SBR last encountered Tyneside’s Rituals on their 2021 debut EP, Awake. At the time, we noted how ‘their rhythmic foundations are strong, but their song-writing credentials are still in flux, which is normal for a band in their position of growth and development.’ We had some advice for them: ‘Maybe a dabble in grindcore or symphonic metal could take them to the next level on their debut album.’ Instead, they decided to record another EP rather than a full-length effort, and they do not experiment with grindcore on record number two, but it dares to include a couple of surprises.
The clean guitar intro of the title track is not what you expect from a band that enjoy exaggerating the heavier side of metalcore, yet ‘Show Me the Signs’ exhibits a new emotional resonance to their sound and showcases the dramatic expansion of Lewis MacRae’s vocal register. Here, they emphasise the progressive elements in their music and focus on the chorus as the crowning point of the song. The former is most welcome, the latter not as bland as you fear from a metalcore group with the tools of a radio rock artist at their disposal. Repeat listens reveal subtle layers of intricate craftsmanship in the guitar work, not least the classic U2 delay technique in the cleaner parts. They don’t forget the purpose of their amps but limit their overdrive settings to the chorus. Again, this is risky when the possibility of producing a Nickleback homage is a real threat to the intentions of the song, but they manage to stay on the right side of poignant art with a glorious bridge and a fist-clenching climax.
The second surprise is the band’s nostalgia for the nu metal dross of the year 2000. ‘Oceans Subside’ takes Disturbed’s unremarkable debut album as its inspiration and subsists on a verse progression that would make the members of Spineshank smile. It’s heavy and has a certain groove, but you’ll struggle to escape the images of dreadlocks, eyebrow piercings, and baggy skater jeans. The band seem to acknowledge the dangers of dwelling in this paradigm for too long and try to extricate themselves with a drop-tuned breakdown, but even this falls flat. There’s nothing wrong with the structure or the song writing credentials, but the nu metal DNA disqualifies it from a favourable appraisal.
Fortunately, Rituals know how to set their guitars and drums to extermination mode on closing track, ‘In Devastation’. This means a nod to As I Lay Dying’s classic 2007 album, An Ocean Between Us, for inspiration. Think of the finest moments on the latest Bleed from Within LP with the bite of mid-90s Machine Head. MacRae commands his microphone with great confidence and drags the brutal crunch of the rhythm section into his orbit with the panache of a professional singer. There can be no doubt that the future of this band will depend on the continued development of their talented frontman. The precision of the double-kick beats is just as impressive.
Rituals’ strategy of growing their audience with a succession of EPs is a wise one, and they could get away with a third one before they unleash their debut album. It’s a testament to their craft that they can dabble with nu metal without alienating your ‘true metal’ instincts.
Release Date: 02/09/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout track: Show Me the Signs
Suggested Further Listening: Bleed from Within – Shrine (2022), Archives – Decay EP (2021), Seeking Sirens – Departing Ways EP (2022)