Highly Suspect is known for its gritty, in-your-face hard rock sound. It’s just as one might expect from a band whose lead singer goes by the moniker “Terrible Johnny.” Since the 2015 release of its debut album, “Mister Asylum,” its sound has remained relatively unchanged, experiencing only minor evolutions throughout the years.
Its latest album, “The Midnight Demon Club,” shows this trend continuing. It is, for the most part, another entry in a very consistent discography that shows no signs of changing in any major way, and one that feels no need to do so. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“The Midnight Demon Club” opens in spectacular fashion with “The Sound.” After a brief period of quiet, the distorted guitars and busy drums crash down upon the listener in an almost-jarring fashion. It’s a bold and unexpected start to the album and provides the track with a sense of urgency right from the beginning.
Following “The Sound” is arguably the album’s strongest track, “Natural Born Killer.” Released as the debut single, it mimics the beginning of “The Sound,” with a softer introduction before the forceful entrance of the song’s main texture.
The track features pounding bass and drums with a triplet guitar melody that provides a strong motif to the relatively simple harmonic movement. The hi-hat follows the guitar, playing constant triplets over an intense backbeat and creating a groove that sounds full while leaving room for other timbres.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is “Wild Eyed Son,” which utilizes an acoustic guitar and soft strings in its instrumentals, as well as a different lead vocalist. Highly Suspect’s bassist, Rich Meyer, is known to sing occasionally in its live performances and stripped-down sessions, but this is the first appearance of a new vocalist in the band’s studio work.
The lyrics of “Wild Eyed Son” are esoteric but in a poignant fashion. They tell of infinite roads upon which the narrator meets the titular wild-eyed son. He tells him that he loves him and promises to do so again.
While the exact meaning isn’t clear, the imagery is striking and the vow to “try it again” represents a deep and unceasing love for this wild-eyed son. This song certainly departs from the typical Highly Suspect formula but demonstrates that they have more in the tank.
Immediately following is another deviation, this time in the other direction. “Pink Lullabye” showcases a death-metal-esque sound foreign to Highly Suspect’s discography. As incongruous as it may be, however, it doesn’t depart enough from its signature sound to alienate listeners.
The intensity of the texture is matched by the lyrics, which furiously long for a past relationship. The chorus’ incessant repetition of “shut up, move” shows the narrator’s anger, while the verses reflect more of his melancholy.
The album closes on a similarly bold note with “Evangeline.” It pairs a leisurely tempo with intense instrumentals to create a heavy sound that serves the tune well. It takes its time, never pushing ahead of the beat.
The drums are particularly sparse, with a snare backbeat and understated cymbals. The entire track is drenched in reverb, and the vocals feature a heavy delay which fills the scarce instrumentals while giving the feeling of space.
“The Midnight Demon Club” succeeds in many of the same ways as Highly Suspect’s previous work. Its appeal is in the feeling of the music, the grandiosity and scope of the performance. To its benefit, it refuses to compromise. Across its discography, Highly Suspect’s music is carried by the boldness of its sound, and “The Midnight Demon Club” is no exception.