Highly Suspect Falls Flat With ‘The Midnight Demon Club’

The band’s familiar gritty sound perishes with the release of their fourth studio album


Roadrunner Records

After three years of fans patiently waiting for new music, Highly Suspect released “The Midnight Demon Club” on Sept. 9, 2022.

Terrible Johnny, lead singer of alternative rock band Highly Suspect, wants you to know he’s a transformed man following his first three albums. “It’s making you so mad ‘cause I can’t be defeated,” he sings on the new track “Ice Cold.” “I’m getting what’s mine and I’m having the time of my life, believe it.” 

Though Johnny has generally grown past belting his signature eloquent rock ballads of intimacy, grief and melancholy, change is not always a good thing. This especially rings true in regards to Highly Suspect’s newest studio album, “The Midnight Demon Club.”

The group’s sound regrettably began morphing into electro-pop-rock with the release of their previous album in 2019, “MCID.” Fans also noticed a rapid deterioration of their lyric quality around this time. A miniscule number of tracks managed to capture the once fine-tuned ‘Highly Suspect sound’ of albums past, which can best be described as intense vocals with lyrics equivalent to poetry, meets vehement instrumentals containing bursts of fiery percussion.

Despite the mediocrity of their preceding album, I had high expectations for “The Midnight Demon Club,” right up until seeing the cover art. The vibrant neon color palette stuck out like a sore thumb in comparison to the usual neutral tones featured on every other cover. Shortly after this, the album’s first singles were released: “Natural Born Killer” and “Pink Lullabye.” I grew increasingly pessimistic concerning the quality of the whole album by my first listen-through. 

“Pink Lullabye” is unlike anything the group has ever put out before, with noticeable screamo and metal influences. This concept is suitable, while the execution is not. Lyrics on this track (and majority of the album) are lacking and infantile. The same goes for “Natural Born Killer,” though this track is a bit more unbearable. It’s catchy, a little too catchy, as if it was solely produced to get radio exposure. In fact, most tracks sound like they were made to introduce a new wave of fans to the band. As a result, the ‘Highly Suspect sound’ long-term fans know and love has officially perished. 

The next singles to be released, “Ice Cold” and “New California,” solidified my conclusion. The electro-dance inspired “Ice Cold” is undoubtedly the worst song on the album in both lyric and instrumental quality, sounding yet again like it was only made to get radio plays. “New California” is not horrendous, though it deals with eerily similar subject matter as another Highly Suspect track released in 2016, “Serotonia.” It could be said that “New California” is merely a sequel to this song, though I’d argue it’s instead a poor rip-off. 

Closing track “Evangeline” is the album’s only saving grace. Hauntingly stunning lyrics full of symbolism mixed with a heavy instrumental is exactly what I was hoping to see more of with this album. Sadly, “Evangeline” is the only track where this is present. “Are you an angel? ‘Cause I’ll wait on the beach,” Johnny sings in the closing line. “Call me Gabriel, my dear Evangeline.” 

At its best, “The Midnight Demon Club” is Highly Suspect’s unapologetic way of embarking on a new flamboyant era. At its worst, it’s the most remiss, corporately-manufactured renegade of their discography.