Hell Militia- Jacob’s Ladder

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hell Militia’s sophomore effort was a decent album but it didn’t quite manage to have the same level of impact that the top tier black metal releases have been able to create. But this hasn’t stopped the French group from continuing to hone their craft, and after a switch from Debemur Morti to Season of Mist they have returned with a new full length Jacob’s Ladder. It continues the slower, swirling atmosphere of its predecessor but reveals much stronger songwriting and as a result it feels as though the band has managed to reach a level of atmosphere and tension that their previous efforts lacked.

Despite the stronger songwriting, this is still an album that may take a bit of time to grow on you. In fact, I recommend giving it two complete listens initially in order to let the different elements sink in. While Hill Militia’s instrumentals sometimes fall into the tried and true blasting that black metal is known for, much of this album moves at a much slower pace and uses eerie, swirling melodies to create an unsettling atmosphere. This may not sound that different from 2010’s Last Station on the Road to Death, but this time around the guitar riffs are more distinguishable from one another and the melodies are stretched out further which allows the atmosphere to expand around the rest of the sound. Jacob’s Ladder also integrates a number of different sound clips that add to the creepiness of the sound, and while I’m not usually crazy about an overuse of film clips they are integrated so well here that it works. The production is much cleaner than I remember on the group’s previous efforts, but the clearer tonality helps to make Hell Militia’s dissonant melodies stand out more than before.

Vocalist Meyhnach has been with the band since the beginning, and as a result if you’ve heard any of their previous material the screams should sound familiar. Meyhnach uses a style of screaming that I’ve always liked in black metal, as it strikes a fine balance between distorted and clean which allows the lyrical content to still be understood by the listener. The cleaner tonality and production also benefits the vocals, as it lets them cut through the rest of the sound like a knife and come straight for the listener. It’s also worth mentioning that the combination of the aforementioned sound clips and screams fits well, giving the material the edginess that it needs.

Jacob’s Ladder is a grower, and if you’re looking for a black metal album that makes more of an immediate impact there are other releases better suited for this. But Hell Militia’s latest gets under your skin with its eerie melodies and jagged edges, and it does it in a way that the band’s previous material lacked. The group has taken a substantial leap forward and achieved the level of dissonance and haunting atmosphere that they were only hinting at previously, and as a result they have crafted an album that’s worth checking out.


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