The Norwegian band Ritual Death hit our radar screen (and shattered it) in the spring of this year when the Russian label Living Temple Records released tape and digital editions of two EPs by them that had originally been released by Terratur Possessions in 2016 and 2018. A little investigation at that time revealed why those EPs were so hair-raising — the band’s line-up shares members with Behexen, Dark Sonority, Mare, and Fides Inversa, among many others.
After hearing those two EPs we expressed a hungry wish for more from this band, and hopefully soon, and the wish has been granted: Ritual Death‘s self-titled debut album is now set for release on December 5th by Shadow Records. One song from the album (“Lunae”) has already been divulged, and today we’re sharing a second one — named “Vermin“.
Anyone who, like us, has happened upon the first two EPs have a good clue what they’re in for with the new album. The first of those, Ritual Death I, was utterly vicious, packed with roiling, raking, and mutated riffage that was episodically deranged, imperious, and hallucinatory, driven by brutish pounding rhythms so formidable you could feel them in your guts and bones, and topped with haughty and harrowing rabid-beast vocals that at times also sounded horrifyingly insane.
That formulation of black/death proved to be muscular and marauding. It moved like a massive, primitive juggernaut, but also exploded in spasms of violence. But that wasn’t all it did. On the first EP the band also stomped through skull-strewn soundscapes that were dismal and oppressive, and they laced the music with piercing and abrasive tones that struck like ice-picks in the ears, with quivering supernatural synths and with occasional doses of dissonant, nightmarish cacophony (especially in the closing track). The whole thing was frightening, but viscerally compelling.
Released two years later, Ritual Death II faithfully followed in the footsteps of its predecessor, albeit with some new devil-worshiping vocal variations (most evident in “Mark of the Devil”) and with some terrorizing new keyboard embellishments. And thus it was both slaughtering and surreal, bone-smashing and mind-bending, a discharge of ruinous cruelty and unearthly terrors that again proved to be gripping.
Now we come to the songs from the new album.
Following the gnarled path of the EPs, the subterranean turbulence and high whining riffage that drives “Lunae” are hideous in their effects. The sound is both oppressively dismal and ruinously anguished. With vocals that sound utterly beastly and wildly unhinged, and a rhythm section that seems bent on fracturing skulls and disemboweling guts, the band again show themselves to be well-skilled and powerfully armed for the infliction of physical ruin. But the song is emotionally ruinous as well — the guitars seem to wail and scream, to plead and cry, like the victims of the crushing onslaught around them.
And that brings us to “Vermin“. There is no mercy to be found here (as if you really expected to find any from this band). The song has a primitive, predatory, and occult cast. After an abrasive opening that feels like the livid pulse of a heartless predator, the drums begin pounding, the riffing seethes like heated poison, and voracious vocals enter the brutish melee. That pulse-like motif returns, and eventually the primeval hammering ceases, but only so the band can mutate the music into an experience in dread, agony, and abject hopelessness.
The song doesn’t last long, but long enough to elevate a listener’s pulse — and to confront us with the greedy, hulking presence of Death in all its horror.
Ritual Death will be released on December 5th by Shadow Records (distributed by Regain Records). On that day it will be available on CD, cassette tape, and digital editions, and a vinyl LP release is projected for December 24th, just in time to ruin Christmas. Pre-orders are open now at the link below: