Album Review: Millennium - The Sign Of Evil
Reviewed by Sam Jones
When it comes to NWOBHM you have your mainstream renowned acts such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, Diamond Head etc, you have the underdogs like Praying Mantis, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Fist and Quartz. Then you have bands like Millennium, the kind I had never remotely heard of before learning if this record’s upcoming release. Formed in 1982, arguably towards the back end of NWOBHM’s golden era, Millennium hail from Durham, England, where they possessed haphazard years of activity releasing, at the time, numerous Demos and a self-titled album in 1984. Breaking up and reforming within 1985 under the new moniker of Tyrone-Power this came to no avail, breaking up once and reforming once again a year later only to disband in 1988. For twenty-seven years this was the fate of Millennium, yet in 2015 the band revived once more and released Awakening (aptly titled) in 2017, more than three decades on from their self titled work. We’re currently within the longest period Millennium have ever together for, now releasing their third full length work, The Sign Of Evil, since their rebirth. I was curious to see what a NWOBHM band I had never heard of before could deliver on.
The Sign Of Evil may be a 2023 record however I adore how Millennium took it upon themselves to render this work with a genuine retro aesthetic, as if fans could discover this back in the early 80s and it wouldn’t feel anywhere out of place. Everything from the vocals to the riffs to the overall atmosphere this album exudes just screams old school, and it’s great to acknowledge that over four decades on from their inception, Millennium have never turned their backs on what made them wish to take up the NWOBHM sound originally. One other thing that helps the band in this instance, and in this aspect, is the complete band’s performance all meshes together to create a seamless attack that binds us down to the album’s foundations upon which the band can subject us to all they harness herein. Often, through modern technology and production, where the prerogative for smooth and polished productions is aspired for in modern NWOBHM efforts, a band in question can lose that unified essence and each element the band throw up becomes increasingly segmented and individual. That isn’t the instance here; Millennium is a true band effort, and the rejection of a modern polish only benefits their performance.
You know, for a band over four decades old, that never reached the levels of success even the more underrated acts of the NWOBHM movement managed to achieve, Millennium provide a surprisingly hard hitting impact that really got me on board with their songwriting and attitude. I found myself effortlessly headbanging and swaying from side to side; half of that reason boils down to how Millennium have crafted songs that possess a genuinely melodic underside to them whilst still retaining a punch to our senses that others may not see coming. These tracks have real identity to them for not only do they offer that innate punch, but the melodic element is just enough that tracks have real impact throughout the album’s running. This is more than just a collection of songs, but songwriting that’s been dished out with real love and attention placed upon them. Given that this is a NWOBHM act from way back when, it’s startling to hear swathes of double bass drumming or guitar tone, fast and dissipating as it’s resonance is, still strike with this rapid-fire electricity. It doesn’t take long before Millennium will have you firmly on board with their attitude; not since the early works of Fist have I encountered an underdog NWOBHM band that’s so quickly convinced me of a band’s ability to entertain.
For a harder hitting band like Millennium, I found the vocals were just the right amount of attitude poured forth to match the general aesthetic the band were throwing up. Considering that frontman Mark Duffy, having performed vocals for Millennium way back in the day, is getting on a touch now, and has performed vocals for the band since the band’s 2015 reunion, I’d argue he’s done a cracking job at reserving his voice for what the band require of him. It seems to be a running theme, for when old school NWOBHM bands reunite their vocalists tend to have protected their voices remarkably well. That rule of thumb continues to apply to Duffy’s vocals too for he’s able to infuse the band’s instrumentation with grit and might yet throughout his more tender and reserved pieces, his vocals are able to demonstrate great control over extensive, prolonged notes. From this, we see he’s still possessive of great vocal chops for not only can he provide the strength this band showcases but, also, the capacity to take it down a notch when needed too.
For the most part, Millennium play a more impactful variation of NWOBHM that other bands of that era didn’t strive for as completely, but it’s great to see, throughout the record here and there, the band still sprinkle in some instances, small as they may be during particular songs, where softer songwriting is brought into play. On the whole, the band may have their preferred manner of songwriting and what they would prefer fans to be subjected to upon discovering their music, yet it’s still happy to see some variety in the music they play whether it’s through chunkier, drawn out sequences peppered across the electric onslaught they prefer to perform, or via those aforementioned miniature moments where their songwriting dips momentarily into gentler, softer touches.
In conclusion, Millennium’s The Sign Of Evil is an honestly surprising album that will have you on board with its power and antics quickly in its running, and immerse you within its strength from start to finish. Again, considering how Millennium weren’t even on my radar concerning the NWOBHM scene, and how the band only reformed in 2015 with this being the third album released since that time, it’s staggering how a band that can be dormant for so long can deliver on songwriting and entertainment as thoroughly as Millennium managed to do so here. The band exude a bite and fervent intensity that many of their NWOBHM peers, even amongst those of grander and legendary repute, do not equal. I will have to return to Millennium’s earliest days to see for myself whether this is an overarching theme for the band because this was an excellent album to discover blindly. I highly recommend this album, I really do because even after forty years, Millennium still know how to deliver quality metal.