The Ancient Tome

For heavy metal music, the 1980’s was a time when anything was possible. Bands from all corners of the world aimed for the target that bands like Ratt, Quiet Riot, Tesla and Dokken seemed to have hit, hoping for rock star success. Had the internet been a factor in those days, I’m sure we would have seen something similar to the flood we have today of metalcore and so-called “extreme” metal bands currently testing the bandwidth limits of MySpace. At any rate, for every platinum success story, a hunderd other bands were never heard outside of their own general area, and it was certainly not for lack of trying.

North Carolina’s Heaven & Hell Records have launched a series they call Lost Relics; the goal of which is to uncover what they feel to be bands and music that never had their fair shot in hopes of bringing it to modern day collectors who hunger for more music. The first in this series is from 80’s New Jersey rockers Ritual. Ritual played a then timely version of hard rock/metal music akin to Dokken or Tesla (in their heavier moments) with a few token “every bad boy has a soft side” moments thrown in for good measure. The recordings here are from three different sessions spanning the decade, so sound quality and mix varies. The guitar playing & songs structures are what you would expect; good solos and some tasty riffs to be had, notably “Tight”, “Electrified”, “Claw To The Top”, “Friend Or Foe” (kind of a Loudness vibe), & “Dark Star”. “Dark Star” is probably the best song on the album, with it’s Dokken meets Queensryche-vibe, and it’s a bonus track. A couple of unbearably schlocky moments with cringe-worthy ballad “No Longer Feel” and the put-on attitude of “Rid Of The Bitch”, but I’m sure we all have embarassing pictures buried in our closets.

While some songs have good riffs, and the band seems to have been a contender (including endorsements from then-local DJ Eddie Trunk and legenday manager Mark Weiss), they sound like a band in need of a producer and a bit of direction. The ingredients are there, but it’s not quite ready for the menu. At times it seems like they were trying to straddle the fence between what we now call hair metal and classic metal. Had they been handed off to Beau Hill or Michael Wagner they could have turned out an album that would have fit right in during its time. Would they have made waves? No way to know for sure. But if you’re an ’80s rock & metal Historian then this collection is right up your alley. It’s got good liner notes, detailed band history (they seem to have hit the bricks pretty hard back in the day), and a nice layout. The cover art is a little puzzling and even confusing (looks like a doom metal album), but that’s a small complaint for an otherwise collector-worthy release.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shawn Pelata
September 8th, 2010


  1. Commented by: gordeth

    You’re damn right about that cover art. It screams doom metal, as does the band name and album title.

  2. Commented by: Jodi

    Weird…I had these guys confused with Ritual on Shadow Kingdom Records, who DO play kind of a doomy NWOBHM style, and who also recently had a re-release of an old album.

    Clearly I was mistaken, though, so carry on!

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