Ritual Killing
New Tribe

For the most part 2012 was not exactly a mind-blowing year for fans of the tried and true sub-genre of thrash metal.   Sure several of the veterans fired off solid albums, such as Testament and Kreator, while young guns Nekromantheon released a cut-throat, testosterone-fuelled ripper, but otherwise it was a fairly lean year.  One album that likely dropped under the radar of many was this interesting slice of thrash from Germany.  New Tribe is the debut full-length from Ritual Killing and the result is at once a perplexing, intriguing but ultimately underwhelming platter of death metal-infused thrash.

The band cites Exodus, Sepultura and Megadeth as influences, with their German metal origins not really infiltrating their sound.  The Sepultura influence is especially detectable and the core of their sound comes across like a mix of Sepultura’s earlier material with the South American tribal influences and groove-based ethics of their Chaos AD/Roots era.   Coupled with some rather unconventional song structures and a mid-paced, groovy death metal influence the final product is at the very least an interesting if not overly compelling album.

At the heart of New Tribe is a flat, dry and oddly mechanical production that has a certain unique quality but can also have a flattening effect that stifles the heft and range of the recording.   Of course at higher volumes through a decent system greater potency is achieved and it’s nice to hear the bass play a notable role.  The guitars have a nasty sound that goes well with the more aggressive aspects of the material, and the rawer production and gruff vocals lends the songs a rougher, meaner edge.   However, the song-writing is too uneven for the band to achieve any great consistency and potency, although there are glimmers of the band’s potential and accomplished musicianship peppered throughout the album.  Ritual Killing has a particularly solid grasp of groove, while the lead work and faster thrash tempos work effectively.  Unfortunately many of the song structures don’t gel together all that well and they would be wise to explore the angrier, speedier dimensions of their formula.   The somewhat haphazard structures lend the album individual character, but the execution lacks cohesion and a deft touch.

The vocals lean towards a deep, guttural grunt interspersed with an odd and occasionally distracting high-pitched shriek.  The vocals definitely stray towards the death metal side of their sound but they sometimes sound a bit hokey and forced.  They are fairly well enunciated but not necessarily in a good way, as some of the understandable lyrics border on the lame and clumsy.   The environmentally-friendly lyrical slant of “Liar” is a refreshing change; however it’s difficult not to smirk at the repeated gruff refrain of, “You. Kill. Earth… You. Kill. Yourself!”

The instrumental title track is well-paced and composed, featuring tidy drumming, including some effective tribal percussion, catchy mid-paced riffing and excellent lead work.   Elsewhere, the mid-later album tracks generally hold up better than the earlier stages of the album, while they could have sliced 3 or 4 songs from the playlist to firm up the overall quality.   The formulaic intro/outro combination is particularly unnecessary.

On the brighter side several songs hit the mark and show what the band is capable of.   “Silent Earth” has a chunky lurch spliced with ample amounts of mid-paced thrashy groove and blast beat sections; complete with high-pitched shrieks.   The rumbling grooves, ballsy aggression and busy drumming highlights “Headhunter”, as it hits thrashy-overdrive at its climax.   The robust “No Total Control” is one of the finer examples of their groove-based death/thrash formula working a treat.

In the end, it’s hard to know what to make of Ritual Killing.  There seems to be potential lurking within but they certainly need to work on smoothing out the song structures and creating some fluency and cohesion in their unconventional song-writing to create something truly worthy.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
February 4th, 2013

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