Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, metal outfit ACES and their debut EP, Midnight Viper, is a healthy dose of straightforward metal. Love it or hate it, the five-song EP serves as a good reminder of where heavy metal stood in the 80s.
Sonically, Midnight Viper takes a lot of influence from a number of glam and NWOBHM (new wave of British heavy metal) bands. The production also takes some inspiration from that era, boasting a big, roomy drum sound, among other signature elements like the dirty guitar tones and lead vocalist Kasie Hull’s wailing timbre. Hull is clearly meant to be the focus of the band with a powerful voice and an impressive range. However, the way her vocals are produced and stuck into the mix don’t come across as the centrepiece. Relying on melodies that don’t quite get stuck in your head, but sound all too familiar by the end the short album makes her whole performance seem less like a brick wall to your face and more like a constantly lingering afterthought; it is a shame for such a voice to end up as a backdrop as opposed to a main element.
Aside from the incredible, shredding guitar solos, and occasional thrashing double-kicks, the music is pretty simplistic as far as metal goes, and that’s where this whole 80s theme is used as a handicap in my eyes. The songs simply don’t have enough going for them to make them interesting by today’s standards, and if they did stand out for their originality, they wouldn’t be all that reminiscent of the 80s. Even the decade’s biggest commercial metal hits like “Dr. Feelgood” or “Talk Dirty To Me” wouldn’t be nearly as popular if they were released today for that same reason; metal trends do change. It’s definitely best go to into this album with a nostalgic mindset rather than holding it to the current year’s standard.
At the end of the day, your appreciation of this album really comes down to how much you enjoy heavy metal from the 80s. I personally don’t think ACES adds anything new to an over thirty-year-old genre, and when it comes to that style, I’d much rather listen to the material that stood the test of time. That said, it’s a great EP to check out if your Saxon records aren’t quite cutting it for you anymore.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
*edited by Lia Davis