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In the name of "or" - 70%

Felix 1666, March 20th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Atlantic Records

Do you agree that Testament are great songwriters? Or do you agree that Testament compose lame and meaningless tracks? Well, beware of traps. The inconspicuous word "or" can lead you astray. The truth is that people who see things correctly (me, for example...) agree with both statements. Or - this word again! - they have another opinion. It doesn't matter.

However, "The Ritual" is prone to lameness. High speed attacks do not appear, the band prefers the velocity of an 80 year old grandpa who needs a walker. Adding insult to injury, the mix of the album avoids edges and corners. The songs are as smooth as freshly pressed laundry. Nevertheless, the production achieves a solid level of power and volume. And, by the way, I guess nobody expected an underground sound.

"The Ritual" is another album that possesses some fascinating tunes at the beginning, while the quality of the songs crumbles significantly as the album progresses. The demarcation line runs between the highly atmospheric title track and "Deadline". The only exception is constituted by "Agony", a powerful, more or less combative thrasher which is placed on the eighth position. Its chorus keeps sticking in the mind and the other highlights do not overburden the listener as well. The anthemic chorus of the stomping "Electric Crown" crowns a song with a flashy riff at the beginning and an outstanding flow. Testament have almost always outstanding openers, but it seems as if they are not able to put ten first-class songs on an album. Usually, they exhaust their resources relatively quickly. Thus, let's celebrate the good songs of "The Ritual" all the more.

The thick riffing of "So Many Lies" has its charm and the chorus presents another example for their talent to pen a sustainable, strong melody that enters the listener's long-term memory without hesitation. More or less the same applies for "Let Go Off My World" which moves less cumbersome than its predecessor. Finally, I have already mentioned the title track. Its gloomy mood liaises with great, robust riffs and the lyrics match perfectly with the musical content. Its guitar solo is unfortunately weak, but the remaining parts create really impressive sounds. The audience almost becomes a part of this diabolic ritual.

So far, so good, but the further tracks deliver nothing but uninspired riffs, half-baked melodies and the total absence of dedication. A kitschy ballad, of course, must be integrated. "Return to Serenity" works better than any sleeping pill one can buy in the next pharmacy. Okay, medicine usually tastes bitter and this piece sounds saccharine, but who cares about this little difference? This sedative aside, the other songs follow the route of the better tracks in terms of style, but they do not really convince ("As the Seasons Grey") or they fall completely through the net ("Troubled Dreams") and the never changing mid-tempo does not only endanger any kind of dynamic. It also appears as an indicator for the fact that the band is running steadily out of ideas. A last alternative: you want to have the complete discography of Testament on your shelf? Buy this album. Or - this word is the star of this review - do you want to listen to thrash metal without abrasion? Buy the works of In Malice's Wake, JT Ripper, Mortal Strike, Pripjat, Ragehammer, Skeleton Pit and roughly 200 further albums.