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This album was a major disappointment. It was a blow not only to Ritual’s career, but to the USBM scene as well. This album is so crappy, that if someone new to the USBM scene were to hear it, it would discourage them from EVER trying to get into this music. It’s the textbook example of how NOT to do Black Metal, and what damage could be done when put into the wrong hands. Maybe I just had high hopes for this album, I don’t know; I was impressed with Ritual’s previous release “The Summoning.” I was surprised at how true and in touch that album was to the roots of black metal, and it’s ability to sound genuine unlike the plethora of gimmick black metal bands that are plaguing the music we know and love. So going into this album, I naturally expected the same. There is no other word than appalled at how much this album sucks, and it came as a complete shock to me. Obviously something must have been lost in translation, because I had no idea how this band could go from something great like The Summoning to this festering pile of shit.
One of the first things that stands out is the loss in quality of the vocals. They have gone significantly downhill, and they’ve degraded up to the point that they are unrecognizable. I remember a time in Ritual’s career where the vocals were of a respectable caliber; they were as harsh and raspy as the best of them were. But here they sound absolutely bland and monotonous. There’s no longer any sort of energy or passion in the vocals. He plays his role in the band’s music as a mundane office employee plays his in a company that he has no interest in; regretting the band practices and recording as Monday’s are the bane of the tired man’s gray existence. The best way to describe it would be semi-grunted black metal vocals, trying to pass itself off as gruff. The vocals at best sound like some kind of prissy poodle snarling. What‘s worse is that the vocals are considerably higher than the rest of band, so you‘ve got this obnoxious douche poodle-snarling right in your ear when you’re trying to focus on the pitiful excuse for a black metal song. Judging from the vocal performance at hand, one can make the assumption that the vocalist just stopped putting everything he had into it because the band wasn’t making him any damn money, so why should he even care? He put out another album, so no one can accuse them of not being into the scene and trying to exploit it.
If there’s anything that ties this album together is the equally crappy musicianship. They too have degenerated up to an unrecognizable point from Ritual’s last releases. This is probably some of the most boring black metal musicianship I’ve heard. As much of an oxymoron as it sounds, this is the first time I’ve heard something I can call “generic black metal.” The Death Metal influence on this record does not do a damn thing to give this album any sort of diversity either. Just as the vocalist, the band didn’t seem very much into the music at all. It comes off more as like they play a weak riff they came up with in 30 seconds dicking around in their mom’s garage and thought “hey, that sounds kind of black metal-ish, let’s make a song around this one uninspired riff!” It’s very immature sounding, like one member in a high school Death Metal band got into a little black metal he heard on Music Choice, so they decided to roll with it for a chance to be super “kvlt and tr00.” Now, I know that Ritual is not this sort of band; as I previously mentioned, I really liked The Summoning, but had I heard this first, I would have believed my assumptions. I think that they realize that they were unable to live up to their previous work, as evidenced by the fact that I clearly heard some re-used riffs from The Summoning. As if it were even worth mentioning: the drums. The drums get a mention solely for the fact that they are probably the most boring aspect of the album. They never deviate from the mindless autonomous banging. They could have accomplished much much more with a drum machine.
The sound quality is an improvement over the last Ritual release, but if anything I think it did more harm to them. The last Ritual release had found a perfect balance between raw and quality, and its “more inexperienced” sound quality gave it a sort of charm that draws people to raw sounding music. It should have been left raw sounding because this is just mediocre. It's not harsh enough to have a “raw” sound but it’s crappy enough to not win any praise for great sound quality; adding an even more boring element.
I know that albums are meant to be listened to as a whole, but some tracks on this stand out particularly for their exceptional shittiness. This album manages to get all sorts of weird without any sort of experimentation or doing anything unique, an impressive feat indeed. Such an example is the track “Alone.” I have absolutely no clue what the fuck this song is; it sounds like a bunch of Black Metal cheerleaders shouting some kind of high school football game cheer crossed with an all female pop-punk band. “Dark Emptiness” is a completely useless, space filler of a track. This song gets notice because it is painfully obvious that they just threw this into the mix to soak up some time. It is an instrumental, and I guess it was supposed to add some sort of feeling and profound depth to this album, but there was none to be had. It’s like a sitcom director who adds a laugh track to a show with absolutely no jokes. It’s basically the black metal equivalent to elevator music. The synthesizers sound like they would be from an instructional video on meditation you bought at Walmart for $2.99. Undying is somewhat of a redeeming song, as it sounds as close as possible to an old Ritual song; not enough to save the album however. Later on in the album there are signs of the beginning of some depth, but before that moment finally comes the album is over, and you’re left there; mouth agape like an idiot waiting for some real black metal, wondering “what went wrong.”Aside from these outstandingly crappy tracks, the rest is a blur of mediocrity.
I am still a gasp over how crappy this album is in comparison the last Ritual release. I don’t understand how they physically made the transition from decent old school sounding black metal to a generic parody of the genre. This is just a cheesy load of black metal cliches and half assed attempts at songwriting. It seems as though they just kept making albums just so they’re not entirely forgotten. Maybe when people stumble upon a particularly crappy Ritual release and tell someone about it, someone will point out “You know, Ritual were actually decent earlier on” and that will be their claim to fame. But what else could you expect from an album titled “Demonic Winter Metal”?