Midnight - Sakada
Black Lotus Records
Progressive Metal with Psychedelic Influences
9 songs (48'59")
Release year: 2005
Black Lotus
Reviewed by Alex

If you call yourself a progressive power metal fan, it is impossible for you not to have heard the name Crimson Glory. Along with Queensryche and Savatage, Crimson Glory has been a flagship of progressive power metal in the early-mid 80s in the US. Their self-titled debut was a monster, only to be topped by the sophomore follow-up Transcendence. Artful songs were both powerful and sensible, completely original and immediately captivating. The success of Crimson Glory hinged on three pillars: excellent songs, masterful musicianship and unbelievable vocals. The latter were provided by a guy named Midnight, a perfect stage name for a mysterious singer blessed with the unbelievable set of pipes. He could roar one moment only to scrape the heaven with his range a split second later. For a shear amount of talent in his voice Midnight ranks next to Rob Halford in my book.

Crimson Glory did not shine for long. Never the ones to release the albums in a hurry, the band tanked in 1991 after terrible Strange and Beautiful, the last album that saw Midnight in its ranks. Only eight years later Jon Drenning, the band’s main songwriter and guitarist, was able to reconvene with Astronomica. Original guitarist Ben Jackson was back in the fold alongside one of the best bass players in the business Jeff Lords. The drums were manned by Savatage’s Steve Wachholz. Midnight was missing. In one interview given by Drenning when Astronomica came out he told that Midnight was offered the vocalist spot, but as he was going through a lot of personal problems at that time Wade Black eventually sang on the album. Even though many fans could not see Crimson Glory without Midnight I thought that Astronomica was excellent, regretting all the while that Midnight was probably finished. Wade Black left Crimson Glory soon thereafter and the band is probably on hiatus for another eight years. Meanwhile, guess who is coming back from the dead with a solo full-length album? Midnight! The fate has its strange twists …

Enough of history already. With a lot of trembling in my fingers I put Sakada in. I promised myself that no matter what I hear I will not be comparing Midnight to Crimson Glory. Midnight deserved its own merit and I was going to give it to him. Two questions needed to be answered: can the man still sing the way he used to AND will I like the album overall?

The answer to the first question is very much affirmative. The material does not call for much roaring, so that end of Midnight’s range is not represented on Sakada, but he still can climb up high. Some moments in War and, especially, acoustic title track ballad has the voice shining. The answer to the second question is where the trouble lies. Turns out not only Crimson Glory needed Midnight’s vocal chords. Midnight is in desperate need of a songwriter on Sakada. I guess Jon Drenning did not lend his helping hand, and instead of full-fledged songs we are presented with some sort of sketches, every song getting into a repeating pattern. On top of it, every one of these music sketches explores different style and sound making the whole album very disjointed.

Incubus and War have something going for them in a way of riffery, which I can’t say for other songs on Sakada. Progressive riffs are spiked with a good degree of psychedelia and the whole effort is not that well produced. Cat Song ventures into country territory and, while the title track is an excellent ballad, it is immediately followed by a boring one in Lost Boy. Berber Trails is acoustic plus percussion nod to the Middle East and captures the spirit perfectly. However, Little Mary Sunshine and Miss Katie leave me completely befuddled. Both are creepy demented stories about abuse, alcoholism and suicide that present absolutely nothing in terms of the song value. I would not call them songs at all, just tales told to the accompaniment of sitar or one chord guitar.

I understand Midnight had something on his mind and he put it out for the world to see. Midnight is a recording artist and it is his right. Maybe he was still struggling with some issues, and as a result Sakada came out so delusional and psychedelic. Again, I am not criticizing the album because it does not sound like Crimson Glory, it just does not sound like a good cohesive album, period. The promo sheet says that during live performances Midnight will jam some old Crimson Glory songs. Copyright gods be thanked for this, I have a feeling the fans who will come out will enjoy those much more than Sakada material.

Killing Songs :
Berber Trails, Sakada
Alex quoted 51 / 100
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