Some bands are so loaded with clichés that they give metal a bad name, leaving the genre open to ridicule. Sweden's Midnight Sun, I'm sad to say, will likely do little to advance the genre with Metal Machine, their fourth album. The faux Rob Halford-style vocals and cheesy song titles ("Dungeons of Steel," "Your Blood Burns in Hell") lack originality and spark unintended laughter. Does a 10-track album really need three tunes featuring the word "metal" in their titles ("Metal Gods," "Metal Will Stand Tall" and the title cut)?
The band's dearth of talent belies its stellar roster, which includes accomplished bass player and Midnight Sun mastermind Jonas Reingold, technically proficient guitarist Magnus Karlsson and Flower Kings drummer Jaime Salazar. Indeed, the quality of musicianship on Metal Machine isn't in question, nor is it the issue here. Rather, it's important to stress that if metal bands these days must rely on Manowar-Virgin Steele clichés, they need to give that imagery a new twist. And lyrics such as these just don't cut it: "Steel to steel/Steel to steel/Hold your hammer high/Steel to steel/Steel to steel/The gods are waiting in the sky," from -- that's right, you guessed it -- "Steel to Steel."
The album's high point comes courtesy of an untitled bonus track. As the album's only ballad, it offers welcome respite from the pulverizing shards of metal Midnight Sun emit during the previous 10 songs. More pieces like this one -- not necessarily ballads, but ones that demonstrate the depth and emotion of both the band's songwriting capabilities and new singer Jakob Samuel's expressive voice -- would have made Metal Machine a more enjoyable and credible record.