To say I’ve been a fan of Evil Legend Records as a distro would be an understatement. Hell, if you’ve ever looked at how many CDs I bought from the damn place since you’d think I was a part owner. Actually, if Tim (owner) had children I’d probably have put them through college already. Now Evil Legend Records has already carved out its niche as a distro, carrying what are generally regarded as rare old school metal items. 70’s and 80’s material are common and especially albums that are hailed as underground classics, so it’s no surprise that ELR’s first release as a record label would be of a virtually unknown thrash band (unless you were from Ontario or REALLY knew your shit in the 80’s).
Death Militia were their name and they existed during the short timeframe of 1985-1989. Now, the band was never able to get a label deal, nor were they able to properly record a full-length album. The band’s only recorded output come from three demos, 1985’s ONSLAUGHT OF DEATH, 1987’s TO SERVE AND PROTECT, and 1988’s ONE DAY CLOSER TO HELL. These three demos make up the bulk of this release entitled YOU CAN’T KILL WHAT’S ALREADY DEAD. Now along with these three demos (totalling 11 songs already) are four rehearsal songs. Knowing where this material comes from I’m sure many metal fans are already turned off, figuring the sound quality is quite probably a mess. The thing is, those people would figure wrong. Much of the material, most specifically the demos, sounds quite good. Of course, it doesn’t sound perfect, but it sounds as good as many other underground thrash releases from the same time period, almost up to album quality of those time periods. The rehearsal material is admittedly just that, and the sound quality is rather muddy for the most part BUT as opposed to most other rehearsal tapes you’ll hear from other bands, these are actually not that hard on the ears at all. One can actually make out all the instruments; you just have to be able to deal with a lack of vocals since these particular songs are instrumental.
The album opens with what is the best recording, sonically, that Death Militia had done. “Beneath the Cross” from the TO SERVE AND PROTECT demo thrashes from the get go. Not just your straight chugging fair here, the song straddles the line between 80’s power and thrash metal. The riffs are impressive and catchy, melodic yet thrashy. While Dave Bracewell’s vocals being street tough and almost chant like, carrying notes when he had to but being that rough metal vocalist the style begged for. Its simple thrash that gets to the point: early Razor, Metallica, Overkill but the band were able to take their simple ideas and make some serious monsters out of them, as can be seen later on in this disc. “The Family” fits a bit more under the traditional idea of early thrash metal, lots of straight chugging, but still has some of that NWOBHM influence that left a lot of the early thrash metal bands. One thing that starts to stick out already by the second track is how good the vocal lines really were in this band, as opposed to most thrash bands where the vocals do little or nothing to drive the song and it’s all about the riffs (i.e. Metallica, Slayer, Sacrifice) Death Militia were actually onto something with songs that had the whole package.
Jumping into track 6, “Does He Live Today”, we get into the ONE DAY CLOSER TO HELL demo. The style is still very much the same as before, the sound being a tad cleaner and the bass having a bit more prominence to these ears. The style is still close to the prior tracks, though Dave Bracewell is doing a lot more actual singing. The second track on the demo caps off the second section. Bassist Steve Mills proclaims in the liner notes that he felt “Begin the Last Rites” was the band’s best track and it’s hard to argue. This might be the most epic and involved the band would get. It’s an impressive track to say the least and the vocals sound like King Fowley (Deceased/October 31).
The rehearsal tracks follow the two demos and as was said earlier, are more than listenable. The tracks here are quite impressive and even further illustrate the promise that Death Militia had as a young band. It’s only rather unfortunate that proper versions of songs like “The Unknown Epic” and “Rocket’s Red Glare” were never recorded considering they’re up there with some of the better tracks on here.
Rounding out the album is the four track, 1985 ONSLAUGHT OF DEATH demo. It’s obviously the rawest the band would ever sound, straight up old school thrash at frenzied paces. There are obvious hints at what the band would eventually become here but the songs still work regardless of the fact that the band hadn’t really developed their melodic sense, the songs just straight out thrash without over thinking the songs, just the way it should be.
Now with all the great songs to be found here it’s impressive that there’s even more to talk about, that being the booklet. This is a big booklet with an interview with band members as well as liner notes that give memories from band members regarding certain songs, how they were written and recorded. I’m actually terribly impressed at just how good it looks, especially coming from a label where this is the first release.
I realize that for many people a compilation or anthology release certainly isn’t at the top of their list for albums to get but I assure you, if you’re a fan of thrash metal, 80’s metal, 80’s power or anything of that sort, you will not be disappointed here. Listening to this album it’s obvious Death Militia were a band that was greatly overlooked and underrated and it would be a crime if this were to happen again.
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