Pittsburgh thrash revivalists, Mantic Ritual, released their 2009 debut on Nuclear Blast Records and then split up a year later after touring alongside Rotting Christ and Destruction. Jeff Potts (guitars) and Ben Mottsman (bass) went on to join Warbringer for their 2013 album, and now Warbringer’s Carlos Cruz returns the favour by taking the vacant drum stool in a reformed line up. With three new songs and three covers, they tell us that Heart Set Stone is merely the burger before the beer with a full-length already in the pipeline. These days, they live in Los Angeles, and you can detect the imprint of Possessed on their music.
Mantic Ritual’s thrash metal is the type that displays its speed metal roots with pride. You can hear a raw punk terracing to their guitar tone – no effects pedals, just a simple plug in with dry distortion. It’s like they did a quick sound check with substandard equipment before a battle of the bands contest. Yet it only adds to the charm of opener, ‘Life as Usual’, which mixes heroic guitar fills with primitive thrash, like a cross between the heavy metal pizzazz of Angel Witch and the attitude of Bewitcher. You wouldn’t call it blackened thrash, but it shares some of the tongue-in-cheek clichés. ‘Crusader’ pays homage to the power of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All but adds a dissonant arpeggio tag at the end of the main riff to give it a twenty-first century spin. Mantic Ritual make it clear that shredding is as important as song writing. After all, this is a heavy metal record, and it’s their duty to caress their guitars with the hard loving they deserve. Dan Wetmore sabotages his traditional metal voice with a strain of pub rock exuberance to keep things real.
German thrashers, Vulture, come to mind on the title track, although they add a Ted Nugent angle to the proceedings and dare to use the twelve-bar blues of old-school rock & roll among the thrash carnage. Perhaps the biggest success of this song is the way they wrap the dry noise in latent melodies. It’s a risk, yet it works. Would another song like this have the same effect? Probably not.
How ironic that the one song on this EP most likely to appeal to the topless, gold-chain wearing, sports car owners with farm-boy looks and gold locks is a G.B.H. cover. ‘Race Against Time’ is pure adrenaline, but their cover of Mercyful Fate’s ‘Black Funeral’ tails off after promising to charge through a crowd of civilians like an armoured vehicle with a fresh tank of petrol. It’s not a subpar interpretation, but it falls just short of their cover of Razor’s ‘Cross Me Fool’, which reminds you that the clichés of 1985 are hilarious. Introducing the main riff of a song with a shout of “Up your ass!” is genius.
If this is the burger before the beer, it’s a salsa-flavoured one with gherkins and an extra topping of chili sauce. You might temper your judgement the next day, but it tastes stupendous in the early hours of the morning. Welcome back, Mantic Ritual.
Release Date: 02/09/2022
Record Label: M-Theory Audio
Standout tracks: Life as Usual, Crusader
Suggested Further Listening: Hellripper – The Affair of the Poisons (2020), Bewitcher – Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (2021), Evil Invaders – Shattering Reflection (2022)