Militia Vox is one of those rare artists who comes along every decade or so and breaks molds and opens new creative doors, which is exactly what her new EP Isosceles does. Vox packs more music, more meaning, more power into the three songs on Isosceles than many musicians do in a lifetime of albums.
Formally trained in classical piano and voice, Vox embraced heavy metal, founded one of the most successful metal cover bands of our time, The Judith Priestess. She also served as the central figure in bands like Disciples of Astaroth and Swear on Your Life. She has performed with Twisted Sister, Living Colour, Nancy Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper – a musical range few can even imagine. And all of that comes together in exploration of birth, life and death on her own terms that Vox takes you through in Isosceles, the second release of her trilogy story, Villainess.
The songs on Isosceles have been “festering in my mind for years” Vox says, explaining the deep attention to details and the intricate layering of her four-octave voice to convey unshakable images through words and musical texture. This “festering” has produced songs that are dense with meaning and embedded in music that is geologically striated like lava flows pressured into diamonds over millennia.
The EP opens with “Vow”, solidly rooted in the screaming guitars, jackhammer drums and howling synths of heavy metal, but with a message of determination that, for a woman in a largely male music form, transcends metal’s usual themes of the underworld. Instead of referencing the underworld, she stands astride it, like a black Queen radiating fire and lightning. Her operatic voice flies defiantly above the musical smoke and fire, proclaiming Yeah I made a VOW/I will not be tamed/I won’t back down/This is my VOW. But, having delivered the message, she moves on, with distant guitar strings receding against a wind sound from an endless plain. Put on your headphones and let it orbit you around this nether world somewhere beyond the Kuyper Belt.
But the orbit is short-lived as she pulls you back down to earth with the clean, synth percussion of Born Out of Darkness. The simplicity of the downbeat here belies the complexity of the percussion, bassline and snare hit details. And all it supports her controlled, flat voice – no howls, no screams, just the monotone facts, mam:
Queen without an empire/Will take her throne/Just off the grid enough
An outlaw of life/No choice but to embrace it/Now I’m addicted to the fight
Rising with guitar riffs and accelerating drums and bass, the flat voice remains throughout, like Charon guiding you across the river Stix to Hades. Then as you think you can make out the other side in the mist, she hits you with the final taunt, Born to be bad/You can’t control me/Does that make you mad?
Leave your headphones on for the third song, This is She. You will know why as a demonic/angelic choir prepares you briefly for the measured pounding of the toms and kick drum, like an overseer’s work drum on a Roman Galley. You are sailing into the heart of the supreme feminine, an image constructed by Vox singing from a distant, full moon sky, A woman’s design is ripe with secrets/So don’t deny what you can’t refuse. As the drums gather anger and Vox’s voice reaches one operatic pinnacle after another the dark image turns bright and painful:
Drunk with power intoxicating/Speak the words for she is waiting
Close your eyes ‘cause she is lying/In the dark for you she’s dying small
I suspect that at some point Ph.D. thesis and scholarly articles will be written about Vox’s poetry, its musical frame and her increasingly sophisticated talent for blending genres. While Vox is rooted in metal, it can’t contain her. This album clearly shows that Vox skillfully reassembles heavy metal with storytelling, electronic rock and even opera into a sound that stirs the gut, the muscles and mind.
Vox supplements her voice with acting ability (yes, you have seen her on TV and on stage) and a genius for event and music production to deliver her message of personal power, confidence and rebellion through events ranging from motorcycle rallies to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Named one of the nation’s “Ten Fiercest Black Female Rockers,” Militia Vox’s album, BAIT and single “Vow” have garnered high praise from critics and fans alike. Isosceles promises to continue her momentum and thrill her fans.
Militia Vox. Isosceles. http://www.militiaismyname.com/
The singles “Vow” and “Born Out of Darkness” available for download from iTunes, Bandcamp and other online platforms. Video at https://www.youtube.com/user/MilitiAismyname