While Friday is the chosen release date for all of our favourite sonic compositions, I figured we’d ease into the 2019 music cycle with a more lighthearted article. Here’s my take on Acid Witch’s polarizing Midnight Movies EP.
Within the world of labels and brick walls, Acid Witch are a death/doom band from Detroit, Michigan, but their impact and creativity far exceeds such superficial titles. Compromised of Slasher Dave, Shagrat, Mike Tuff, and Gnarls Charles (at the time of the EP’s recording), this ragtag group of gents are plowing through a world of monotonous music with the help of psychedelic keyboards and obscure movie samples.
While famous for the wonderful Witchtanic Hellucinations, unfortunately their other outputs (which often manifest in the form of snack-size EPs and singles) are underappreciated by fans, who tend to flock solely to classic works. From the sweet n’ tasty Witch House and Midnight Mass EPs, to their various collaborative split videos, there’s a lot to devour under the group’s warty skin. Today the chopping block is home to Midnight Movies, the band’s 2015 glam metal covers release.
The premise is simple. Your favourite neighbourhood death/doom band covers four obscure hair metal songs from four obscure horror movies. In order, the four tracks are “I’m Back” by Sorcery, “After Midnight” by Fastway, “Soldiers of the Night” by Black Roses, and “Partytime” by 45 Grave. Originally released in the ‘80s, these glossy latex monstrosities have been broken down and rebuilt for your pleasure. Well, Acid Witch just rerecorded them with a few growls and vocal liberties, but what I said sounded better.
The juicy bits hanging from Midnight Movies lie behind the band’s audio sampling ability. Each track is cushioned with longish samples from various movies which, while they seemingly enter at random with little purpose, form a lighthearted yet packed narrative that breathes life into this handful of jams.
The opening track features an introductory sample which jaunts along to a jumbled guitar riff that is way too catchy for its own good; listen above if you’d like. Embedded with record scratches and pops (no, its not on your end), the listener soon joins a smoke-filled basement. “Fuck dude, your Spastic Colon record is scratched, man,” says stoner #1. Stoner #2 replies; “Aw man I paid like 300 bucks for that on eBay.”
The announcer juts in. “What do we do now?!”
The crowd roars. “Play a band!”
Acid Witch’s delightfully crunchy guitar tone enters with their “I’m Back” cover. The song’s a banger, although I will admit that I have no prior experience with these tracks, so of course I’m going to lean favourably towards the Acid Witch versions. It’s a fun number that juxtaposes growling and high-pitched vocals to perfection. The song fades out…
A crazed radio show host comes into the feed, of whom the listener realizes is wrapped up with a murderer on the loose. “Its midnight mayhem with the nuke on the mighty CLP. Tonight on our midnight tribute we’re gonna do something just a little bit special. Oh have we got a treat for you! A world premiere! The only Sammi Curr album never released. So here we go. In the true spirit of Halloween, the eve of the dead, we’re gonna play this first track backwards. Crank it up!”
The second track, “After Midnight” originally by Fastway, comes on air. This is hands-down the best number on the EP, without a doubt. The vocals are all done in a growling tone that is delightfully complementary to the glam-infused riffs played below. This track is incredibly catchy and will get stuck in your head for days.
We’re then introduced to some odd feedback through the airwaves. I’m no expert on ‘80s radio equipment, but from my understanding the record that was being played in studio is being tampered with by the radio show host. The track skips repeatedly as the same section of sound repeats as the needle hits the affected area. However, the audio begins to distort as the host is presumably controlling the record’s revolution speed by hand, attempting to play it backwards smoothly. Following a few attempts, a foreign voice mutters “They shot themselves. You’re the bait, the bait is you!” in a mangled tone.
The third track, “Soldiers of the Night,” is another catchy number. The source material really is impeccable, as these ‘80s glam metal tracks were designed to be injected into the mainstream. Acid Witch’s spooky flair turns this otherwise simple tune into a bearable listen, in comparison to the original version. The solo on this one is particularly good, but I’ll credit the Black Roses band for that one.
Following another humorous sample which must be heard in full to be properly appreciated, “Partytime” enters as the concluding track. This is the most standard of source material on the EP, as the original song was really just a party anthem. Once again, the band’s twist within the vocal department makes this one bearable in comparison to what it used to be.
Seriously, though. Take a quick gander at the original releases for some of these tracks, they’re borderline unbearable. I looked up the original version of “After Midnight” because I found it strikingly catchy, and I barely got through the second chorus. Glam metal died in the late ‘80s for a reason, but thankfully Acid Witch is here to chaperone us through this bland torture.
So that’s it. The EP ends with a spooky ‘80s techno jam. Some of the samples I glossed over for the sake of effect vaguely allure to something being amuck within this alternate reality that we are observing, but they’re really just there for comical value, and they are pretty funny, even after the 1800 times I’ve listened to this thing.
Midnight Movies is ultimately a labour of love, and it shows. If you can’t appreciate these weird cover songs, or the odd samples included, you can at least appreciate the dedication put into this release. Four occult hair metal songs were chosen from four other occult ‘80s horror movies, which were then combined with comical samples from these movies. What’s not to love?
The EP has received mixed reviews thus far. Some seem to enjoy the band’s flair, while others cite reasons relating to a lack of flair in their unsatisfied writeups. One review I read raised the issue that the covers were still simple versions of the source material, and that Acid Witch left them too untouched. In rebuttal, I raise the fact that Acid Witch made just enough tweaks to the four tracks, which resulted in them being as close to the original versions as possible, without inciting copywrite strikes. I feel that if the band went overboard with these tunes, injecting keyboards and growling vocals left and right resulting in a complete redo of the material, they would have strayed too far from their original versions. Acid Witch are obsessed with retro ‘80s music and movies, the band wants the EP to sound cliché and corny; they don’t want to save this music!
I absolutely adore this EP and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me to the death. You’ve got a labour of love in your hands, four fun and catchy revised glam metal numbers, excellent samples strewn throughout, a hidden narrative to explore, and ultimately just an enjoyable 20 minutes. Metalheads tend to frown upon any music within the genre that is more lighthearted, because everything needs to be about gore and occultism and revolution, of course. Take Midnight Movies out for a spin, I’m sure she’ll show you a good time.