Heavy Metal Queen Militia Vox decamped from New York to play a couple of shows at NAMM in Anaheim and and holed up in a studio to work on her next album while her new cover EP, BAIT, introduces new audiences to her unique music style. She has said that if you are going to do a cover song, you need to do it different from the original or better, or preferably both. In her new EP of cover songs, BAIT, she does both. BAIT is the foreplay to her forthcoming full album Villainess, introducing a new audience through familiar songs so they will later succumb to her original work.
Militia Vox (also known as MilitiA) has been called the Dark Diva, the Metal Goddess, ferocious, badass, loud. And she has also been called honest, existential, hardworking and beautiful. She is all of those things and more. The founder and front woman of the Judas Priestess tribute band, a producer of fantastic events, an actress, model and businesswoman, she is multimedia genius with a message of power, confidence, rebellion and of being true to who your are and what you love. And by doing so she has blazed trails, opened doors, inspired thousands and made a lot of very, very good music. This EP is a perfect demonstration of her honesty, dedication to quality and stunning talent.
Before you listen to BAIT, get in the mood with earphones, and if you can, lay down and close your eyes. Each song is a cinematic journey, rich with images and emotions, packed with notes that howl and whisper, drums that crash and palpitate, riffs that swirl and twist and sting and comfort. She begins this journey with Tool’s 1996 song “Forty-six & 2”, about the reorganization of the human genome into evolutionary path through the dark parts of the human heart. A difficult song to play because of parallel 4/4, 3/8, 5/8 and 7/8 beats that come together and separate as the song moves on, Militia updates it and performs it superbly, modernizing it with majestic string downbeats, urgent drum clap beats and a totally demanding gong. She keeps the power and mystery of the original but carries it into a new dimension, a terrifying and addictive journey into both inner and outer space. I actually prefer Militia’s to the original, although I could listen to either all night.
The journey moves on with “No More Tears”, Ozzy Osbourne’ 1991 hit from the album of the same name. Militia Vox brings an authority to the song with her voice that contrasts to the melodrama of the original, lightening up on the broad bass guitar notes and adding an insistence with her phrasing. The guitar riffs are every bit as sharp, but pull you into a cave-like world as they sail over the bass and drums laying in the background. Like the original, Militia Vox’s “No More Tears” is a hypodermic injection of sound into your brain, but her version spreads the drug out through your subconscious.
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She lets you think you can recover as she slides into Nine Inch Nails’ “Reptile” starting with slow scratches. But before you are breathing normally, the guitar wall and jackhammer drumming come on and her voice cuts into your skull like a sweet steel saw. Here she has updated the original quite a bit, speeding it up from the steampunk mechanical vision of the original. Purists might decry the loss of the industrial feel, but I think the edge she puts on it makes it her own and leaves its soul intact. What it does to the listener’s souls is another story.
The BAIT trip you are on takes a turn into the personal with “Rid of Me”, PJ Harvey’s 1993 song of violent revenge and psychotic need. Militia’s cover is higher pitched, more aggressive (!!!), more internally painfull. It feels like barely restrained chaos even though it is smoother and flows more evenly than the original. Again, like “Reptile”, she updates it for modern instruments and ears, adds authority and color while leaving the original intact.
The final two songs are, to me, glowing gems in the EP’s platinum setting. They take our the musical foreplay to its climax, let us recover and then and then roll us over for more. My favorite is “Thunderdome (We Don’t Need Another Hero)”, Tina Turner’s theme from the 1985 Mad Max film. Where Tina Turner smoothly moved into the heart of the song from an 80’s orchestrated introduction, Militia Vox paints the frame with blood and tears and swirling keyboards and a lash-like snare beat, preparing for her lift off. When she ascends, a throbbing base and growling guitars are the afterburners to her soaring voice. Same song, different era and different focus.
Where Tina Turner’s version is a movie soundtrack, Militia Vox’s is the movie and it is a documentary shot in the grit of today’s streets. “Waiting for the Night”, originally produced by Depeche Mode in 1990 in a dreamy weed-rock style, is transformed by Militia into an orbital trip that wings us peacefully around the moon and then plunges us toward the sun where we feel the solar wind whistling in our ears and hydrogen flares shooting through the drums at us as we go screaming by. Check your body hair for singed ends when the music stops .
After you take off your headphones, struggle up from the floor, wipe off the sweat and catch the breath BAIT sucks out of you, you will do what I did – play it again, because once is not enough. If BAIT is the foreplay, I am desperate for the main act in Villainess.
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