The first metal album of 2020 to grace my ears is a step back into 1986 rather than blazing a trail for the future of metal. It takes you back to the crossroads where thrash came to meet hardcore punk. Motörhead has already been snorting lines of trucker speed here for a few years before bands like the Crumbsuckers and the Accused spurned manic stage diving. Venom, who is obviously Midnight’s major influence, dressed up punk leanings in enough pentagrams to sway more long hairs than Mohawks. This is not a new direction for the Cleveland band on Rebirth by Blasphemy, their first release for Metal Blade, but it is more refined one. They showed up to the studio sober and paid more attention to what was going on at the mixing board this go-around.
Amid this swirl of punk snarling metal are liberal doses of straight up rock ‘n’ roll that can be heard in the guitar solos. The title track has a catchy riff to the chorus, while there is more of a gallop to the song itself. The pendulum swings back towards punk for “Escape the Grave,” and I prefer the Venomous path they find themselves hurtling down in their more metallic moments. There is a more dirty black ‘n’ roll feel to “Warning From the Reaper.” They delve further into rock ‘n’ roll on “Cursed Possessions,” though sometimes this approach can be a little too straightforward and loses its appeal. The album’s most punk moment is “The Sounds of Hell,” and when they’re on they’re on—this hellfire-singed vision of punk works with all the right embellishments packed into all the right places.
The album closes with “You Can Drag Me Through Fire,” with a dark melodic guitar style that nods toward more traditional classic heavy metal, namely Judas Priest. It’s the kind of music you want to smash mailboxes to while hanging out the side of uncle’s Camaro after he gets out of prison. Rebirth by Blasphemy is by no means flawless, but it’s a lot of fun and it rewards repeat listens. There aren’t that many surprises for those familiar with their earlier records—this is all pretty straightforward spikes-and-denim, dynamically—but the kids gotta drink beer in the parking lot to something, so it might as well be these guys.