Paper Skin

Written by: AP on 25/09/2011 02:08:26

Ritual - not to be confused with the Swedish progressive rock band by the same name - have been harvesting some critical acclaim across western Europe since 2006, enticing the continent's hardcore crowds with an aggressive rock-oriented take on the genre. The band's latest and third album, "Paper Skin", seeks to disassemble that image with a slower, more atmospheric sound built on layered guitar, in accordance with the current trend, particularly in the United Kingdom.

People unfamiliar with Ritual's previous outings will be oblivious to the change, but remembering the furious punk assault of "Wolves" and "Previous Times", the difference established early here on "The Great Decay" is distinct. The song proceeds with a droning tempo, with resounding legato riffs dictating the name of the game, and the following "Reaping Loneliness" even recalls The Chariot at their most structured selves with screeching feedback and lone tom tom drumming bringing the song to a close, like "And Shot Each Other" without the chanting.

There are more immediate rewards on offer too on the likes of "Dunkerque" and "Rusty Fingers Touching Nothing", but it is without a doubt the sense of experimentation that shines through on "Paper Skin". Consider for example the song "Distant Glance", a haunting ambient piece which consists solely of lingering, hazy guitar notes and gentle rim tapping beneath dreamy, solemn whispers, immediately bringing to mind Deftones; "White Caskets" then takes this conjured mood further by stacking a crunchier tone on it; and "The Coldest Shoulder" explores revivalist terrain with a despair and immediacy akin to bands like Touche Amoré and La Dispute. Within 20 minutes Ritual have thus transgressed the boundaries of the hardcore genre end to end from The Chariot, through Deftones, to La Dispute.

All of this should be mouthwatering news to fans of hardcore on the lookout for a more complex experience than the typical straightforward bands have to offer; however, there is something alienating about the approach. The disturbing jazz of "This Shell Has Got a Soul Again", for instance, veers too far into the unknown without any real purpose and exposes the primary fault with the album, namely that it lacks a central direction to maintain its focus. There is a dark feeling of unease on the album whipped up by the unhinged instrumentation and abrasive vocal style that makes it both intriguing and intimidating.

Download: Reaping Loneliness, White Caskets, The Coldest Shoulder, Pieces of Me
For the fans of: Anchor, The Long Haul, Midnight Souls
Listen: Facebook

Release date 04.05.2011
Reflections Records

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