HERE LIES MAN – Ritual Divination (2021)REVIEW

The first major revelation of the third eye, cajoled or trained open by way of spiritually awakening meditations, is the new found sense that allowing the mind to fall asleep again will invite all manner of oppression and manipulation to sap whatever insight were achieved. A virtuous inner reality must be maintained ’til naturally exuded outward. The barren eternity of an inner self without strength or directionality isn’t posited by threat of any reasonable deity, especially within self-defined spirituality, but by the lazing nature of our naturally blind species; Seemingly without logic but, through experience and self-reflection we realize the second revelation is the power of the mind to “make things happen and produce change within our communities” (Aṣẹ) can be perpetually generative, infectiously positive when nourished. In terms of ancient causal determinism, African spirituality and cultural practice grants its own prosperous notion of a set life’s path, a goal to travel it, and (when the mind inevitably falls asleep and away from a sense of ancestral heritage) the “map” to ease back into your rightful trail of happiness, success and fulfillment is provided via the practice of divination. This ritual of sight for the future, the past, or the next step forward almost always begins with veneration of the dead, be it eldest foundational ancestry or the recently departed regardless of association, all that matters is that we channel the wisened experience of their completed cycle(s) of existence into our path forward. Practically speaking, we can breathe in this preparation of mindset to generate purposeful action without reactive ego as a driving force. In asking permission to learn from the vale of tears past we can acknowledge that history may very well appear to repeat itself as blindness scourges the instinct of shut-tight minds within the widespread human animal but, still make our own choice to improve existence via smaller changes to the self and within our communities along the way. Five years and four albums into their trip afrobeat-propelled heavy psychedelic rock visionaries Here Lies Man find their awakening via increasingly powerful experiential vignettes, translating personal truths unto a universally steeling pulse. ‘Ritual Divination’ aims for (literal) tonal clarity and heavier blues-rock’d readability in conveyance of this freshened, moving presentation of psychedelic inner visions translated to body-shaking heavy rock songs that inspire movement of both body and mind.

Each experientially more enriching than the last, in past reviews of Here Lies Man‘s way forward I’ve ‘ready detailed the practical sources of inspiration behind the quartet’s musical concept in relation to their second (‘You Will Know Nothing‘, 2018) and third (‘No Ground to Walk Upon‘, 2019) records to the point that a summary of events could only suggest there is a virtuous trail of lessons as we shake off the fuzz, punch up the complexity of melodic ideas and revel in the unique meter of their bodily grooves. That is to say if you’re not immediately cast into this vortex of trippin’ and thinkin’ that ‘Ritual Divination’ inspires with its variety of mood pieces and banging afrobeat’n heavy rock songs there exists already a naturally mystic progression of back catalog to start with, getting to this point is all the more sweet if you’ve got the whole story. Even then our microcosm of heavy music doesn’t necessarily allow us the pedigree and perspective of the well-seasoned lifetime “world music” musicians that’re driving the bus here in a band co-founded by a fellow, Marcos Garcia, who has spent nearly two decades in renowned 12-piece ensemble Antibalas (see: ‘Fu Chronicles‘, 2020) and drummer (Geoff Mann) with similarly impressive credentials. Considering the wealth of capability and generative ability in these two alone there is a bit of a “we’re not worthy” moment when seeing this music performed live, no matter how vexed smaller audiences might seem by their uniquely bopped movements. I suppose the point that I’m slowly arriving at here is that the perceived barrier, or challenge presented by Here Lies Man has been balancing the tuneful clave-based beats of their music with the rigidity of heavy rock/metal as it demands a certain open-minded sort of listener that can be hard to reach within even the most stoned circles. This has never been an equation to solve in my mind but hitting upon some readily recognizable universal rock truths will certainly help ‘Ritual Divination’ land on more shelves this time around.

