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...that was my first reaction when this CD finished. Never had I heard any death metal as well executed as this CD right here. Hell, none of the death metal albums from 90's can compare to Harvest Ritual either! I'm still yet to find even a single death metal album better than this (apart from Seven Churches by you'd better fucking know who). This one is simply everything: heavy, melodic, atmospheric, talented and it's not all about speed at all.
Necrophagia started doing this already in the early 80's with some of the first death metal releases ever ie. Death Is Fun demo (1984) and Season Of The Dead album (1987). Not only is Necrophagia my all time favorite death metal band to begin with but now they've returned pretty much stronger than ever. Harvest Ritual clearly beats down all their previous albums (although they all kick ass!) and it also destroys the entire discographies of Morbid Angel (just fucking quit already, you haven't had a good idea since 1991), Obituary, Master, Massacre and Death (sorry Chuckie but even you couldn't touch this).
To start detailing the album, it all starts with the intro track "The World, The Flesh, The Devil" which is a perfect intro to create the atmosphere for this album. It really has the true horror esque in it with all the spooky sounds and whisperings. And then in about 50 seconds you'll get the blistering album opener "Dead Skin Slave" and the amazing music of Necrophagia shall kick in. This song is fast and heavy as hell yet it keeps up some kick-ass melodies and the almighty ATMOSPHERE. Heaviness, melodies and atmosphere conquer in every single song of the album even without the speed. In fact the only "faster" songs of the album are Dead Skin Slave and Stitch Her Further. It is of course a great thing that Necrophagia can pull it out so well without any super technical and fast shit. A perfect proof that death metal is more than just the speed, Necrophagia prove it even better than Six Feet Under.
The guitar work which is not extremely technical or anything is still full of actual feeling. In this album you'll get some damn heavy guitar tunes such as the palm muted chug chug riffing of "Unearthed" as well as the melodic and very atmospheric riffing of "Excommunicated", "Dead Skin Slave" (verses), and the final track "Harvest Ritual". Couple solos can also be heard even though Necrophagia isn't really a solo band at all, except for the first album Season Of The Dead. Guitar soloing on this album can be heard in the song "London 13 Demon Street" and the very ending of the song "Return To Texas". The production is very clear on this album, in fact it's so crystal clear that you'd never know this is actually an underground band. Guitars have a cool crunchy tone (although they're obviously downtuned), drums sound great and the bass is also quite audible. Not much more to say about the guitar riffing now, not technical yet still very melodic, heavy and atmospheric. Fug and Frediablo surely are amazing musicians just like the entire band.
Then there's the drums. This is now the first album where Titta used triggers in his drums. As everyone knows triggering is pretty much always quite of a minus to the overall sound since the triggered drums sound exactly the same no matter how hard you hit them or at what speed you play them. On this album it's just like that, the snare and bass drum sound are the same in every single hit whether it's a fast part like the song "Dead Skin Slave" or some slower and more calm moment like the keyboard interlude on "Unearthed". But it's no major problem at all. Titta still managed to execute some damn powerful drumming here. Most of his work on Harvest Ritual is "groove metal beats" with powerful double bass usage behind it. Best examples of this are on "London 13 Demon Street", "Excommunicated" and "Unearthed".
And now on the keyboards which definitely go far beyond awesome. Now if Mirai Kawashima is not the greatest keyboardist ever set a foot in the death metal scene I certainly don't know who the fuck is. The spooky keyboard intro of "Cadavera X" (which must be the best song of this whole album) is some of the most atmospheric and melodic keyboard playing I've ever heard in metal. Mirai is certainly the biggest aid in the atmospheric side of Necrophagia. Couple other keyboard highlights on Harvest Ritual are "Excommunicated", "Stitch Her Further", "Unearthed" and specially the interlude track "Akumu". This must be the best interlude track ever put in a death metal album, seriously. The atmosphere is mind blowing on this ambient keyboard track. This track has the very spooky keyboard tune which then transfers into another very atmospheric keyboard handling and some female vocals. I think it is a duet with this chick and the Necrophagia front man Killjoy whispering in the background. You also got to love this lyric they repeat on this ambient song:
"I am your nightmare
All that you fear
close your eyes and
die for me"
I'll tell you, this is the exact definition of atmosphere! Awesome keyboard work from an awesome keyboard player. The track "Akumu" swaps between this and the main keyboard tune for about 2 minutes then it ends. Definitely an awesome ambient song!
And finally, Killjoy and his outstanding death metal scream vocals. Killjoy's black metalish corpse shrieks are probably the best you can hear in any metal. His sound is so pure and so natural. It's like a vomit sounding scream with nothing forced in it. Actually his voice sounds like Maniac on Mayhem's Chimera album...but better. And now on Harvest Ritual his sound is on its best. "The million band man" Killjoy seems to get only better by time since he's clearly outdone himself after the 3 earlier albums of Necrophagia. You can compare his vocals on Holocausto De La Morte to this and you'll see it. Killjoy is certainly my favorite scream vocalist of all time. And not only does he execute amazing screams but he can growl too. This can be noticed on this same CD as well. Killjoy also seems to whisper a lot, such as the songs "Cadavera X" and in the ending side of "Return To Texas" which only helps the atmosphere of this music. He does it like Dani Filth but...you guessed it, better! Killjoy himself also wrote all the lyrics of this album, "Stitch Her Further" with the aid of Joey Jordison who also does a little vocals on this particular song. And as you could guess, the lyrics are pure gold. Look at this part from Cadavera X:
"I dream of demons
Broken wings bleed
I dream of demons
And her touch
I dream of demons
I dream of demons
and demons I fuck!"
Overall Necrophagia is a very, very talented band with brilliant song writing and loads of potential. It's a shame that this band is still very underground even after about 25 years of making music and only a few people actually know who the fuck these guys are. Their music is absolutely amazing and everyone in the metalhead community should get the chance to experience it. Every song on Harvest Ritual is a stand-out track.
This is a flawless album and any possible human who appreciates music should buy this.