Reconciling the distance between Motörhead and pre-millennium Marduk here several years after their somewhat straightforward 2016 full-length debut, ‘Iron Overkill’, Lahti, Finland based black/death metal band Front expand their line-up to a quartet for this latest EP, ‘Antichrist Militia’. Cranking away at irreligious and brutal black/death adjacent projects for a couple of decades now between Neutron Hammer, Sacrilegious Impalement and Evil Angel there’ll be no great surprises found within Front‘s discography for anyone already familiar with these musician’s work though ‘Antichrist Militia’ is yet a fair leap in every sense beyond the band’s debut. Clear production values, sharper songwriting, and an emphasis on brutality in tandem with punk influences all makes for a strong and occasionally surprising ~20 minute EP.
Now expanded to quartet adding ex-Obscure Burial bassist M.F. beyond their full-length Front have tamed a lot of the blubbering excesses and lo-fi clangor of past work for the sake of giving their sound a primeval thrust beyond known limits. “Antichrist Militia” makes this very clear right out of the gates as a piece very much out of the ‘Panzer Division Marduk’-era Marduk playbook with strong-armed blasts and riffs that’d fit right in on an album like ‘Black Force Domain’ thanks to the wailing whammy-intensive soloing that kicks things off. Front‘s earlier records were notably more raw, along the lines of ‘Blood & Valour’-era Bestial Warlust though still nowhere near as harsh and noisome; This EP pushes their sound even further away from pure cacophony while focusing intently on some punkish heavy metal influenced pieces that’ll be somewhat jarring for die-hards hoping for a more orthodox obsessed brutal blackened war metal record.
This’ll ring especially true when firing up “Iron Front”, which I’d thought was a nod to The Exploited circa ‘Beat the Bastards’ but it turned out to be a tribute to Motörhead and a nod to some of the punk influenced material on their debut EP which’d been largely erased from Front‘s sound by the time their LP came out. Having a direct comparison of their more straightforward war-like black/death metal style next to the hardcore punk rush of this song definitely had me wondering why they didn’t focus full time on anthemic and crust heavy metalpunk songs, they’re pretty good at it. “Venom & Salt” and the inspired volleys that kick into “Machinegun Blasphemy” are strong pieces to round out the full listen and inspire just as readily as the hard-charging metalpunk groove achieved otherwise. I wasn’t expecting to give a shit about this EP but it held up really well over several listens and easily outclasses earlier material if you’re looking for something more polished and tightly played. A moderately high recommendation.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
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