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"The Birth of Tragedy" belongs to these mysterious albums that do not show significant signs of weakness, but they fail to impress me as well. I am a great fan of Ritual Carnage's first two works and the musical approach of the here reviewed full-length lies in close proximity to that of "Every Nerve Alive". The American-Japanese cooperation stays true to its style. Instead of weakening its furious way of proceeding, the band presents another explosive cocktail of sinister and fast thrash metal which is additionally spiced with death metal elements. But amazingly, the band lights the fuse of this cocktail - and nothing happens. I am still waiting for my pulverization. Guess it's time for a cause study.
Right from the get go, craggy riff attacks surround the listener like shrapnel grenades and the enemy seems to fire endlessly. Sensitive characters should avoid this battlefield. Well, nobody takes care of these daft creatures, that's no problem at all. Yet even if you like to dive into the world of murderous guitars, it can be exhausting to listen to the entire album. The devil lies in the detail. Ritual Carnage have mislaid their template for fanatic yet memorable compositions. The vast majority of the tunes starts with seemingly captivating sounds, but their fascination does not last long. After two brilliant albums, the band is surprisingly not capable of delivering sustainable leads, riffs or lines. The high number of musical amok runs stands in contrast to the comparatively small amount of ingenious sections. The title track illustrates the main problem of the album. It starts with an ineffective solo, the verses do not reveal any form of compositional idea and the chorus also lacks of an identifiable melody line. (Hopefully, it is needless to emphasize that I do not mean orchestral or cheesy lines, but the minimalist, sharp melodies that have a right of existence even in the most furious surrounding.)
I don't want to be misunderstood. The album comes up with a full and vigorous production and songs like the rather mid-paced "Paradox of Democracy" make clear that Ritual Carnage are still able to write pretty catchy choruses. By the way, the lyrics of this piece underline the socio-critical message of the artwork and there are further tunes whose lyrics make a comparable statement, for example "Burning Eyes of Rage". Yet the majority of the solos does not work. It is unfortunate that an actually good number like "Shroud of Secrecy" suffers from more or less incoherent solos. But the solo excursions of the guitarists are not the root of all evil. Probably due to the dominating high velocity approach, lead singer Danny Carnage has to struggle in order to show an expressive performance. He sounds significantly more charismatic during the rather rare mid-tempo sections. Finally, the quality of the riffs sways strongly.
The quintessence is that "The Birth of Tragedy" is not a shitty album, but simultaneously a disappointment. Whenever I want to listen to Ritual Carnage, I prefer another output of the band. Neither the homage to Chuck Schuldiner ("Infernal Death") nor the two bonus tracks of the digipak lead to another result.
Whereas the band were searching for the sound suiting them as well as their songs the best way possible for two albums, they now got it. The guitar tone finally reached thrash metal sharpness here and now we can hear what riffs like these could and should sound like. None of that sludgy death metal inspired down tuning or blurry sound. It’s thrash metal all the way here.Shredding instead of humming. We all know that a sharper sound gives riffs more definition and especially faster music sounds even faster this way.
The only complaint I could have about the production here are the drums. Just like for instance the Acrostichon album ‘Sentenced’ the triggers and samples are way too obvious here and especially dated. The drums therefore don’t always sound dynamic, alive and therefore slightly dishonest. A minor setback since the guitars, vocals and especially compositions really make up for it!
Damian Montgomery has gotten rid off his death metal tendencies vocally and now solely focuses on raw thrash metal rasping. The only downside is this might get a bit too monotone after a few songs but as said the song material here consists of some of their best songs. The band still plays fast on almost every track and only reveal their slower qualities on ‘Paradox of Democracy’ and ‘Grave New World’ from which especially the first has a remarkable good strong and catchy chorus.
Even though the average pace is high and most influences still come from Slayer, Sodom and Sepultura there now is time for some growth in their arsenal of riffs. On ‘’Fall of the Empire’ and ‘Shroud of Secrecy’ some Gothenburg inspired semi-melodic riffs can be heard and ‘From Dawn to Decadence’ even has an old school Bay Area groove at times.
‘The Birth Of Tragedy’ is the peak of their career and everything falls into place here. The band, in the eyes of some,. would take it all a bit too far on their next album ‘I, Infidel’ because of the attempt to achieve more melodic vocals but here we can speak of maximum efficiency. Making ‘The Birth Of Tragedy’ the definite Ritual Carnage album!
Ritual Carnage’s label as a death / thrash band is unfair. They simply play brutal, old-school thrash. They even turn the Death cover into an assault of pure high-speed thrash. The two guitarists keep on spitting out riff after riff – and an occasional solo which sounds just like some keyboard experimentations. They are great at playing riffs though, and should stay clear of the other things. And the band’s drummer drum on fast, keeping an insane pace – and he’s probably the reason that the guitarists haven’t got the time to do other things than riffs, tremolo – and crappy solos. In Dawn of Decadence there’s a lead repeated a couple of time to achieve solo status. It would’ve been more interesting at a slower pace so the sounds can ripen a bit.
Every song is closed in the usual old-school way. Riffing, rolling drums, riffing, rolling drums, pace higher and higher, increasing tempo as to force a crescendo into existence and then abruptly end the song. A little monosyllabic, but so far everything is good – technically. The album would be very enjoyable in deed if the combined bassist and vocalist didn’t suck at singing . Well, he’s producing noises with his food-undertaking organ at least. He hasn’t quite decided whether he should do thrash screams or growls, thus screaming in a growling way. It’s not the cookie monster style, just that he has eaten far too many chalks to do any convincing stuff. The spoken parts sound like a usually decent by strangely hoarse person’s doing them. The other vocals aren’t that good.
It’s not as if speed’s a bad thing, bad Ritual Carnage are too fast for their own good. Their speed removes some of what would’ve been thrashy parts. Headbanging to this would be the equal of whiplash damages.