2020 is yet another strong year for women in traditional metal with releases from Solicitor, Lady Beast, or newcomers Wasteland Coven and I’ll never stop supporting the presence of women in metal. Satan’s Hallow made quite a mark in the underground with its blistering speed metal anthems, but sadly was put to rest after only one album since one of their guitarists and main songwriter left. Chicago’s Midnight Dice are the spiritual successors and have to live with some expectations! Anything with Mandy Martillo is worth your time though.
From the get go, Midnight Dice aren’t as fast or direct as Satan’s Hallow were. That’s a good thing, I didn’t want a clone anyway. The four compositions, excluding the short introduction ironically called “Farewell” are compact and jam packed with head banging riffs. Guitarist Steve Beaudette is on fire throughout the whole twenty minutes duration, he’s not biggest guy but I’m sure his arms are pretty strong to riff that hard. Strong props to the extremely Iron Maiden guitar leads of the title track in particular. Drummer Pat Glockle played in one of the best heavy/doom releases of the year with Fer de Lance, but he’s back playing speedier material with Midnight Dice and he keeps the extended play grounded with a strong performance. The bass of Jose Salazar is loud and noticeable, he’s a consistent, talented bass player and a strong presence in progressive heavy metallers Black Sites too. Even if all musicians are professionals with a lot of experience, the production of the record matters a lot and here it’s top notch. It’s natural, rich, and highlights everything good the band has to offer. You can see that they definitely care about how they present themselves and their material.
As expected, Mandy Martillo is the clear highlight. She’s perhaps the best traditional heavy metal singer right now, all genders combined. She has both the pipes, the charisma and the overall greatness to elevate anything she’s on. She did it on Satan’s Hallow and she does it again here. The compositions are certainly above average but they become great once she adds her voice to ‘em. She sounds like a ton of bricks carefully falling on you and I love it.
I’m still unsure if I like it more than Satan’s Hallow, but I think so. I prefer my heavy metal to be on the slower side with some slow burners thrown in the mix (see Borrowed Time or Christian Mistress) and Midnight Dice are both perhaps heavier and mid paced than their former identity. Some speed metal influences are still present, but not as much and the songs are all a tad longer on average. It’s highly condensed and hard hitting metal unafraid to delve into epic territories at time such as with the excellent “Lazer Tears”.
2020 is a good year for Chicago metal with the new release of Acerus, the debut album of Hitter, and the upcoming banger of High Spirits. With this EP, Midnight Dice has a bright future ahead of them!
Release rating: 87/100
Favorite track: Lazer Tears