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One thing is certain, the cover sucks. This armoured creature with an oversized torso and the very little head is as dangerous as a Pikachu that has lost its electrical energy. Anyway, in terms of music, Ritual Carnage bare their teeth. The boisterous band belongs to those elitist formations whose heyday starts with the debut.
"The Highest Law" is filled to the brim with sharp riffs. Ritual Carnage celebrate intensive thrash metal. Not only because of the chosen cover version ("Death Metal" from Onslaught), their music cannot conceal the fact that the guys seem to be big fans of the British thrashers and comparable bands. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that the cover song does not appear as a foreign body on "The Highest Law". Nevertheless, there is no need to panic. Ritual Carnage cannot be dismissed as mere copycats. They just hark back to the well established stylistic devices of the genre and try to optimize their strengths. Fortunately, they are able to write another chapter in the success story of thrash. The dudes send greetings to the old school of the genre without offering corny pieces. The opposite is the case. Furious riffs which summon the listener to increase his air guitar performance, insane leads and unrest drumming characterise the infectious tunes. Short solo eruptions are also included and they are compatible with the noisy excursions of Hanneman (R.I.P.) and King on "Reign in Blood". Every component benefits from a monolithic production. The sound is dense and heavy, powerful and down-to-earth. Sensitive aesthetes may complain about a lack of differentiation, but I do not belong to this species and therefore I will not start complaining.
The very focused songs are more or less reduced to the essentials, but the brief playtime of the record does not affect the joy of listening. It is rather both a blessing and a curse. Not least due to the extremely short breaks between the single songs, Ritual Carnage present a very intense and compact metal adventure. Additionally, and that's the crucial thing, the aforementioned intensity and compactness are connected with a mature song writing. No song falls through the net, because all of them are fueled by the enormous energy of the band. No matter whether one listens to the opener, the closer or any track in between: Ritual Carnage have courage and they do not hesitate to demonstrate their coarse attitude. It comes therefore as no surprise that they have borrowed the line "What man has made, man can destroy" from Entombed's title track of "Left Hand Path" and it goes without saying that they are responsible for the destructive part of this knowledge.
Despite the high velocity tracks, the band shows no signs of shortness of breath. The thrash metal thunderstorm goes on and on and some death metal ingredients are also not forgotten by the Japanese warriors and their US-American singer and guitarist. His powerful and fairly expressive voice lends the band a western aura. I do not want to blame any nation, especially not the highly appreciated guys from the "Land of the Rising Sun", because I like metal from every corner of the world (and I still wait for the heavy metal world domination, but that's another story.) Nevertheless, lead vocalists from East Asia are sometimes a very special experience. Anyway, Ritual Carnage's extremely homogeneous and coherent debut is absolutely worth listening. Due to the high number of really fascinating tracks that stand shoulder to shoulder in terms of quality, fury and velocity, I see no sense in mentioning the highlights. Only nuances make the difference with the effect that it is definitely a question of the personal taste. Just dive into the thrilling songs of this album unbiasedly and enjoy the Nippon power that they hold - they are doubtlessly more dangerous than any Pikachu.
Thrash till you drop! I bet this is one true philosophy for these Far Eastern eardrum tormentors. 'The Highest Law' is the debut album from Ritual Carnage, the band who was put together by North American vocalist/bassist Damian Montgomery with Japanese guys.
Ritual Carnage perform old-school thrash metal with considerable death metal addition to it, without any intention of putting something new or different elements into this well-known form of extreme style of metal. However, they aren't "retro", even though probably all of their influences come from 1980s and early 1990s. The sound isn't made in a jurassic way, but it's modern enough with needed punch. The rhythm guitars are just dense, as is the whole production, with the bass guitar getting a bit lost into it at times, as well as the reverbing drums. This was recorded at Morrisound Studios, so it really isn't a surprise that at times it enters to death metal sounding territories, or even the blacker ones. But hey, this album was released by Osmose Records, so... Generally, it wasn't made to sound very tight, but louder one listens to it, the better it sounds.
As stated before, mainly this is true old-school thrash metal, lifting its influences from around the globe. Onslaught (yes, also in Ritual Carnage songs, not only on the cover song), Dark Angel, Exumer, Whiplash, Living Death, Nasty Savage, you name it. 'Damnator' is the most death metal piece here, harking back to birth of Death, Slayer and Sepultura. The songs are fast and they live from good riffs. There are enough of those good riffs to make the songs feel alive, but truly great riffs are scattered scantily. But many bands don't have these killer riffs in first place, so... The biggest reason is, that many a riff sound just quite bloody familiar. Still, this grabs by the balls, and does it pretty forcefully. Sometimes blasting, sometimes more punky, never tiring. Short-ish song durations, too, guarantee that.
If some parts are a bit familiar, then lyrics are simply old news. As they are targeted towards every religion, what would you expect them to be?! Something like "Satan, master, hell, you lead this war"? You're absolutely right. Okay, there's some funny lines such as "I will rape your soul, by the rites of Lucifer!", but overall, the lyrics are just so familiar. 'Metal Forces' is a tribute to the band's favorite artists. Damian Montgomery's shout is raspy and meaty, unlike typical thrash metal types, and it is very effective in any case. There's something black and death metallic in his voice, sounding close to Martin van Drunen (Asphyx etc.) with more varied output.
High speed riffing and brutal solos, lots of double bass drum with fast rolls and attitude are present. Good! This is well done thrash attack and definitely on the better half, and one for those who miss starting times of extreme metal styles.
(Originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)