Where to begin? This is quite the unfathomable feat to review this album. Black Dahlia Murder albums are always a complexity of intricate musicanship and unexpected lyrics. "Ritual" no doubt pushes the envelope in as many directions as possible,making it BDM's most unyeilding, and mature release yet.
Let get the obvious out of the way; everyone loves "Nocturnal." I myself thought that Nocturnal was the most polished, diverse album to date. "Deflorate" was a good album, but it didnt captivate me as much as tracks like "Deathmask Divine" and "Everything Went Black." Nocturnal was the king of the crop of albums. However, I am still very attached to "Deflorate's" "I Will Return." AFter a few solid tracks, I think BDM hit it with that one. I am not going to tell you that "Ritual" is a better album than Nocturnal, but in my personal opinion, Brian, Ryan, Trevor, Shannon, and Ryan K. have surpassed the "Breathless Oblivion." "Ritual" is a heartwrenching, monument defiling, brute. The longevity of the album never grows stale, or expected. Each track plays a larger role than itself. The lyrics and instruments provide the substance for a 12 track ritual. Each song is divided from the other, reinforcing the allegorical heirarchy; that this is infact "a ritual." For example, "A Shrine of Madness" is also dubbed "Ritual of Celebration." "The Window;" "Ritual of Abduction." It is within these metaphors that I personally believe BDM have finally hit the nail on the head. "Nocturnal's" theme was carried nicely throughout each track, but "Ritual" is by far the most progressive, transitional, theme based release. This amplifies the songs and allow their work to go beyond mere lyrics. The dominance the theme "Ritual" is something to really appreciate. Each song becomes more dramatic and well, "demonic." Trevor has unleashed a barrage of engaging lyrics and unbelievable vocals. next to Nocturnal, this is his finest work. The work Brian, Brian K., and Ryan puts me in disbelief. The guitars are nothing short of superlative, powerful, dynamic, you choose. Shannon Lucas has definetaly become one of my favorite aspects of the album. His drums are just mind numbing. Added to the mix are haunting violins and cellos that force the mood onward. SOme of the most emotional material comes from these sublte nuances. With all these ingredients and creativity, the tone of "Ritual" is set and ready to unleash hell. Believe me when i say, "not even the portals of the underworld can stop this ogre of a ceremony."
1.) A SHRINE OF MADNESS [RITUAL OF CELEBRATION] (5/5) - A visceral way to open an album. Following an elegant intro, the rush of BDM's finest erupts and evicerates the long wait we all had to endure for this record. It sets the tone and reason behind the rest of the tracks and prepares audiences for what is still yet to come. If you enjoy latin, their will be an added tidbit for you before the breakdown. Welcome the dark of Halloween...
2.) MOONLIGHT EQUILIBRIUM [RITUAL OF TRANSFORMATION] (5/5) - One of the very first to be released from metalblade records. it doesnt hesistate to rebond from track one. The continuation of metaphors are present here, reinforcing the material laid down by track 1. The instrumentals are some of the best on the record, Shannon for the win!
3.) ON STIRRING SEAS OF SALTED BLOOD [RITUAL OF CONDEMNATION] (5/5) - I cannot say enough about this track. after my first few listens, i would always return to this track as i do now. It is a bit slower tempo than the first two, but it is immaculately placed. Although slower, the deep, guteral musicianship pushes the intensity forward. Just the pounding of drums and bass create a dynamic like no other BDM song. It has such a weight and density that you feel "The storm, No signs of slowing now."
4.) CONSPIRING WITH THE DAMNED [RITUAL OF COMMUNICATION] (5/5) - Right off the bat, Trevor emits the title and ruptures the vocal proximity. this has to be a no-brainer. For the love of god, listen to this one.
5.) THE WINDOW [RITUAL OF ABDUCTION] (5/5) - Absurd, decedant, and malevolent. One of my personal favorite songs on the entire disc. Brian, Brian, and Ryan bring some diverse guitars that make the repeating verses electric. the transition from breakdown to bridge is something right out of "Nocturnal." You will know what i mean when you hear it. However it is amplified to the max. Its just pure adrenaline filling. Best song!!!
6.) CARBONIZED IN CRUCIFORM [RITUAL OF CONJURATION] (4/5) - Again, using ambiant cellos to keep the tone in check. Lyrically, one of the more diverse off the record. This is the part of the ritual that truly feels like you are watching a ceremony.
7.) DEN OF THE PIQUERIST [RITUAL OF MUTILATION] (4.5/5) - If you dont feel like your ears are being mutilated than you may have a problem. The immorality of this song is just unbelievable. The sound itself is quite haunting. Although short, it holds no regard for the consumed morsels. "My every thrust gaining entrance to the red..."
8.) MELANCHANTMENTS OF THE NECROSPHERE [RITUAL OF CONDEMNATION] (5/5) - "ARISE! ARISE! ARISE!" AT 2:46 PREPARED FOR HELL AND GOOSEBUMPS UNITL ITS CONCLUSION. A definite listen. The subject matter is by far some of the best to bolster the theme of "ritual."
9.) THE GRAVEROBBER'S WORK [RITUAL OF DESECRATION] (5/5) - If you thought this album could get better, your're right. The most diverse and unrelenting track awaits you here. the beginning itself is just pure gold. Sometimes i dont know how Trevor does this. "Will you follow me into the dark?" Instrumentally, obviously the gang holds up both guns and unloads all rounds in your ears. A for sure listen. I enjoy the bells at the end, a tidbit for someone like me who loves atmosphere.
10.) THE RAVEN [RITUAL OF OBSERVATION] (4.5/5) - This is one song i feel could be a "Nocturnal" cousin, which i have no problem with actually. Get ready for the night
11.) A GREAT BURNING NULIFIER [RITUAL OF EMANCIPATION] (5/5) - A great burning pre-conclusion. The song brings forth the climactic pressence of the ritual. When the instrumentals divulge and Trevor says "We lifted spirits converge in flame,
Great nullifier coloring the greys, Terminal boredom light and evade. Our prayers are Earthen,A ritual escape;" It is just numbing. They reuse the same segment but twist it near the end and its just seemless. the story of this song and power carries the theme for one more time before the finally.
12.) BLOOD IN THE INK [RITUAL OF INDOCTRINATION] (5/5) - After 11 tracks of reinforcement we have arrived at the end. this relinquishes all other themes for one purpose; eternity. The themes of ritual collide here and Trevor speaks of the ever lasting affects of the ceremony. I feel the album converges like plate tectonics and the earth is torn asunder. SUch events are meant to be remember by these "ghouls." Just from the beginning, you know its not going to end well, then Shannon unleashes an anthem like drum segment with the others following to the blanketing vox of Trevor. The keys are a good signature to add to the mix. The song slowly builds, and builds towards one the most powerful breakdowns. Its haunting and empowering. "You've broken your bones in violent ritual." The sheer immencity of this song can only be help and supported by the previous 11. They do a great job of building the suspense of story of BDM's Ritual. A perfect way to end a perfect record. "Let your life drain." Queue violin, quote, end.
I hope my review helped. AFter a few weeks i can finally write my review after all their material sinks in. for a band like BDM you need time to allow their work to settle. It is one hell of a ride, so put on your masks ghouls, and relish in this ritual.