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Midnight Reign - "Never Look Back" (CD)

Midnight Reign - "Never Look Back" CD cover image

"Never Look Back" track listing:

1. 666 (is my area code)
2. The Hollywood Rx
3. Breathe on me ...
4. The Mourning After ...
5. Far Away
6. XXX (playground)
7. Kiss The Flames
8. Goodbye ...
9. The Last Song
10. Never Look Back

Reviewed by on June 2, 2010

"One of the album's better tracks is 'The Mourning After ...,' which blends a Sunset Strip-style power ballad with goth suicide imagery to superb effect. "

Goth meets glam on Midnight Reign's "Never Look Back." The album tries to meld Marilyn Manson with the Cure and Guns N' Roses-style Hollywood sleaze and, while it actually succeeds a lot of the time, it's also a bit disjointed as a result of its disparate styles.

Singer/guitarist Joseph Michael's two main passions are said to be "classical composition and heavy guitar driven metal" in the album's press kit. That probably accounts for the presence of Starla Baker and Alma Cielo on violin and Cello, respectively. The ladies acquit themselves well, but it's strictly on a background basis, even on ballads like "The Mourning After ..."

Michael's guitar is the star here, and with good reason. Listening to him tear up the fretboard on solos like the one in XXX (playground) is quite a lot of fun. Vocally, he reminds me a great deal of Faith No More's Michael Patton in his more melodic styles — that is, when he isn't doing the goth-whispers and screams a la Manson.

Supposedly conceived of after massive amounts of drug use, the album is apparently centered around what happens when a musician on acid attempts to slit his wrists in a bathtub and then, in a drug haze, allows himself to fulfill all of his most depraved desires. I'd have never understood that without reading the press kit, but I will say that Joseph often blends the pleasures of the flesh with the sorrows of the soul in the lyrics.

One of the album's better tracks is "The Mourning After ...," which blends a Sunset Strip-style power ballad with goth suicide imagery to superb effect. I particularly enjoy a moment in which Joseph says he refuses to pray, "even though I'm on my knees anyway."

It's easy to see why the songs that embrace glam to the fullest are the ones dealing with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. "Hollywood Rx" has the better riff, while "XXX (playground)" has the better solo, so I'm calling it a draw between the two.

Actually, the album's worst moments are probably its heaviest. "666 (is my area code)" and "Kiss The Flames" are both by-the-numbers goth metal that really tread familiar ground.

The biggest problem is that though there may be a narrative threat linking these songs, there isn't a stylistic one. Instead, the heavy "Kiss The Flames," for example, is immediately followed up by the quiet beginning of "Goodbye ..." Sure, the quieter ending of "Kiss" is meant to soften the blow, but it doesn't quite get the job done.

Still, you've got to admire a band that tries to cross genres, especially when they get it right much of the time. Whether your tastes are for gloomy goth or groovy glam, you'll find moments to your liking on Midnight Reign's "Never Look Back."

Highs: "Hollywood Rx," "XXX (playground) and "The Mourning After ..."

Lows: "Kiss The Flames," "666 (is my area code); the album has a disjointed feel.

Bottom line: An ambitious attempt to blend glam and goth that works more often than not, but feels a little disjointed.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)