Ah, the concept album… A phrase that can strike fear into many a music lover. A term that brings back memories of teenage years spent dabbling in a world of power metal, dragons and princesses, and for those who escaped that, of the hours spent trying to figure out quite what The Who were on about when they wrote Tommy. That being said, for every cliché-ridden concept album, there have been others who have more than proven the point; the concept album’s existence is a way to create a story out of music, and create an album that works as one big piece and not just a collection of unrelated songs. Green Day’s American Idiot or The Who’s slightly more logical Quadrophenia, for example, stand as both great albums musically, and as proof that not every concept album need invoke the memory of Tolkien; they can still be used to weave a bigger story than you can in a three minute track.
From this I hope you will forgive me for initially approaching Militia of the Lost with some trepidation, as a blurb mentioning a “sexy, steampunk-esque Lord of the Rings setting called Grandomina” does lend itself somewhat more on the elves and dragons side of the coin. However, I am happy to report that while grand in scope, the Fearless Vampire Killers’s Militia of the Lost doesn’t use this as a crutch for a bland album, but as a way to create something bigger. The ‘concept’ ties the album together along with their great stage persona and a desire to make it about the experience as a whole, not just the music.
This leads us on to what is probably the most important part of an album – the music. Militia of the Lost as a whole is one of those albums that comes across as instantly familiar, channelling the sound of contemporaries such as My Chemical Romance in their blend of roaring distorted guitars and hook-filled songs. From the initial notes of album opener Necromania this specific sound is evident, with a full throttle blast of guitar-powered rock written lyrically to introduce us to Grandomina and the world of the Fearless Vampire Killers. Alongside this sound, though, Fearless Vampire Killers strive to find their own identity by building in influences throughout hardcore, punk and rock music, and they separate themselves from their obvious comparisons. From opener Necromania we flow straight into the album’s first single – the track Could We Burn, Darling? This song adds some more intricate guitar work to some epically scaled choruses, which grows on what we heard in Necromania. This feeling and sound pervades throughout the album, keeping the energy high as it ebbs and flows through the storyline narrated by dual vocalists Kier Kemp and Laurence Beveridge, who both take turns and work together to great effect. The biggest change to this formula is album closer Mascara Tears and Vanilla Spice, swapping the guitar-led energy for a much more laid back and traditional piano ballad in order to slow down proceedings and close off the story of Militia of the Lost.
While I may have set out with trepidation, I will have to admit that the Fearless Vampire Killers won me over with their sheer enthusiasm. Even without the grand storytelling and stage aspect of their show, they have created an album more than worthy to stand on its own.