Militia – The Face of God CD Old Europa Café 2019
Militia – Ambiorix CD Old Europa Café 2018
To provide a brief history lesson, Militia have been operating since the late 1980’s, where their general approach could be characterised as a logical extension of the early oil barrel percussion of industrial pioneers Test Department. Militia then managed to hit an outstandingly high peak of output early on, with particular reference to: New European Order 3xLP (1996); their contribution to the cult compilation War Against Society 3xLP (1997); and The Black Flag Hoisted 2xCD (2000). Each of these and now broadly considered landmark classics of the post-industrial underground, which then tends to cast a very long shadow over everything which has followed and to which against every new release is compared. Inevitably this is the context in which the two new Militia albums are considered.
The Face of God although issued in 2019, was first issued in 2015 as a self-released box-set, but with poor distribution it was quite difficult to obtain. This 2019 version appears it may in fact be from the original CD pressing but re-issued within a newly designed 6 panel digi-pack. In context of Militia’s discography The Face of God followed on from 2005’s Everything Is One CD and 2011’s Power! Propaganda! Production! CD. Both of those albums where characterized by being more streamlined, cleanly produced, and song focused, and for me were both highly enjoyable releases which demonstrated a gradually refinement of Militia’s earlier approach. Interestingly The Face of God differs from those albums given it has a rougher and distorted edge which more closely aligns with the earlier era. Male choral vocals and tolling bells of Psalm 1: An Atheist Statement opens the album, before an echoed proclamation of project mainstay Frank Gorissen makes the theme of the album exceedingly clear. Following this the track launches into a section of trademark looped synth lines, wailing horns and heady thrummed percussion. Without doubt a brilliant start. Psalm 5: Sermon is also a clear standout with its fast-paced metallic percussive drive and maudlin underpinning synth line. Psalm 7: God’s Face is another track displaying all the pinnacle trademarks of Militia’s approach aka the rhythmic loops, pounding metallic percussion and wailing horns. Late album track Psalm 10: Call All Atheists is another particular highlight with its atonal droning synth-line, blended with forceful incessantly rolling/ clanging percussion and strained proclamation styled vocals. Yet alongside the highlights sporadic missteps don’t go unnoticed, where on occasion the execution of percussion feel overly stilted and out of time, such as on Psalm 2: The immaculate Conception Of Lies. A minor gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
In moving on to the consideration of the latest Militia opus Ambiorix issued in late 2018, from the outset the album draws a clear parallel to the recent 2017 re-recording of the classic New European Order (reviewed here). By this it is meant the earlier percussive driven windswept battlefield atmospheres are clearly present, but the recording is crystalline and without a grey hued murkiness. Likewise of note, on the thematic side of things instead of political framed social commentary, the album differs as it focuses on a historic period instead, and quoting from the cover: ‘Militia plans King Ambiorix’ struggle again the Roman occupation of Gaul in 54 BC’. In an overarching sense while Ambiorix follows Militia’s established sonic template, the album as a whole is quite atmospherically filmic in tone, particularly where rousing synth based neo-classical elements such as choirs, horns and strings are utilised. This cinematic impression is further reinforced through the clear narrative outlined by the album’s 11 tracks, and with the production being relatively clean and spacious, means that although being percussive based, it does not feel as heavy as other Militia material. To talk specifics, early Negotiation perfectly blends rhythmic loops, driving militant drumming and stirring synth melodies. Equally the introductory neo-classical strains of Ambush are particularly rousing, which sets the scene for a ‘battle march’ percussive driven track. Calling All Gauls again follows the classic Militia format of rolling metallic percussion and looped melody and further elevated with neo-classical backing elements. Late album track War is equally rousing with its battlefield samples, choir synths and ever-present driving percussion. Rounding out the hour length album is the 11.5 minute The Lost King which is an ambient soundscape which evolves into a mid-paced militant percussive track though the mid-section, before shifting back to and ambient soundscape during its final moments.
As an overall comment, I would not profess that either of these Militia releases exceeds the heights of the early era classics, yet they each still stand as resoundingly strong releases on their own. In recognition of their slight deviations in tone and approach, both The Face of God and Ambiorix are fitting additions to the Militia discography and will absolutely please followers of the group, both older or more recent. Recommended.