Most death metal bands exhibit a morbid quality to their sound but few would be believed if they said that their music was actually recorded in a catacomb. However, if the German death-thrash thrallers Sanctifying Ritual confessed as much to me, that their raw and cavernous debut was recorded in such an odious environment, it would be a sheer act of will on my part not to believe them. Sanctifying Ritual has been around (in one mutation, or another) since 2008, when they emerged onto the German death-thrash scene to do battle with the likes of Chapel of Disease and Excoriate for the hollow hearts and deadened minds of slavish devotees of locked grooves and barbarous energy. With the scene that squeezed them from its verminous womb dated and well remarked upon in the tomes of extreme metal history, Sanctifying Ritual has only now seen fit to unleash their debut, self-titled LP into the abandoned maze of tunnels beneath the civilized world. Releasing the Sadistic Death demo in 2009 and the Carved in Rotten Remains demo in 2012, followed by the Storm of Devastation EP a year later, Sanctifying Ritual have seen many a harvest moon under which they could pluck the rotten fruits of their labor. The band clearly wanted to wait until their bounty had reached a particularly awful and putrid state of ripeness before wrenching them from the earth and hurling pus-weeping missives at a heel-rocked public. Wicked things come to those who wait, I suppose.
While much of Sanctifying Ritual’s early materials focused on a combination of speed metal and death vocals, their debut LP takes its notes from the septic theater of their Storm of Devastation EP, as well as the group members side projects, particularly the black-flame funeral-thrash of Nocturnal Witch. Narrowing their sound down to a stronghold of ripping ‘80s indebted thrash and death, lacquered with the weary-rasp of black metal, is an undeniably productive space for the band to occupy after more than a decade of refinement. Sanctifying Ritual sounds incredibly tight and faultless in their execution, something that could not be said for their earlier efforts. Much of the raw recording quality of their demos is preserved here, which is to say that they sound like their masters were partially salvaged from a fire. In this way, they find themselves in keeping with death metal’s long tradition of under-produced audio. When I said they sounded like they recorded this album in a crypt, that wasn’t hyperbole. You can almost hear the bones rattling and mummified flesh sifting into dust on-site as the war-drum pulse of “Curse of Evil” crests like trouble incoming over the horizon on a sun seared strip of back-water highway. Even more fierce is the abusive grip of “Into the Obscure Abyss,” which feels like being thrown against the walls and rolled out like a carpet by some entity with the size and odor of a bear, which you only brief glimpses throttling, but that you know to be much much worse than any variety of predatory mammalian you’d actually run the risk of encountering in the woods.
In terms of familiar footing on which to brace your listening experience of Sanctifying Ritual on their debut, I'd say that the band carves for themselves a fitting likeness of the malignant onslaught of Possessed and the body-cavity spelunking, rib-teething squirm of Sadistic Intent. Fully utilizing the tools offered to them by guitar ghouls like Swedish death-dwellers Merciless when casting their wicked, sonic spell upon the north and rising to the challenge of that exhibition of weird sorcery. While not every track on their debut will leave a lasting scar, cuts like the slick, dynamic, and blood oiled “Obsessed by Gore,” and the blackened, frost-swamp bilge of “Stained with Rotten Blood” will leave parts of you that will sting to the touch several days after your initial listen. Later, “Abominable Death Rebels” provides a more familiar balm of decayed suppurate peat, scraped from the sours of Leprosy-era Death to close out the album. Whatever your flavor of preferred death metal, Sanctifying Ritual will gladly place a ragged slice of it on your tongue like an unwholesome communion wafer, made of still bleeding flesh, which they force backward down your throat with a forefinger until you either accept and swallow, or resist and choke. Which reaction you prefer is a matter of taste, known only between you and the band.
Mick is always writing about something he's heard. Possibly even something you'd like. You can read his stuff over at I Thought I Heard a Sound Blog.
7.0 / 10
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