OMINOUS SCRIPTURES – Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition (2023)REVIEW

Unnerving primordial ecstasies to violate all earthly sanctity. — Minsk, Belarus-based brutal death metal band Ominous Scriptures had done one thing and done it especially well for their first decade of intensifying infamy: Ruthlessly infernal brutal death metal from a point of uncorrupted percussive violence, a fine balance between barbarism and accomplished tact. As they take their second step into the current plague age with a third full-length album we find ’em no less fixated upon mayhemic deeds yet all the more willing to push an occasionally mid-paced, calculated menace upon the listener with ‘Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition‘. It huffs deeper than expected upon the decayed chambers of classic late 90’s death metal while pushing into the unreal athletic standards of performance in the early 2000’s, an intense upgrade for band with an already overwhelming presence.

Ominous Scriptures formed back in 2013 between folks who were at the time best known for their work in similarly-minded brutal death metal crew Relics of Humanity, their sound was observably tuned towards early-to-mid 2000’s death metal in the sense that you could hear fundamental structures from a certain peak innovative era of Immolation and Hate Eternal seated purposefully next to the generational uptick in extremity one could find in brutal death acts like Deeds of Flesh, Disgorge, and Defeated Sanity. While many would consider their sound straight forward or typical with its stylized hollow pinging drum sound on their first promotional demo in 2014 and subsequent full-length (‘Incarnation of the Unheavenly‘, 2015) soon after any longtime fan of brutal death metal will recall the relative rarity of this steady, nigh orthodox craft. There we get the essence of what Ominous Scriptures have always been about: Infernal brutal death metal, no trends or fuckery in it.

That debut LP had been remarkable for a few reasons, the first being that it was satisfyingly unmeasured, an over-the-top brutal death record proper which emphasized the loud and maniac battery of the drummer who’d brought the right sort of sadistic paint can thwacking hurl to their style up front. More importantly it’d also stuck in mind for its atmosphere, a haze of burning churches, apocalyptic hymnal chants and the embers of a world cleansed of its Christendom flaring up throughout. Granted it isn’t that hard to win me over with proper brutality by way of a distinct drum sound and a few good riffs but a truly blasphemic anti-Christian death metal band has an easier time getting me engaged with their work. About five years later Ominous Scriptures released a second full-length (‘Fall of the Celestial Throne‘, 2020) which’d basically iterated on that same sound, slightly evolving their core riff style while introducing a new drummer. At that point their gig had solidified, it was clear what they were all about and this was going to be a band for real brutal death metal heads who’ll barely put up with a slam for more than a second.

Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition‘ doesn’t fuck around either, but they’ve made some changes to the drum sound to root it in a more balanced space. The kit is sub-floor level with its kicks booming low and outward, tweaked to allow for just enough ride definition and a snare which includes more than enough room noise so that it might sound real, punishing next to the double-bass heavy rolls of each piece but also distant enough to take up plenty of room. The interplay between the rhythm guitars and the snare grounds the average brutal death metal fan in a certain headspace and this recording naturally emphasizes the downtuned, ugly snarl of their interactions in a perfect ‘old school’ adjacent sort of way. It’ll have to be something a Disgorge or Deeds fan will appreciate as they push through opener “Demonic Throne I Am” and the more involved rhythms of the title track (“Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition“) where we likewise get our first flare-up of Azagthothian lava. The face value read of this style and sound design in grotesque harmony on my part was ‘Mark of the Legion‘-era Deeds of Flesh butting up against ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh‘ and the successive generations of increasingly brutal lineage resultant. Though Ominous Scriptures aren’t as eloquent in their cadence or as technical in their finessing of riffcraft the blunted, brutal edge they infuse into this perceived combination is no less impressive.

It really is that simply put, for better or worse. — The core value proposition in mind and the only major criticism to be explored are nearly the same observation depending where you land within the brutal death metal spectrum. ‘Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition‘ stays the course and delivers sludgy, moshable, tightly performed mid-paced (relatively speaking) rhythmic pieces which are all composed with exacting yet still somewhat elastic placement. Some may find it an absolutely miserable puddle of fuming lava, a single-minded rush of pieces in a similar mode bashed out in a barbaric ritualistic circle. Others might find Ominous Scriptures‘ work claustrophobia inducing per its stylized production values and spastic lean into dryly moshable distractions yet I don’t think even the most difficult to reason with brutal death fan could find any weighty issue when it comes to the classic feeling they’ve worked into this brief yet impactful ~30 minute record.

“Fanning the Flames” wakes the first half up to its fevered pitch, “Inhabitant of the Lacrimarium” proves they’ve got some ingrained appreciation for technical rhythmic interplay after all, and “Serpentine Wisdom” is one of many points where we see Ominous Scriptures expanding their capabilities within a tightly knit sphere of interest toward an expert level. So, there are certainly songs here but the full listen will blaze through most listeners ear-to-ear a couple of times before the more effective nuance can be scraped and beheld for their intelligent designs. They’ve struck upon a diabolically effective rhythmic standard here on ‘Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition‘ and it has thus far made for fine repeat listening and a doggedly abrupt and satisfyingly brutal death album overall. A high recommendation.

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