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France's Hell Militia has garnered quite a reputation for being one of the acts to feature the vocals of Meyhna'ch, the driving force behind the legendary Mütiilation. “Jacob's Ladder” is the third full length offering from Hell Militia and their first for Season of Mist Records. Those familiar with Hell Militia's previous works should not be too surprised with anything here as the band builds off their previous works of death influenced black metal, while adding some spacey doom elements here and there.
With “Jacob's Ladder”, the order of the day is a rather mild form of black metal with some interspersed death elements and the aforementioned spacey doom segments. The band mostly sticks to a melodic picking style, similar to later Marduk output (minus the intensity). During these sections the drums are simplistic and slow while selective chords float in the air, followed by short melodic lines. The music does build up into a rather intense deathy black metal style, but these sections are short-lived, and it's right back into the slower paced picking and molasses drumming. A few surprising sections show the guitars with their slow, melodic drone coupled with double bass running and fast cymbal work, but seem to lack some much needed oomph.
The band seems at its best during the faster sections here, such as the middle section of “Jonah”, when the drums are borderline blast beats and the guitars actually have some speed to them. The guitarist definitely shows he can play trem riffs with the best of them, but for whatever reason only plays them a few times during the entire album. The simple fact that the majority of this album plods along while the songs tend to go absolutely nowhere makes this a very difficult listen. I consistently find myself waiting for the speed and intensity to pick up, but it really doesn't, or when it does it's gone before you know it. “The Black Projector” is one of the exceptions that starts off with blasting black death, but even before the song reaches the two minute mark, melodic guitars and samples start up and the intensity is gone.
“Jacob's Ladder” would score below the average mark, if it wasn't for the vocals. If you've listened to Mütiilation before, then you know that Meyhna'ch has laid some of the best black metal vocal tracks known to mankind. His delivery was twisted, sick and ridden with despair and hate. I can't put my finger on it, but his vocals are much different here, maybe more of a throaty growl with some snarling, but different than his early work. It's not really the anguished performance of old, but it does help to take the focus away from the stagnant music. While the vocals do add some distinction to an otherwise stale performance, they aren't quite up to the standard that Meyhna'ch is commonly known for.
The frequent spacey, melodic sections really detract from any momentum that gets built up. Like I said, you spend a whole lot of time waiting for the music to build up into some intense climax, only to have the brakes thrown on. With all the slower sections sounding very similar, everything melds together after a while, especially on repeated listens. The random samples thrown in also detract from the album's pace and don't add much of a dynamic to the mix either and sound extremely out of place, especially the little kid talking about having drug induced religious experiences.
While the music is played well, this just really isn't interesting enough to stand apart from the pack. Meyhna'ch's vocals are good, but not enough to completely save “Jacob's Ladder” from mediocrity. If the band would up the intensity more, this could be a great album and a great band, but the droning, plodding pace of most of the album doesn't have enough to dig into. Slightly above average black metal, with some doom and death influence. Your money could be better spent elsewhere.
Written for The Metal Observer
It doesn’t really take long for one who is new to Hell Militia to determine their country of origin, with Jacob’s Ladder being this French black metal horde’s third full length offering to their followers.
The spoken sample that greets the listener at the opening checks the listener in to an asylum, before Hell Militia unleashes their full French weirdness onto the listener. The riffs that hit the listener right from the start, with their somewhat avant-garde elements, are deeply reminiscent of their compatriots Deathspell Omega, but there is much more at play over here as the band includes much more fury in their craft, bringing in the speed and intensity with that ever so slight death metal aggression that is rather similar to Swedish black metal bands. And all these are shrouded under a cold and harsh atmosphere, bringing in some semblance to Norwegian pioneers like Mayhem. As though the madness here isn’t sufficient to occupy the senses of the listener, there are moments where the band goes into somewhat progressive segments, with the vocals of Meyhnach bringing to the table a sound that is not unlike solo works of Ihsahn.
The band members here obviously know their craft well, as each instrument is executed superbly, and each note by guitarists Arkdaemon and Prosecutor are pulled out with intent and purpose, all meant to make the listener feel as uneasy as possible. Drummer Dave is particularly stellar, providing lots of the energy in the music with the tireless and continuous blasting that lasts almost the entirety of the album.
As with most French releases, Hell Militia places quite a strong emphasis on the high tension atmosphere in their music as well. For instance, quiet segments are often cleverly used by the band to create the haunting atmosphere, along with the sharp and trebly lead guitars that are often utilised, and slower tracks like Death Worship are used to build the climax. Sound samples and spoken samples can also be found littered throughout the album, helping to further push the limits of the listener’s sanity like on The Black Projector.
Unfortunately, as the album progressed it started to feel as though the band lost the energy and aggression that it started off with, with the later tracks on the album sounding somewhat lethargic compared to the first half. Still, Jacob’s Ladder is quite a decent album for those who looking to start their foray into French black metal, but can’t stand the weirdness of bands like Deathspell and Blut Aus Nord.
