Appearing as a collective focus from relatively less noteworthy extreme metal projects, Rituals introduce themselves as a late 90’s Swedish styled melodic death metal purists on their debut EP ‘Neoteric Commencements’. Now, I say less ‘noteworthy’ because bands like Atolah and Nontinuum aren’t necessarily worth mentioning but drummer Warren Vassallo‘s time in the 90’s as drummer for black/death metal band Anatomy is perhaps worth a nod if you’ve any vested interest in the southern Australian underground death metal scene. While I’d venture to guess that ‘Where Angels Die’ was perhaps more influenced by Dissection back in the mid-90’s, the music that Rituals are writing is no spiritual successor to Vassallo‘s time in Anatomy.
The trouble with focusing on the classics of Swedish melodic death metal is that it is such well-worn territory and compositions could ultimately resemble old school death metal or modern day melodic metalcore. Rituals are primarily focused on the ‘Terminal Spirit Disease’ era of At the Gates where a spongy guitar tone drives the experience without entirely relying upon lead guitar runs to create the entirety of interest (a la In Flames). In some cases this choice works quite well and, thanks to deeply growled Ross Dolan-esque vocals, lands in between Amorbital‘s ‘Invidia’ and later Soulless minutes the anxious thrash metal trappings. That isn’t to say there aren’t moments where it’ll just sound like The Black Dahlia Murder‘s post-‘Nocturnal’ output but the compositions are devoid of -‘core’ influence and feature a different vocal style.
The same issues At the Gates had on ‘To Drink From the Night Itself’ in replicating their pre-1995 past are in effect within Rituals‘ compositions. The difficulty of finding iterations on that punchy riff style that can be shaped into memorable, unforced hooks is clear and daunting. At their best Rituals resembles a more restrained Excretion (see: ‘Voice of Harmony’) and for my tastes that is a fairly high compliment. So, the value for most listeners will lie in the nostalgic value of recreation but I’d toss in the appeal of their ‘heavier’ style that focuses on the riff above all else, almost to a fault. For those of us always looking for melodic death metal that isn’t flowery, forced, or blandly plagiarist there is plenty worth checking out on ‘Neoteric Commencements’.
Darkness slowly conquers. 3.5/5.0
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