Militia of Love celebrates its long-awaited debut in North Monterey.

On Rock: “I like being able to crossover,” MOL frontman Robert Melendez (with dreads) says. “Trying to get people into heavy metal and into reggae.”

After more than five years of work, Militia of Love will finally celebrate the release of its first full-length album, Life and Love, on Saturday at Planet Gemini.

Bandleader, bassist and lead vocalist Robert Melendez has been playing in reggae bands for more than two decades now, but putting together an album and gaining a larger fan base hasn’t been as easy as it was with his San Diego-based Cardiff Reefers. As early as 1992, a Los Angeles Times article pointed out that “the [Reefers] are beginning to expand both its creative and geographic horizons.” But after nine years and a 200-plus show per year schedule – including an opening slot for Steel Pulse – the Cardiff Reefers disbanded and Melendez, a Monterey County native, moved back the area to pursue a career as an electrician. 

It didn’t take long before the born musician began dabbling in several local groups including Salinas funk band High Street, rockers Trial By Fire and the cover band Super Duper. 

In 2006, Melendez put together his own band, Militia of Love. The local reggae supergroup features members from Rock Steady Posse (Greg Ichikawa), Jonah and the Whale Watchers (Bill Steacy) and Pete Todd, who played keyboard with the Cardiff Reefers. 

Even with a stellar roster and several original tunes, MOL just couldn’t manage to put together enough dough to release a full-length album until the final months of 2010.

“It’s a self-produced album so as the money came in, that’s when we were able to do our work,” Melendez says. “It’s been a gradual process to get to a full-length release.”

He and rest of MOL are proud of the 14-track album’s diversity and its rich reggae instrumentation, including keyboard, horns and lush vocal harmony.

“There’s stuff for the reggae lover and there’s stuff for the people more into pop,” Melendez says.

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One of the tracks on Life and Love, “Groove On” – featuring Aimee Lallana on lead and harmony vocal – reflects that versatility. It blends traditional roots reggae and crisp guitar riffs reminiscent of Santana’s Abraxas with a weed/music double entendre: “I was wondering if you’d be in the mood for a little something I’d like to share?/ If you like it, there’s more if you dare.”

When MOL has something more to share, like a second album, hopefully fans won’t have to wait quite as long. 

MILITIA OF LOVE CD RELEASE PARTY happens 11pm Saturday, Jan. 8, at Planet Gemini, 2110 N. Fremont St., Monterey. $7. 373-1449.

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