Released: 2005, Osmose Productions
Ritual Carnage is yet another band in the long list that I’ve never checked out but have been meaning to for quite a while now. So, this year when I was sent I, INFIDEL to review, I was pretty happy because it afforded me the chance to finally check out a band that I’d been hearing good things about for the past 3 years. For those not in the know, like I was prior, Ritual Carnage are based out of Japan with vocalist Damian Montgomery hailing from the U.S.A.. I, INFIDEL is the band’s 4th full-length release overall, as well as the 4th for, long time label, Osmose Productions.
Ritual Carnage play heavy, abrasive, thrash metal. No melodic interludes or pretty stuff, just thrash. From what I know of the band, prior to this album, Damian’s vocals were more in the growl/shrieks vein but with I, INFIDEL fans see a very drastic change. Damian’s vocals are very clean here, as well as being somewhat high pitched (almost sounds a bit unnatural for his voice, like he’s forcing it a bit). It sounds like Joey Belladonna (Anthrax) singing Ron Rhinheart’s (Dark Angel) patterns from TIME DOES NOT HEAL. Looking at other reviews on the internet and many seem to find this vocal change very distracting, to the point that many have said the album is basically unlistenable. I am of a different opinion, I find the vocals to be rather interesting and engaging, not to say they’re done extremely well but I don’t find them to take away from the music at all and in many cases I find myself singing along (the chorus for “I, Infidel” for example). The one thing I can say that I’m not too fond about the vocals is that they are a bit too high in the mix and sometimes drown out the music underneath which is a major no-no in thrash metal where the vocals should only enhance the rhythmic sensibilities of the song. I’m sure most will have differing opinions though but that is always the case with a sound change that’s a bit more controversial…
With the thrashing madness of “The Perfect Strain” the album gives you a boot to the face right from the opening notes. This is also where one will realize quickly enough whether the vocals are just too over the top for them or greatly accompany the music (of course I’m of the latter). The title track starts off with great energy and the typical opening riff with accented drums before everything really kicks in after a couple repetitions. The fast rolling riff for the verse greatly accentuates the speed of the song and works well when it changes half way through, accenting different notes. The two tiered chorus works much like the verses, initially being slow and chant-like until the guitars pick up speed and the vocals remain the same, creating a nice dynamic.
The album doesn’t let up and when you get to a song like “Do Not Resuscitate” you get a little bit of a breather but Ritual Carnage are still pummeling you, maybe not with sledgehammers, but you’re still getting hurt. After your short breather “Axiom” comes slamming back and while this one might not be the best of the bunch, it still has a lot of energy, not to mention an awesome solo section that is a bit different for thrash, maybe more fitting on a shred/power album. “Terror Ends Here” is my vote for crown jewel of the whole album, the use of melody is just extremely well done. The song starts off with an almost punky/thrash feeling before applying a really cool melody overtop which sets the song up for the verses. The slightly above mid-pace verse riffing is heavy as hell and has that chunky, thrashy feeling of prime Metallica (I hate using Metallica references because so many are prone to do it… but it’s true here). This song has it all and it’s topped off nicely with dueling solos and that little melody section from the beginning being revisited a few times throughout.
Ritual Carnage should open your eyes, if they haven’t already. Vocals or not, this is thrash as it was meant to be in 2005.