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Modern thrash metal: a musical scene that is both loved and hated has flooded the market with mediocrity and the occasional excellent effort. Scores of artists are currently attempting to resurrect the genre to its previous glory. Furthermore, a number of classic bands have begun their climb to comeback status-most have failed. Ritual Carnage hails from Japan, a country not terribly well known for thrash. Along with Evile and Imagika, the band has managed to gain a small amount of rightful recognition in the modern thrash scene.
I, Infidel has all the components necessary for thrash metal. The guitar riffs pay appropriate homage to older bands, cutting and speedy. A large amount of Slayer influence is present, namely the “Hell Awaits” era (there is also a riff on the album that is obviously ripped from Seasons in the Abyss era). Massive thrash breaks violate the senses with glee, and squealing guitar solos take the listener on a trip down memory lane. Brain rattling drumbeats capture the essence of hardcore punk progenitors. The production is good-not too primitive and not too “posh,” and the mix is sufficient. Yes, Ritual Carnage has all their ducks in a row.
Sadly; however, the band offers nothing new to the genre. “The Perfect Strain” is the incarnate of predictability. The song begins with a post intro burst of speed, carrying the listener through the standard motions of thrash. The title track has enough punch with its powerful chorus, but sounds like a thousand other thrash songs, a decade prior. “Axiom” is another standout (comparatively) track, with flesh grinding guitars; frantic drumming and “tortured cat” style solos-once again, nothing new. Most of the tracks clock in at less than 4 minutes, which turns out to be merciful. Had Ritual Carnage transgressed into the 5-minute or more territory, the feeling of Déjà vu might become painful. Every song gives the distinct feeling you have heard it many times before.
Setting aside the lack or originality, Ritual Carnage (on this album at least) has one fatal flaw-the vocalist. Danny Carnage is unique, but somewhat irritating. It’s hard to make comparisons to other thrash vocalists, but I seem to remember he sounded better in previous Ritual Carnage efforts. The monotonous, high-pitched singing will likely grate the nerves of anyone. If the band were to fire Danny, they might gain a few percentage points on future, similar efforts.
I, Infidel is a good album, but painfully familiar. For diehard thrash collectors, this album is a good buy. Anyone looking for a fresh approach to thrash will be sorely disappointed. I picked this album up for 6 bucks, which I would consider an appropriate price-I wouldn’t pay much more.
Let me just start by saying that I love thrash. I even totally understand and dig thrash with playful and "weak" vocals (Belladonna-fronted Anthrax, for example)...but this album greatly perturbs me. I will elaborate.
See, just like the old days, I picked this one up for the album cover. I wasn't aware that it would be nostalgic thrash metal. When I heard the riffs, my expectation for oppressive death or black metal vocals did shift, causing me to anticipate some sinister, cutting, appropriate thrash metal shouts and singing. Boy oh boy. Was I wrong. I will get to this later, after mentioning the riffs and overall instrumental goodness.
This band has tons of appeal when it comes to their aural assault. Guitars, bass, and anxious, tight drums nicely recall greats such as thrash-era Metallica, Flotsam And Jetsam, Testament, etc. In fact, some of the instrumentation greatly confuses me. Why, dear God...WHY...did musicians that can make such great choices on notes, rhythms, harmonies, and dynamics choose to incorporate the aforementioned "weak" clean tones that- while recalling Anthrax- do not have the elastic range of notes that Mr. Joey of that very band possesses. In fact, there's no notes at all. Just weak, teenage-ranged, ranting...not even shouting. As a vocalist myself; I *know* that anyone with rhythm and timing (the ONLY thing this man has mildly mastered) has the capacity to add a bit of tonality, even gruffness to his voice. This is thrash. You don't have to sound immaculate. But lazy? The intensity of the music will not allow for such choices. If this album were playful (again- like Anthrax), a little of the tonal weakness could be forgiven. Only a little. And "Danny Carnage" doesn't even fill in some of this lack of talent by playing an instrument.
I know. This is the most negative and unforgiving review ever penned by yours truly. But dammit. I wanted more from this. Just chalk it up to my status as a musician, myself. I've had throat surgery, and know that (even with throat problems) there is no excuse for this childishness. It's deafeningly obvious that this band appreciates intensity. Look at the album cover, the lyrics; listen to the drums and stringed-instruments. If they wanna be brutal in any way...they just need to shoot this guy....or at least slit his throat so he'll sound a little sicker.
Ritual Carnage is a thrash / death metal band out of Japan. Their style takes a lot from old, fast thrash metal but has a solid mix of death metal stylings both new and old. I guess these guys realized it wasn't the 80's anymore and decided to make this release I, Infidel with modern production techniques. It doesn't have that tinny screechy sound of old thrash and instead has a very clear, crisp and powerful sound. Not only is the production crisp but so is all of the instrumentation, which sounds awesome at the speeds they play... almost always fast!
The guitars do great rhythm thrashing and soloing, both staples of thrash. However, I think it is important to note that this guitar style is much more than just 80's thrash. The guitarist's style is very heavy and punchy and often uses a lot of fast strumming and somewhat intricate riffs - in other words, theres a good portion of death metal influence in there. Although they might not be as technical as every 80's thrash metal band, it definitely is much more noticeable - the crisp production sound allows you to clearly hear the precision in every riff. All of the riffs are performed tightly and are cycled and renewed in every song at a good rate. They change it up enough while still not totally removing the main hooks and choruses of each song, which makes certain songs very memorable. A good example of this is Do Not Resuscitate, which starts and ends with a very punchy lead riff which is accompanied by a slightly offset rhythmn riff - the riff lasts just enough to give you a taste, doesnt beat it into the ground, then it slowly builds form over each measure to get heavier and heavier. By 1:15 you've got an old school crispy solo. The song then easily slips back into the newly introduced riff and restates it with force, only for a minute later to go into a completely new riff... the guy's voice may be slightly monotonous but the song progression certainly is not.
I'd describe the drums the same way as the rest of the instruments. It is all performed tightly and it clearly heard as such. The drummer does a good job of mixing in standard thrash beats with heavier double bass death metal beats. The bass drum is clear and used often while not to excess. However, following old thrash trends, the beats can get monotonous and stretched out too much in certain songs (not all songs suffer from this). As for the bass, it's there.... it sounds like pretty standard stuff, but just like everything above it is clearly heard.
The vocals are probably the most noticeable component to this band. For how heavy it is, the vocals are very intelligible and well articulated, although in a sort of halty, monotone, yet commanding punk/thrash style... I feel some people may find this to be obnoxious, but I think it makes their sound very unique. The fact that you can actually understand him makes it something different. I love how he can express anger or introspection just by changing his tone and articulation, rather than just yelling louder... it makes the vocals sound much more genuine or authentic, as if he is really meaning what he is saying. I don't know if there are effects on his voice, but it certainly has a distinct resonance to it that didnt exist on their previous albums.
Overall I think this is a good album, as are the other Ritual Carnage albums. They obviously aren't breaking the mold in terms of their style, but they are definitely solid listenable material that should be absorbed by whoever likes thrash and heavier. The guy's crazy voice combined with the heavy yet clear sound make Ritual Carnage memorable. This is definitely the clearest and probably cleanest release from this band, their previous releases having a much grittier and raw sound. With the exception of the movie clip tracks, all of the songs are solid and rock. The most noticable I think is 'Do Not Resuscitate'. That opening bit is crunchy.