Deadnight does not pull any punches. They are revolutionary in exactly zero ways. Every song sounds the same – in fact, every song follows almost exactly the same structure as well. All of this would seem to indicate that Messenger of Death is not a good album, and for many bands and many genres, that would be true. But for a blackened thrash album that is only a hop and a skip over thirty minutes, it’s not such a problem – particularly because the only things Deadnight do, they do exceptionally well.
Deadnight excel at writing blisteringly fast but irresistibly catchy riffs. Part of the reason their riffs work so well, besides the exceptional writing, is due to the production; it certainly leans towards the “blackened” side of blackened thrash, with minimal bass and an ice-cold, buzzsaw guitar tone. The rawness of the guitar tone contrasted against the catchiness of the riffs makes Messenger of Death easy to get into, and fun to return to. Any of the songs can offer examples of these riffs – seriously, they’re all more or less the same song with different melodies mixed and matched – but the title track may offer the strongest cut of them all. That beautifully raw opening riff is what made me stop everything I was doing when I first heard Deadnight on Pandora.
But riffs are not Deadnight’s greatest strength, even though they offer enough fantastic riffage to bloat two solid thrash albums. Deadnight’s greatest strength, without a sliver of a doubt, is their solos. Messenger of Death features a guitar solo at the end of every single song. But although the placement of the solos is formulaic, their execution is anything but shoehorned in. Many of the solos, particularly the offerings in “Die with Me” and “In the Dead of Night”, fit naturally into the melody and song structure, and serve to elevate already fast and aggressive songs into new realms of speed and power.
There is such an excess of soloing virtuosity on display that several of my favorite solos of all time are featured on Messenger of Death. In addition to being blindingly quick and profusely technical, the soloing carries a gorgeous sense of melody. (Listen to Die With Me for the premier example of this.) This isn’t some tuneless prog metal wankery crafted to impress. This is soloing with a purpose. And (possibly) the best solo of them all comes exactly midway through the album with “Unholy Revenge”. If you’re a fan of solos in any capacity, take a quick listen.
Besides the soloing (which I could yammer on about endlessly) Deadnight manages to create a surprisingly complete sound considering that main man Mike G. provides vocals, guitar, percussion and keyboards. The vocals aren’t anything to write home about, but his vehement snarl sounds unique and serves the black/thrash style splendidly. The drums are oddly mixed, sounding alternately too quiet or too loud in different songs, but still add their ferocious punch to the heavier, faster sections. There really isn’t much else to say about their sound – it’s all about the guitar.
In short: intense riffs, effective production, and solos, solos, solos. Deadnight sticks to what they do best, and do it better than just about anyone else.