Ritual Dictates

Give In To Despair

Written by: RUB on 07/08/2020 11:51:19

Ash Pearson (of Revocation and formerly of 3 Inches of Blood) and Justin Hagberg (also formerly of 3 Inches of Blood) have once again joined forces in Ritual Dictates, and even though the band was formed already in 2014, it is only now they have managed to make their ideas ready for a first release under the moniker. Although they are listed as a death metal act, I cannot help but think (read: hope) that some of the madness that made 3 Inches of Blood such a revelation might be noticeably audible in the duo’s sound, in which case I’d be quite intrigued.

The short first track “It’s About Goddamn Time (The Hours of Folly Part One)” is really the tone-setter for the album; loads of genres such as punk, rock‘n’roll and death metal mixed into one compact and intense 1½-minute song, which gives you sort of an idea of what this album is all about. But then again — it really doesn’t. Already on the next track, “Dominance and Will”, a much more straight-forward extreme metal-orientated direction is taken, with both thundering blastbeats, heavy, down-tuned breakdowns, and plenty of howling growls comprising a soundscape that is basically more in the vein of Pearson’s main band Revocation.

Still, to me, it is the third track “Given to Despair” that is the pinnacle of the record. Starting off with a black metal-ish intro spearheaded by a simple, yet extremely effective riff, it sounds like something by Satyricon, and every time the haunting line “for the plague” is shrieked, it’s enough to send shivers down your spine. The way it transcends every boundary of the extreme metal genre and shifts into a pure, clean and soft melancholy after a lengthy build-up just shy of the 3-minute mark is just brilliant! This track was actually the reason Ritual Dictates caught my attention in the first place. Its progressive nature harks back to the excellence of Opeth when that group was at its peak of mixing extreme and progressive metal, but without actually reminding me that much of the Swedes. Of course, the outro returns to the aforementioned hyper-effective riff, just to end it all with another howling cry “for the plague”. Tracks like this are what will make Ritual Dictates a name to remember.

The way Ritual Dictates shift between their genres of choice is actually quite remarkable. Even though I would still very much describe them as an extreme metal act, the softer and quieter sections present on several of their songs never seem forced in any way. Instead, they strike me as natural progressions of the band’s sound, which in many ways is entirely their own. This also provides a nice edge for the music, ensuring it doesn’t become tedious at any point due to the notable differences between virtually all of the tracks. In “Poisonous Proclamation”, for instance, the sudden switch to a more rock‘n’roll style in the vein of none other than Kvelertak comes as a complete shock… which of course could have something to do with the cameo from Danko Jones. And with the added keys, clean singing and a classic riff, it makes you think, “what the hell are these guys on?” — especially as, before you know it, the track is catapulted back into extreme metal territory to finish it off in a proper manner. It’s details like this that makes you want to revisit the album, never truly knowing what to expect next.

11 tracks and roughly 33 minutes later, the record comes to an end, and I’m not a hundred percent sure I’ve understood everything that has happened at this point or how the album progressed the way it did, which is essentially both the upside and the downside of it. I love it when a band surprises you by mixing together different genres, as this ensures that you’re never going to be bored. But at the same time, Ritual Dictates might have blended a tad too many different influences here. Death metal, rock‘n’roll, grindcore and black metal, all topped off with progressive song structures has a slight tendency to make it all sound a bit messy. Many different genres, sure — but this, in my opinion, just adds to the extremity of the album, and in fact that maniacal nature that made 3 Inches of Blood so highly regarded, at least in my book. However, I would like to reiterate the necessity of Ritual Dictates to develop their sound even further from this point. As of now, I don’t exactly see a clear red thread running through the album, and my grading is thus probably more based on the single tracks than on the album as a whole. It’s obvious that they made this album as a kind of personal creative outlet. But one can only hope that their sophomore effort will be somewhat more precise, raucous and intense, given their will to create something different on this début should be obvious to any listener.

Download: Given to Despair, Poisonous Proclamation, Aperiam in Porta, Extinction, It’s About Goddamn Time (The Hours of Folly Part One)
For the fans of: 3 Inches of Blood, Kvelertak, Revocation, Satyricon
Listen: Facebook

Release date 03.04.2020
Artoffact Records

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