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This would be one of the releases I got from the Indonesian label Ludah Production and it is a bit difficult to figure out the meaning behind the songs, as no lyrics in English are provided; only a short biography was printed on the inlay. As the song titles are also mostly in Indonesian, someone from the West might find it difficult to really grasp the idea behind this piece of art. Yet, but looking at it from a different perspective, Immortal Rites' approach can be written on (nearly) without a preconception; not bad actually.
Even though black / death metal is written on the band's site at the Metal Archives, matters cannot be dealt with so easily. Depending on the song the balance shifts from one to the other; i.e. some have a good deal of tremolo picking by the guitars and are very simple composed, while others are rather in vain of the latter aspect; with two guitar lines and more variation in the arrangements. On seven regular tracks (plus one intro, one cover and a demo version) this Indonesian band offers music in a rather straight-forward way, without drifting into too progressive, technical or modern (industrial or sterile) approaches. From the sound and arrangements of the instruments and motives, it becomes clear very soon what to expect: old-school influenced music; not very surprisingly is the cover of a Sepultura song from 1986 and even though the sound of it differs from the rest of the 'regular' album, the concept behind it fits very well.
A dominating factor in the oeuvre of Immortal Rites are the vocals by Dwe Farmosath with their peculiar growling-like style. They wake some memories on Abbath, when he has the cold and can therefore not 'sing' with full power. So, in some respect, they sound a bit odd would there nothing be to compensate the listener somehow. Luckily, the guitars play some nice riffs and the motives are varied enough -- not only in tempo also in arrangements -- to keep the music from getting too plain. Nevertheless, the songs are rather linear, but have some neat catchiness at times, which keeps the interest and the fascination up; despite some occasional lack of complexity. Real solo parts can hardly been found here, instead, the band relied on the use of two guitar lines; Misteri, which has a nice combination of guitars and bass. Especially in interludes -- often played at a slower tempo than the normal tracks -- the aforementioned approach is able to create some fascinating atmosphere; Darkness in my Souls. Speaking of dynamics, the band seems to feel more comfortable in the faster regions, but is not able to reach of the level of bands like Dark Funeral for instance. The music has a melodic touch, is not overtly aggressive and remains catchy, despite some amount of monotony and minimalism.
Sepultura cover: Troops of Doom
Cover versions are always a tricky thing and when it comes to the re-interpretation of old compositions then the issue of how their new sound can be related to their old one has to be dealt with. Immortal Rites did a good job here and in comparison with the Sepultura one, a slightly noisy and raw sound creates a dark atmosphere. Beyond this aspect, the Indonesians try to stay true to the original and did not changed the tempo or added additional motives or the like. It is an interesting interpretation nonetheless.
Purnama - demo version with their former vocalist Arifin
It is a bit uncommon to have a track appear two times on a release, but maybe it makes sense as in this respect as the second version is not only one with a different vocalist, it comes also in a quite unpolished and raw fashion; further, the demo one is about a minute longer. Due to the vocal style of their old singer Arifin, a different type of atmosphere is created; more aggressive and darker. He has a really sinister and evil-sounding voice and it is hard to say which one of the two version is better, because in spite of the rawness in the sound, the demo one is quite fascinating.
When there is one aspect that I would like to see changed on future release, then it is the progression towards some more complex arrangements of songs. Maybe a solo, maybe some neat variation of the tempo... the performance by Immortal Rites is a bit generic at times and they are unable to move out of the shadow of what is the current state of the art; their music is a bit too calm and lacks surprising elements. They do not necessarily have to progress to what bands of the same genre perform in Europe today, but additional facets would be nice thing to see/hear. To me the vocals are too monotonous over the course of Api Dari Timur and a bit more power to the bass would also help the band in their approach.
Final bits and bytes
So, this is rather for fans whose preferences are straight-forward and merciless death / black metal. Immortal Rites do not try to bloat their art with pointless fillers or keyboards textures, here the basic elements are offered and even though the genre is most certainly not invented anew, the performance and production are on a good level and it is easy to enjoy the compositions; especially as these are generally well written and lack of boring or plain parts. Even though not the latest trends of the metal circus are followed with this piece, it is still able to create some fascination. Some may point to the aspect that the music becomes predictable over time and is a bit too shallow in terms of variation and facets, but even though this arguments bear some truth in them, the debut has its own charm and can thoroughly be enjoyed. Fans of underground black/death should give this release a try and also those who prefer music with not a too clean and sterile production. Those who want to have this particular kind of art with a progressive touch, should give the debut of the Indonesian band Banaspati a try.
Recommended tracks: Api Dari Timur, My New World, Misteri
Note: The release comes as a professional printed CD with a cardboard-like booklet and inlay; both coloured and with information on the band and its history. (A small comment: it should be possible to check band names for errors, just saying)