Counting legendary death metal acts such as Carcass and Dissection as their influences without compromising on their own unique sound, Melbourne’s Rituals have been infiltrating the local gig scene since June 2017. Inspired by Scandinavian death metal from the early 90s and fuelled by old-school aesthetics, the four musicians Pierre (bass and vocals), Warren (drums, formerly in Deströyer 666) Jed and Joel (guitars) have now finally released their first EP via Through Sleeping Church Records. ‘Neoteric Commencements’ was predominantly recorded by guitarist Joel in the Victorian countryside, while Swedish producer and musician Dan Swanö, who has also polished records by Opeth, Katatonia, Dissection and other highly influential death and progressive metal acts, gave the record its final touch, paying testament to Rituals’ uncompromising dedication aiming at producing high-quality music. Consisting of four of the earliest tracks written by the band, the EP delivers 16 minutes of memorable melodies as well as energetic and dynamic drumming.
A fade-in at the beginning of Wake of a Dead God’s Robe makes a nice introduction into the EP, and the slightly melancholic and melodic guitar sound quickly gives away the old-school influence. The drums set in heftily and energetically drive the entire tune forward, truly managing to transform the melancholic energy into forward-pushing aggression. All instruments get their fair share of attention, though, which is due to the defined and clear sound. The vocals are dark and no-fuss guttural and just right regarding their volume so that they blend in nicely into the other instruments. However, not only the sound delivers: This tune successfully works with a riff already introduced at the beginning and carrying the entire song through variations and nifty rhythmic add-ons. As a result, tension is sustained until the very end, easing into a more rhythmic and less melodic repetitive passage making us hungry for the next tune.
After a short breath of silence, Drown Amongst Serpents starts off surprisingly melodic with a brightly shining guitar sound until all instruments set in with slightly blackened guitar riffs and dark yet sparkling melodies until hammering drums and a more thrashy attitude move into the centre of attention. Again, we as listeners can only marvel at how Rituals convincingly create riffs and melodies that only seem to become better and better by being varied and picked up again throughout a tune. Furthermore, it is already simple to tell that the band manages to convey a coherent and individual sound fingerprint as well as tracks with strong live potential.
A slow-down towards the end, as if breathing out, gives us a short break, only to hit our eardrums with Slaves to the Tyrants, a tune exuding ruthless energy from the very first note. Compelling drum work and dark riff shredding seem like a logical increase in heaviness in the course of the EP. The rhythms of vocals and instrumentals go together with incredible smoothness, the background riffs are captivating and memorable, and a slower bridge passage increases the tension nearly to the breaking point: This third track is nothing but aggressive and epic.
The pristine drums of the last track plainly hit the listener with their voluminous sound. They solidify all the musical building blocks of the song like an unshakeable fortress, thus only exponentially amplifying the effect of the stunning leitmotif. In any case, The Eight Door was a perfect choice as the last tune of the EP as it brings all musical merits showcased on this debut record to a climax.
All in all, ‘Neoteric Commencements’ shines with musical coherence, which may be on the one hand due to three of the four tracks were having been written in direct succession of each other; however, it must be noted that Warren’s old-school drumming style with minute attention to structure and energetic delivery plays an integral part in creating a cohesive soundscape on the other hand. Rituals are not afraid to slow down at times, either, which gives their tunes a somewhat mesmerising and meditative quality, tying in with the skilled development of musical motifs working both as brain food and a strong structural foundation allowing the listener to just drown in a rough ocean of sound. For fans of old-school death metal, ‘Neoteric Commencements’ is an absolute must-listen – and anyone into more polished modern death metal should give this record a spin in order to get entranced by the straightforward rawness and impressive technicality that makes Rituals a highly promising addition to Melbourne’s metal scene.
Rituals’ ‘Neoteric Commencements’ is out now and can be purchased here.