential.
“Silver Eyed Goddess” takes a detour toward a more progressive and story-driven composition, and at nearly seven minutes, it is the album’s longest song. Some nice variety in the music’s pacing helps keep things interesting, but the vocal-driven verse section causes the most serious problems of the recording. Although Steven Villa’s voice has a great tone, his delivery tends to be a bit reckless and he doesn’t always hit his notes. This is no problem on Visions in the Night‘s more frenetic offerings, where his unbound vocal approach actually adds to the music’s intensity. However, the steady and subdued rhythm of the verse on “Silver Eyed Goddess” demands that he lead the song, and his voice simply isn’t up to the task of guiding a piece of melodic metal to its conclusion. It’s a shame, because the track offers one of the most compelling guitar solo sections on the recording, but the discordant vocals make it difficult to stick with the song long enough to enjoy it.
“Bring Us Steel” is another piece with hard rock underpinnings, though it doesn’t fare nearly as well as “Powermad.” The uninspired, plodding pace quickly grows repetitive, as does the overly simple chorus hook. There isn’t nearly enough detail in the instruments’ performances to keep things interesting, and once again, the vocals are asked to lead the song. Villa throws his voice around wildly, clearly out of his element, and it seems evident by the conclusion of the song that everyone in Lethal Night is more adept at playing energetic power metal than midtempo heavy metal pieces. The same complaints apply to the remaining songs, “On the Prowl” and “Yelling Out Your Name.” Even though both of the final entries feel less repetitive than “Bring Us Steel,” they are still plain compared to the album’s first half, and Villa is too wild and pitchy for the slow pace and pared down composition of the music.
What begins on an extraordinarily high note therefore ends on a rather disappointing one. The gritty, authentic, and immensely exciting songs that open the album are valuable contributions to a scene that is frequently too glossy and polished for its own good, and if the band had cut this down to a five-song EP it would be one of the best true heavy metal debuts of the past 10 years. Yet Visions in the Night quickly slumps into bargain bin material for the remainder of its running time with uninspired riffs, repetitive song structures, and grating vocal performances. Lethal Night’s visions can be nearly as exhausting as they are exhilarating, though they offer glimpses of a very exciting future for the band.
Rating: 69 / 100
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