Rituals Of The Dead Hand

Album Title: 
The Wretched And The Vile
Release Date: 
Friday, January 26, 2024
Review Type: 

Since I was quite impressed by Blood Oath and (especially) by With Hoof And Horn, I did look forward to listening to this newest album by the trio Rituals Of The Dead Hand. Well, after a couple of listens, my appreciation for this act has not disappeared; on the contrary.

Yet first some dry information. This new album was recorded at the Crestfallen Studio under supervision of composer / vocalist / guitarist / keyboardist Lykaios, except for the drums, which got recorded at Studio 508 (also: mix). The result was mastered by no one else but Mario Dahmen at the famous Liquid Aether Studio. The sound, by the way, is of an exceptionally high-leveled quality: dense, powerful, oppressive and loaded, with a well-balanced mix and that necessary touch of unpolished rawness.

For the physical and digital release, Rituals Of The Dead Hand joined forces with Flanders’ finest Immortal Frost Productions. The physical result is a jewel-case CD, which includes an eight-page booklet, as well as two different vinyl-editions (with poster), which are, evidently, more limited. It comes with very fine artwork, created by bassist / lyricist Beleth.

The band, part of the The Nox Entity family, collected six mid-lengthy elegies (the average duration is remarkably ‘shorter’ than before) under the working title The Wretched And The Vile, clocking about forty minutes. The Wretched And The Vile is like a logical successor of the former material, yet with a result that might sound little more brutal, dynamic and deadly than before. Also the lyrical side (written by bass-player Beleth and drummer Isangrim) is slightly different yet still comparable: no Bokkenrijders epicism anymore, yet texts about witchcraft, superstition, legends from ancient Limbourg (the area these guys come from; like the Bokkenrijders did). A fabulous given is that those poems are written and ‘sung’ in both English and (ancient) Flemish (i.e. Dutch), and even some drops of Latin.

Opener The Restless Doomed somehow continues the unlit path through haunting forests of Limbourg reminiscent of With Horn And Hoof, with that slow-paced tempo, that ominous atmosphere, and those full-bodied constructions-of-sound. It starts with a semi-acoustic introduction, with the sound of flies, yet quite soon things evolve into a somewhat dissonant, post-laden melody, full of intensity and hypnosis. And within less than two minutes, an overwhelming amalgam of thunderous yet intriguing drum patterns, intoxicating tremolo-like leads, and forceful rhythm guitar escort take over the slowly yet unstoppably evolving dominion behind Rituals Of The Dead Hand’s characteristic execution. It develops towards a monumental piece of sonic vigor, with multi-layered string-work, often creative in performance, and offering a sludgy undertone in sound-spectrum, and including those eccentric lead-injections, those monolithic Doom / Sludge-laden harmonies, the typifying percussions that produce their own aural universe of creativity and concept, and these barren, abyssal grunts. Add some additional semi-acoustic effects, vocal experimentation, and supplemental keyboards at the background, and you’ll notice that this opening lullaby announces another possible AOTY candidate, for what this might be worth.

Wij Hoeren Van Lucifer (‘we, whores of Lucifer’) is remarkably faster as from its opening riff. More than before, this intensity overwhelms, yet it works. Still guided by discordant riffs and ghastly leads, rough-edged growls, severe rhythms and powerful drum-shapery, this tenebrous, fast and dissolute piece works usurping. I never dislike doomed tempos, yet this expeditious evolution works well in a mostly organic sense. And what we see, or better: hear, as from Ius Cruentationis, is a perfect balance in between faster, energetic fragments and ominous, doomed chapters, strengthening the occult, mysterious identity of this band’s conceptual approach. As from its start, the dark-edged harmonies and imposing rhythms reflect a maturity reminiscent of the Scandinavian scene. The interplay of hypnotizing riffage and elitist heaviness shamelessly defines this trio’s ingenious vision on Extreme Metal. Mayhem And The Goat continues this path of morbidity, yet then again it initially adds a brain-squeezing touch of thrashing madness with a stunning old-styled attitude. Towards the end it comes with an intoxicating, almost asphyxiating piece of ceremonial doom, opening an invisible portal towards a realm of desecration and blasphemy. De Gnijdige too delves deep into the underworld of the Old School, like the vilest Doom-Death filth from three decades ago that crawls out of a loathsome-fetid shaft. The last epic, Stigma Diabolicum, returns to the ritualistic scenery of anesthetically harmonious elegance, with an overpowering force of instrumentation and vocal authority. This pushing, thunderous piece of diabolical worship, consists of both slowed-down chapters with a melodious structure, as well as energetic pieces of fierceness, unstoppable, unrelenting, uncompromising.

More than before, Rituals Of The Dead Hand explore sonic dimensions that organically fuse into a majestic, vehement, even passionate epos, trespassing the borders of eon and scope. This third album explores territories and ranges unvisited before, without languishing into oblivion; on the contrary, this extended and expanded approach works extremely well. If this is what this trio’s evolution stands for, I will impatiently await their next effort! Until then, I am going to listen to this one once more…