Thursday, January 8, 2009

Militia - Released

(2008, 12 tracks, 54:28)

Hard as it is to imagine now, Texas was once a hotbed of metal talent; Watchtower and Helstar were the big names, of course, but Juggernaut, S.A. Slayer, and other such underground bands sustained a scene lively enough that it made sense for Mark Reale to rebuild Riot with lone star recruits in the late 80s. Nowadays, well, Ron Jarzombek is still kicking around down there, and Helstar is back together, and that first Power of Omens disc was pretty good, right? But really, no one playing the word association game today is going to answer “Texas,”with “Metal!” That’s too bad, because this finally released Militia retrospective shows that the metal of this cast-off, never-was band kicks the shit out of a lot of bands that, you know, made an album at some point.

To the extent that anyone is familiar with Militia, it’s usually by a trivial awareness that the guy who sang on Watchtower’s track on the Doomsday News II compilation, Mike Soliz, was stolen from Militia. He sang that one track with the band and was shortly replaced by Alan Tecchio, who sang on the Watchtower’s sophomore LP. Militia themselves only released one piece of vinyl, a vanishingly rare EP called The Sybling, pressed in a quantity of 300 or thereabouts, plus a couple low-rent demos. They did the usual live work and stuck it out for four or five years and were gone. Released collects The Sybling, some of those demos (or maybe all of them- it’s not exactly clear) and packages them with nice historical liner notes from bassist Robert Willingham. The booklet is really sharp, with lots of pictures and reproductions of old show flyers (those are always fun: Exciter, Megadeth, and Militia? King Diamond, Watchtower, and Milita? Oh to be a denimed Hessian in 80s Texas!) Sadly, the sound quality of these 12 tracks doesn’t live up to the visual standards of the package. I would be shocked to learn that any of these tracks were taken from master tapes: The Sybling is probably sourced from an old vinyl copy and the demos from ancient, low-bias cassettes copied at high speed. The 1984 Regiments of Death demo sounds about as good as you could hope, given the provenance of the material, but the No Submission demo is in such a poor state that the right channel frequently just isn’t there. The Sybling sounds fine, I guess, but the less said about the live and rehearsal tracks, the better. It’s a real pity, because the music is just smoking. It’s semi-technical thrash that vaguely recalls Savage Grace, or early Watchtower minus the virtuosity, but topped with some truly serious ballsqueezer vocals. Soliz doesn’t have the presence or command of Eric AK or Marc Antoni, but he’s got the range, at least, and he’s not scared to use it. Check out the scream in the middle of “Objective Termination”: it’s probably two or thee whole steps higher than Midnight’s highest note. Badass. His melodies are not the most graceful, it should be said, and his lyrics (as far as I can tell, as they’re not printed in this otherwise excellent booklet) are nothing special, but his singing is dripping in the pure metal insanity that only these high-register thrash guys can muster.

Released is not some kind of Holy Grail reissue, and Militia aren’t anyone’s idea of the best band ever, but thrash enthusiasts looking for a shot of that old tyme goodness could do worse than this collection. The sound issues are not insignificant, so if you have a low tolerance for bootleg-quality reproduction, this is not the CD for you. But, if you’re so hardcore, really, that you’d even consider buying the demo collection of a thrash band that existed for about 10 minutes in the whirlwind 80s, you probably have boxes full of 7th generation cassette dubs a hundred times worse than this, in every regard, and you probably love that shit, so why not throw a few bucks in Militia’s direction. They’re back together, unbelievably, so who knows, maybe your support will encourage them to put these tracks down properly (assuming Soliz can still sing like this, 20 years on.) Stranger things have happened. After all, that new Helstar album is not too bad, either! Thrash out with yer gash out!

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