For Fans Of
Alternative metalcore is a genre that is sure to attract more than a few raised eyebrows and mutterings of the word ‘poser’ in metal circles. However, Canadian outfit Ritual could not give less of a shit. The band’s self titled debut is a raw, angry and powerful piece of work, which establishes a signature sound for the group, with its pounding, booming drums and sludgy guitars. The brainchild of former Dead and Divine vocalist Matt Ryan Tobin, Ritual is the product of broken dreams, anger and past mistakes.
Album opener ‘Pisces’ wastes no time in establishing the band’s presence. Screechy guitars and Tobin‘s shrieking vocals give way to the first of many beat-down grooves, with the guitars unleashing a solid wall of noise. The only thing truly missing here is some pounding bass, which is pushed back to a distant rumble in the mix. This does not take away from an excellent opening however, with the song’s final breakdown proving to be positively earth shattering, with the mantra, ‘It hurts to love you!’ roaring over the final power chords.
‘Gag Order’ sees the pace pick right up, with some grooves, not far from the syncopated genius of Aaron Gillespie, finding their way into the songs. In fact, there are some distinct similarities to Underoath evident throughout ‘Ritual’. The raspy clean vocals are not over used as is the case with other metalcore acts. ‘Gag Order’ sees the tasteful and controlled use of such effects, as does ‘Rat Queen’, providing a sense of novelty to each song. ‘Americhrist’ also harkens back to the Underoath classic ’Define the Great Line’ with its Southern, off beat guitars and chaotic syncopation sounding strangely familiar.
‘Grim Part II’ sees a new side of Ritual emerge, with traditional hardcore drums allowing the band to explore a more vintage sound. The vocals by Tobin on this track are nothing short of spectacular, with a range of shrieks, snarls and roars capping off a memorable first half of the record.
Despite reaching this middle checkpoint, Ritual never show any intention of slowing things down, as evident on the furious ‘Hot Pink’. After establishing a solid foundation, the song breaks into one of the grooviest riffs on the record, a punk mammoth flavoured with some Mastodon and Cancer Bats influence, all leading into a predictable yet climactic breakdown. Admittedly, the record does not hold much in terms of variety, with each song offering a lethal dose of bluesy, crunchy, beat down, alternative metalcore (see: ‘Model Wife‘ for more details). However, if something isn’t broken, why fix it? ‘White Blooded’ opens with one of the downright heaviest riffs of the year, with haunting falsetto at the end providing a wonderful contrast to the murky lake of noise making up the rest of the song. ‘Love Song’ clocks in at a mere 30 seconds but also provides the fury, whereas ‘Ripe’, the record’s second longest song, displays that not only can the band thrash out a good riff, they can also write a unique song, with the steady march eventually giving way to a furious 4 to the floor groove, with Tobin affirming, “I fucking hate you!” in one of the most emotionally charged moments of the record.
However, it is not until the final track, ‘Ataxia’, that the band’s draw card is truly revealed. A thundering opening builds into one hell of a creative key change, before descending back into lower end chaos, then erupting into the album’s biggest breakdown, with Tobin challenging his enemies to, “Do it again, and then piss it all away.” The song then slows down and dies out to just a skipping playback tape, before fading into eerie silence, which, after 35 minutes of pure aural aggression, is a truly effective technique. The dedicated fans who listen through the six minutes of crackly silence are rewarded with a sombre acoustic outro, with Tobin’s haunting cleans capping off a memorable debut.
Ritual have got something really exciting going on here. If they can continue to expand on this first effort and add in more elements of experimentation, this band is sure to excel.
2. Gag Order
4. Rat Queen
5. Grim Part II
6. Hot Pink
7. Model Wife
8. White Blooded
9. Love Song