Slipping away from the choking fuzz of the first two records towards clarified tonality suits the increasingly sophisticated rhythms and guitar arrangements that drive the path forward for Here Lies Man but, these guys are yet aiming for a warmest tube-popping 70’s heavy metal boost rather than a glossy, modern LA rock sheen. This acts as a pivot into many worlds be they stoney, circular grooves that hit upon sweaty club-gig sized entrancement or moments that’ll balloon up into rafter shaking cinematic rock heaviness. Getting there in a live setting has always required at least four folks but for ‘Ritual Divination’ the main duo expands the recording into a full line-up and I’d venture a guess that this expansion has allowed for the detail on offer to match the increasing clarity of their modus. Though I was thoroughly impressed by the always catchy and often mood-driven temperature of ‘No Ground to Walk Upon’, I wasn’t necessarily expecting the follow up to so directly lean into those strengths I’d personally honed in on as a listener. What does this all mean to the uninitiated? If we are to see the high standards of early 70’s Black Sabbath envisioned via the rhythmic, joyous and emancipatory empowerment of afrobeat then it’d be fair to say that ‘Ritual Divination’ pushes into the heavy psych spectrum more directly. This doesn’t mean they’ve lost the charming hip-shaking quality of past releases but that the darker flow and grind of heavy rock is allowed into the director’s chair a bit more often. Again, I’ve belabored the point but I do feel it’ll be much easier to pick up and jam in this sense. Where I’d suggest they’ve perhaps gone above and beyond to some minor detriment is cranking a full hour’s worth of ideas into one album.

Despite the energizing, exemplar fusion directive on display within the dual introductory jams of “In These Dreams” and lead single “I Told You (You Shall Die)” and all of the psychedelic spacing allowed by the hourlong set of pieces here, it is all a bit much to take in within just one sitting. Surely the Fela Kuti ingratiated vibe of Antibalas thrives in jammed, complete statements that run around 7-9 minutes and many of Here Lies Man‘s influences (Floyd, Kyuss, etc.) are classic rock jams equally prone to extended pieces but, the 3-5 minute nature of these songs means an armful of no less than fifteen songs can be daunting. This only serves as a barrier to entry and isn’t much of an issue once the full experience is realized, especially with the conceptual “scenes within a living movie, conveying a personal yet universal reality” vision of the band in mind. I’d eventually reflect upon this sense of a “taxing” full listen as a result of fuller, more complete pieces that serve multiple dynamic shifts before completing. On earlier records each song resembled a condensed, catchy bout of afrobeat-driven psychedelic doom rock that found its hook and moved onto the next feeling with another song. The longer pieces that approach the five minute mark, such as “You Would Not See From Heaven” and “Night Comes” are naturally more dense with ideas and tend to resemble this newly dynamic world of Here Lies Man I’ve been suggesting but between the fifteen tracks on offer several are yet akin to the breakthroughs found on ‘No Ground to Walk Upon’. How did I avoid exhaustion along the way?

Well, like any halfway reasonable record collecting dickhead, I approach most albums in terms Side A and Side B. This turns out to be the “right” way to approach ‘Ritual Divination’ as “Night Comes” provides us a path towards intermission and “Come Inside” opens up the slightly darker ebb of the second half but, you’ll note that I’m referring to the 15-track CD version rather than the 10-track vinyl LP which can potentially include a 7″ picture disc with two songs or the full CD version in certain packages. So, if you’re confused by the narrative I’ve whirled up about the length you’ve likely gotten the righteously condensed vinyl issue which is a fairly ideal ten song record that cuts down the “fat” to a most potent (but not complete) experience. Not having “Run Away Children”, “Can’t Kill It”, “I Wander”, “You Would Not See From Heaven” and “Cutting Through the Tether” means you’ve missed at least three of the best pieces on the recording, well, for my own taste of course. I figure if it goes into multiple pressings a double LP might be warranted but, no matter how the experience is delivered it ends up serving some of the best rendered and written material from Here Lies Man to date. I was a fan of their concept as the second album swung into ear, I became a fan of their songwriting as the third struck deeper and now here on the fourth I am convinced of the staying power their evolutionary movements suggest. It is infinitely repeatable as a moving and inspiring listening experience, a vitality rich jam, and a fresh high point for a truly original band. Easily among the best and most original output I’ve hit upon in early 2021 and an enthusiastic endorsement on my part. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Ritual Divination
LABEL(S):RidingEasy Records
RELEASE DATE:January 22nd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Heavy Psychedelic Rock,
Afrobeat/Doom Rock

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.