Written by: Bane Ov Silence
Unbowed is one of the best kept secrets in the music world today. For the uninitiated, Unbowed is a melodic death metal band from Ontario, Canada. The group incorporates elements of folk and black metal--it all comes together into an experience that every fan of extreme music should take the time to listen to. While I’m not usually a huge fan of melodic death metal, Unbowed's last album, Through Endless Tides, was my runner up for album of the decade. When I saw that Alex Snape, the guitarist and a founding member, was planning on releasing a solo EP under the guise of Ritual in Ruin, I jumped at the chance to review it.
In short, Ritual in Ruin is the darker black metal version of Unbowed. All the songs still carry the triumphant and cinematic feel of Through Endless Tides, but the guitar tone and vocals give the songs a much darker atmosphere. It seems contradictory to make an album that is simultaneously triumphant yet also dark and sinister, yet here, it works very well.
The most notable part of Of Myth and Slander is the guitar work. While every aspect of this record is great, Snape shows off his guitar chops moreso here than he has on past releases. Every riff is melodic and epic, and will sound very familiar to anyone who has listened to Unbowed before. As a matter of fact, the record sounds like ideas that didn’t quite make it on to Through Endless Tides, which isn’t an insult to the songs on the record. As a matter of fact, I would consider it a compliment. These are also some of the best solos that Snape has written. While they aren’t the most technical solos I’ve ever heard, they are melodic and hold my attention throughout the course of the whole record.
The production on the record is a mixed bag. The guitars sound clear in the mix, yet still have a solid amount of distortion which I enjoy. The overuse of ambient interludes is aggravating, and to be frank, all of them suck. Normally three minutes worth of interludes wouldn’t be a big deal, but it is a major issue when an album is only fifteen minutes long. The drums lack any power, and sound flat. The drumming itself is competent, but it clearly wasn’t the central focus of the record. The vocals have so many effects on them that they sound so distorted that trying to make out any of the lyrics is futile. While they are solid, they pale in comparison to Ioan Tetlow’s vocals in Unbowed. While I do thing that the record would have benefited from a better drummer and a different vocalist, it doesn’t detract too much from the album since the guitar work is just that good.
While I’m not sure where this is going to rank amongst the rest of Snape’s work, I definitely think that he should be proud of this release. While it is rough around the edges, nothing detracts too much from the experience as a whole. Seeing as the record is only fifteen minutes, and about a fifth of that is ambient interludes, this is worth your time, but maybe skip the interludes ("Intro" and "Old Wounds.") While it might be premature, I could easily see Ritual in Ruin popping up on my end of the year list.
Ritual in Ruin - Of Myth and Slander was released Jan. 20th, 2020
Ritual in Ruin can be found:
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.