Ritual’s Enigma EP is one of the most anticipated records from an independent band in England. SBR brought you an exclusive on this as early as January 2022, when the quartet had two promo videos in post-production and some finishing touches to add to their record. The cast for this release is monumental. How about a five-track extended play with Jørgen Munkeby (Shining), Anneke Van Giersbergen, Dianne van Giersbergen (Xandira/Ex Libris), award-winning jazz harpist, Amanda Whiting, and even an appearance from Devin Townsend? It might be the worst-kept secret in the underground, but everybody should know that Ritual are an island unto themselves in the wider English metal scene.
The best way to understand Ritual is to envisage a musical landscape where Faith No More and Twelve Foot Ninja can breathe the same air as Black Sabbath and Killing Joke. Forget about all those nu metal revivalist bands calling their music alternative metal – this EP is the definition of its modern evolution. Mike Lewin’s guitars are rough and raucous on ‘Seven Gates’, like an unholy child of Mastodon and Melvins. His opening riff might even remind you of ‘Set the World Afire’ by Megadeth before the song ascends into a surprise burst of symphonic metal with angelic opera vocals and upbeat drums. Listen to James Marinos clutch his bass strings like a craftsman unsure if his man-made machine is too powerful for its original purpose. This is part goth metal and part punk rock with a muscular throat performance from frontman, Franco Necro. Dianne Van Giersbergen (no relation of Anneke) demonstrates the bewildering range of her tonsils as if auditioning for a professorship at the Maastricht Academy of Music. Any song that mixes Faith No More from The Real Thing era with Dead Kennedys in a symphonic metal setting must be doing something right, but Ritual eclipse their ambition here. You won’t know what’s hit you when it comes to an end.
How do you follow up a maniacal piece of art school metal like this? The answer is ‘Murderous Operandi’, featuring black metal’s most famous saxophonist, Jørgen Munkeby. The band build their sound around a classic Angel Witch riff through the prism of sludge metal and rely on Franco Necro’s tuneful punk snarl to race through the verses and take them to the husky chorus. Drummer, Terry Knight, flexes his muscles towards the end with forty seconds of thrash metal posturing, but it’s the growling saxophone of Munkeby that changes the mood from chest-raising to mind-blowing. (Think of ‘Face Pollution’ by Soundgarden as a comparison.) It’s the ideal final taster for the entrance of Anneke Van Giersbergen on ‘Pandemonium’, the most hyped song on the EP and another composition that changes its colours like a chameleon. A Fu Manchu fuzz riff and meathead Beastie Boys chorus with gang vocals sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the eye-expanding aggression and dramatic dual vocal with Anneke take the song from the 1990s to 2022 in the blink of an eye via a sorrowful middle-eight of gleaming harp notes. And among this fun is a tragic serenade: “There’s no happy ever after/ Only pain and insane laughter/ If you think it holds the answers/ You are strolling toward disaster.” Clearly, the members of Ritual are no fans of organised religion.
It’s understandable that the band would want to celebrate the appearance of their hero, Devin Townsend, but it’s a cameo narrator role in the soothing Henry Mancini-esque Pink Panther jazz of closing track, ‘Walk of Shame’. You can swing your hips with a daiquiri in your hand and your mood enlightened by the good times. Was this the same band that ripped out your innards on ‘Seven Gates’?
Though the longest conception in the history of EP releases, Ritual prove it was worth the wait with Enigma. The expectations for the next full-length album will accelerate after one listen to this magnificent piece of playful malice.
*** You can read our exclusive January 2022 interview with Ritual here.
Release Date: 06/05/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Seven Gates, Pandemonium
Suggested Further Listening: Faith No More – King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime (1995), Therapy? – Suicide Pact – You First (1999), Therion – Theli (1996)