Review – Hell Militia: Last Station On the Road to Death

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Review – Hell Militia: Last Station On the Road to Death
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Hell Militia: Last Station On the Road to Death
Black Metal
Debemur Morti
October 12th, 2010
Release length: 47:49

Hell Militia is a French Black Metal act that formed back in 2001. Nine years later, their discography isn’t too expansive, but given the many bands that the members are involved in, it’s understandable that the discography for this group has come up a bit empty. However, Last Station on the Road to Death marks the group’s second full-length effort, and the first piece of material released by the band in roughly five years. So, for fans of the band, as well as the style, the concern arises as to whether this time between releases has allowed the band to compose some sinister music, or if that time was dedicated to their many other projects, and this wound up being an album that wound up being rushed just to have another release under the Hell Militia name available.

Lately, the French Black Metal bands have been earning a strong following, typically for their signature sound and offering a bit of a fresh breath to the quickly becoming underground scene. Of course, Last Station on the Road to Death brings in a lot of what you would expect, but for the most part doesn’t necessarily stand out. The main allures about this release is Hell Militia‘s ability to often seamlessly jump from faster paced music into a much slower speed, though not executing it as well as it should be some of the time, without breaking the flow of the album, as well as the more professional recording quality. The album’s atmosphere really does just scream black, evil, even grim and melancholic during the slower segments of the songs, working well in the band’s favor for choosing to go with such a clearer, more modern sounding album, and it manages to really bring out the vocals of the album, though sometimes it would probably be best if they wound up in the background.

Vocally, and sometimes musically, Last Station on the Road to Death feels a little lax. The vocals are not your traditional wailing style that is most commonly used in the Black Metal field, but instead is more of a commanding, deep rasp that is often drug out as if the vocalist were forcing his final breath out of his system. This doesn’t typically cause problems, but due to the vocal level, as well as the fact that the vocals sometimes just feel lacking in energy and sometimes just sound silly with the way they are drug out at times, clashing horribly against the music being played with a tone-deaf effort. The best representation of this occurs during “Unshakable Faith”. While this is a strong song that moves very fast and simply gives off this brooding melancholic feel to it, the vocals can often feel weak, drawn out, and even over-exaggerated without even exaggerating in the first place, especially when the music slows down to a crawl or basically stops.

Much of Last Station on the Road to Death flows at a slower pace. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the slower paced elements of the release start to feel a little overused at times, as well as all too familiar “Et Inferno Ego”, but not enough to really deter the listener from finishing up the release. This also means more of the deeper rasp wail instead of a commanding, yet not so energetic, vocal performance throughout. Of course, there’s no denying the impact that the faster music has here, but it really is just in moderation. Last Station on the Road to Death starts off with “Born Without Light”, a much faster song that follows a slightly more than one minute introductory audio sample that seems very fitting to the grim, almost graveyard/funeral music that the band plays when slowed down. However, on of the big worries start right off the bat with “Born Without Light”, which is the drumming. The snare drumming quickly becomes an issue with “Born Without Light”, but luckily not for any other song on here, where the snares are being hit and sound good, but they are simply of with the beat and the microphone for the drum kit is just simply obnoxious at times, as the snare drum for that song winds up being at a slower pace then it should be, and makes the song a little harder to enjoy.

But, through all the faults, there’s still plenty of great gems on here. “The Ultimate Deception” makes for a very grim and melancholic sounding slow-paced track, and is one of the first slower paced songs that seems to have energy behind the performance. Aside that, the faster paced “Fili Diaboli” have some really punishing riffs and drumming to it, as well as manages to weave in and out of the slower material flawlessly, until some of the moments during “Born Without Light”. “Shoot Knife Strangle Beat & Crucify” makes for an odd addition to the line-up of this album, considering it’s a GG Allin cover song, but it flows perfectly with the more slower paced material, and the background chanting in the song actually enhances the vocals for the better compared to how they sound throughout the album, showing that a little layering may have helped make the vocals sound a little more impressive in the long run.

In the long run, Last Station on the Road to Death is a good album, but for a five-year wait for a follow-up full-length, it’s nothing spectacular at all. When the speed of the album picks up, and the drums match the tempo of the guitars, or can keep up, it sounds phenomenal. However, the slower paced material sounds great at the start, but as the album progresses, it begins to wear a little thin, regardless of how dismal or melancholic it comes across, feeling repetitive and, sometimes, just drawn out, and the uninspiring vocals really don’t help things either. Hell Militia definitely did not put their best foot forward on this album, but overall it’s not a bad listen and does have a good amount of tracks on it that, while not entirely impressive, are still enjoyable and will give some replay value to the album.

01. Always the Same – 1:07
02. Born Without Light – 5:51
03. Unshakable Faith – 5:37
04. Et in Inferno Ego – 5:31
05. The Ultimte Deception – 5:48
06. Fili Diaboli – 4:51
07. Shoot Knife Strangle Beat & Crucify (GG Allin cover) – 4:57
08. The Pig That Became a God – 8:50
09. Last Station on the Road to Derath – 5:17
Initial Pressing Score: 5/10

Hell Militia
Hell Militia

Digital review copy of this release provided by Debemur Morti Productions.