Another entry into the canon of French filthdom by Hell Miltia is a stand-up release, whilst not completely original it should still deliver up enough substance to keep you sated until the next NoEvDia release.
Hell Militia are definitely starting to hit their stride now with their new album 'Jacob's Ladder', a journey that began with 'Last Station on the Road to Death' is continued with this new full-length and it is good to see them start to carve something out for themselves even if it's not particuarly revolutionary.
Hell Militia hail from France and are made up of some of the best members from the French scene with members from Antaeus, Mutiliation, Arkhon Infaustus, Temple Of Baal, Vorkreist and Merrimack having been part of their conflagration at some point or another unfortunately though for quite some time they were little more than a poor man's Arkhon Infaustus, spewing forth pretty standard black/death metal; with their last album however they started to progress with their sound towards a more atypical sound that has more in common with Deathspell, 'Orthodoxyn' era Arkhon Infaustus and Ofermod, now obviously the fact they are so easily compared to these bands shows that they may be lacking in the originality department but their newer works are definitely a step forward from the generic black death efforts that the produced with their first two albums.
So Jacob's Ladder whilst not very original is executed well, lots of influence can be felt on this album from bands that are part of the same scene as Hell Militia, there are strange chord ringing out across the songs that has become somewhat of a trademark for Deathspell (Black Projector), menacing death riffs fueled by blasts that can be heard in Temple of Baal (Deus Irae), some very groovy riffs (Jonah) from the Ondskapt school of thought and an oppressive atmosphere which smacks of Ofermod (Death Worship), there is also a decidely Scandinavian influence that creeps through now and again, seemingly giving a nod to the Norwegian scene. So I realise that I've told you that you can find this album from other bands but in all honesty the aforementiond bands are at the forefront of black metal and it is foolish to believe that their influence won't be felt from now on, especially coupled with the outlook that all these bands share, this is compounded by the fact that Hell Militia has a deep intertwined history with these bands. One would hope however that they would be able to take these influence and craft something solely for themselves out of these parts akin to how Ascension have done, another part of me feels that Hell Militia aren't really trying to do anything completley new but just try to produce black metal that is slightly above the average of releases nowadays and they have done. The album is executed very well, whilst not original by any means it does not detract from the experience at all, their influences are part together in a cohesive manner producing a very nice slab of blackened death that should leave you far more satisfied than anything Belphegor, Behemoth or Hate have produced in the past 5 years.
Jacob's Ladder also marks a more refined ideal towards the bands philosophy, moving away from a more straight forward 'blasphemous' stance and lyrical content to a more thoughtful practice in line with the depth and more learned approach that bands of whom the members are part of exercise. Personally I would like a little more depth to the lyrics and feel that slightly more might have been achieved with their musings on Chrsitian dogma and the literature, their chosen field could have been much more introspective with the story of Jacob's Ladder being rather interesting in my eyes, aside from just the title's name, Christian iconography is always open to interpretation and points of view that can be very interesting, e.g. Deathspell, however this is a small issue and doesn't really detract from the experience of the album.
Overall this is nothing special when compared to its obvious influences however Hell Miltia are still ahead of the curve when compared with the state of the rest of the black metal scene, it speaks volumes on how strong the French scene is in comparison to the rest of black metal when even the 'second-string' bands are far beyond what some of the other country's scenes best bands have to offer.
(Originally written for baileysmmcreamy.blogspot.com
Interesting things are happening in Franks' kingdom. Many French bands are now considered leaders in their respective registers, paving the way for new groups, such as Parisian Hell Militia. Members of this infernal guerrilla are practicing a strong blackened death metal, in a style already dug by their fellows from Svart Crown and Vorkreist. Stylistic similarities between these groups (the eerie clear guitar passages, fat distortion, syncopated rhythms, etc.) are so obvious that we could possibly confuse them.
Now belonging to Season of Mist’s herd, Hell Militia therefore propose us a third album called Jacob’s Ladder, which has the same flaws I already noticed on Vorkreist’s Sigil Whore Christ, published earlier this year. Packaging is impeccable, even stylish, but it cannot hide the album’s weaknesses. Indeed, apart from some beautiful and furious riffs (particularly on the title track), song writing remains hesitant. Songs are constantly interspersed with slower and heavier passages, breaking the interpretation momentum. I would have much more preferred an aggressive and instinctive attitude. In addition, some sound clips scattered on the album are difficult to understand, their introduction contexts being often opaque to the audience.
Bible stories have always been a sulfur mine for black metal bands, which draw tirelessly themes and concepts from it. French quartet Hell Militia joined the horde by exploiting a famous Genesis passage extracted from a Jacob’s dream. This Abraham grand-son saw in a reverie a stairway (or ladder) borrowed by the angels for their travels between earth and heaven. God even speaks to him, confirming his intentions towards his chosen people. It is a beautiful and mysterious mythological theme, but Jacob’s Ladder never allows the listener to reach seventh heaven. 6/10
Originally written for Métal Obscur.