Atlanta veteran, Charlie Southern, is a busy man. His black metal group, Vimur, released their third album last month, and now he’s ready to present his sophomore record with Sadistic Ritual. As the sole surviving member from 2013’s Hellish Mercenary EP, Southern enters a new chapter in the life of Sadistic Ritual, with the group making the switch from Unspeakable Axe Records to Prosthetic Records for their latest interpretation of thrash metal. While it may not be as psychedelic as the band want you to believe, The Enigma, Boundless has enough idiosyncrasies to land them a unique spot on a Venn diagram of death and thrash metal.
How do you reinvent thrash in the twenty-first century when its influence is already so widespread? Everything from metallic hardcore and groove metal through to black and death metal draw upon its canon for inspiration. But maybe this is the wrong question to ask. Instead, we should ponder whether the non-existent hybrid of death-thrash is a real thing that deserves a better name. Sadistic Ritual map out its future on sensational opener, ‘End of All Roads’. Listen how Charlie Southern and Alex Parra fret their guitars like members of Destruction performing a Slayer workout at a Mortuary Drape concert. This is the filthiest thrash your mind can handle, yet it also rocks like a motherfucker underneath the blood-dripping vocals and fuzzy bass incursions. The quality of the villainous posturing on follow-up, ‘And You…’, convulses with the same murderous delight as Watain at peak capacity. Of course, Sadistic Ritual’s drummer plays blast beats, but he uses them only when needed.
It might be more accurate to call the Atlanta quartet the Dipygus of thrash metal. Like the Californian death metal weirdos, Sadistic Ritual do whatever they want. This means you can put them on the same stage as Undeath, Power Trip or Dark Funeral without anyone objecting. ‘Dire Avidity’ and ‘Raving Voyeurism’ ramp up the grimy amp settings and spew out the type of abominable heavy metal Desaster would be proud to own. Southern’s morbid throat affliction resonates like a man in the early stages of disembowelment. You might not notice his dastardly bloodlust on ‘Murmur’ because of the quality of the riffage. ‘Maelstrom of Consciousness’ is what all self-parodying speed metal bands should listen to before they release another tongue-in-cheek homage to Satan. Sadistic Ritual show that you can keep the absurd imagery and unapologetic counter-culture hatred for established authority without revisiting the rock & roll clichés that ensnare so many bands these days. Wait until that cannibalistic urge takes hold of you and the time comes to release the parasite in your brain – then you’ll head-bang.
How can this be thrash metal if the vocals are more carnivorous than a zombie? That’s a fair point but listen to the bite of the guitar chords in ‘Enigma, Boundless’ and the nod to Metallica’s ‘Leper Messiah’ in the excellent fade-in introduction to ‘The Blood of Memory’. Only the blast beats and gory vocals mark it out as death metal, for this is the type of thrash metal beloved of Abbath. It’s messy, grisly, violent, and unwilling to add any sparkle to the slaughter machine producing the goods.
While it doesn’t put you in a trance, Sadistic Ritual’s music lacks nothing in quality and impact. You can head-bang or hold out for a head rush, but it lands right on the spot with admirable consistency on The Enigma, Boundless.
Release Date: 20/05/2022
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
Standout tracks: End of All Roads, Murmur, Enigma Boundless
Suggested Further Listening: Dipygus – Bush Meat (2021), Destruction – Eternal Devastation (1986), Desaster – Churches Without Saints (2021)