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An Inquisitive Stabbing - 82%

Apteronotus, March 18th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Nuclear War Now! Productions

As silly as it may be to have an album titled “The Blade Philosophical” it’s actually an incredibly apt description of Rites of Thy Degringolade’s latest release. The band’s sound is somewhat tough to pin down, but it all makes perfect sense when you try to imagine a “philosophical” blade. It’s an inquisitive stabbing of music, savage but thoughtful. Although the band is often grouped in with the greater Canadian black/death metal scene, Rites has always forged their own path. and their direction on this album trends much closer to mid-tempo Swedish black metal than muddy chaos.

Still, the band’s genuine sense of creativity makes most comparisons only ballpark estimates. If you want to get stupidly specific about it, there are also touches of earlier releases from French bands like Merrimack and Glorior Belli. You wouldn’t quite call them an experimental or avant garde band, but that spirit is definitely in the music and their distinct rhythmically-minded sound is a great example of a band that stays well within its genres traditions without retreading the past.

The best thing about this album is how well it balances razor sharp production with muscular and nearly chaotic undertones, many bands go for one extreme or the other. Rites can transition from hyper precise crystal clear riffing featuring stereo split multitracking to a wild Slayer-esque solo without batting an eye. That said, the album definitely leans much more to the former than the latter. Overall the release is broken up with so many punchy rhythmic sections that there is a crisp martial feel that never clashes with the more typical black/death elements. It’s also critical to understand that this rhythmic inclination includes clever palm muting, liberal use of snare heavy flourishes, and deft vocal phrasings.

Although the album is just a tad over forty minutes long, the band’s fourth full-length is has some fairly long tracks and is their longest release yet. Frankly, it could have been tightened up a tad. For example, the short track “Totalities Kompletion” lacks the interesting rhythmic aspects included in other songs, aiming instead for blunt aggression. But that song’s apparent power is completely dwarfed by the riffing on “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Knife.” This highlights how a handful of moments on the album are better suited for second-tier bands, and ought to have faced the paring knife. Unfortunately this problem has a habit of weakening the band’s otherwise forceful transitions between exceptionally clear melodies.

Returning to the positives, the vocals on this release are exceptional even though they don’t have a particularly unique tone and, with the exception of the really cool cleans on “The Final Laceration,” they aren’t at all flashy. Rites often beefs up the vocal tone by layering the same vocal melody with fairly tight but natural sounding harmonization, which makes sense once you notice that all four band members are credited with the vocals. The vocal’s emotional impact also mesh incredible well with the album’s atmosphere - mostly straightforward aggression with faint hints of a brooding ritualistic vibe.

The creativity on this album is subtle but still clear. I can’t think of a more percussive black metal release that still manages to have a clearly traditional sound. Rites’ conservative approach and distinct style makes this a solid release to check out for a wide range of black metal fans.

Originally written for Contaminated Tones.