Performing under the moniker Everson Poe, Mae Shults has spent a decade creating music that seeks to evolve and change, challenging genre definitions and gleefully riding roughshod over pigeon holes in order to carve out expressions of gender identity and mental health. The last three albums alone have spanned post-punk, metal and electronica but the majority of Poe’s releases in recent years have dabbled with black, sludge and doom metal.
After an intense burst of creativity, no doubt fuelled by the free time granted by 2020, Rituals is the fourth album from the artist this year!
Finding common ground with the Monstrous Existence album, Everson Poe once again lean on the heavier side of their output to articulate their vision. Drawing inspiration from V.E Schwab’s Shades of Magic book series, the now appearing on Netflix series German series Dark, nightmares and a distaste for religions zealotry, Rituals is a downbeat affair that explores troubling themes through a vast palette of musical light and shade.
The tone and sound of Rituals is great, from the moment Antari creeps into gear. Individual and unique, there is a haunting gravitas to the sombre atmosphere, as well as a delicious fuzz that lends its warmth to the icy blasts. The cold dissection of the lyrics, at times, offer a violent contrast to the indie/electronic influenced guitars and Shults, who handles all the instruments, is accomplished both in terms of execution, but also in the construct of the album with the shortest track (the frenetic Notre Fin Nous Connaît) a positively blink and you’ll miss it seven minutes.
The four tracks making up Rituals work between ethereal ambiance and savage Grindcore. Ariadne, is built around a creeping light guitar that is leant an atmosphere of menace by the fuzz laden, grinding rhythm. More of an orchestral doom arrangement, it’s a beautiful piece of music, juxtaposed by the tortured vocals, glacial and sombre, yet utterly full of despair. Like Antari, the second track descends into a frantic freak-out, switching the pace and the vocal tone to a more visceral and jarring pace.
there is a haunting gravitas to the sombre atmosphere, as well as a delicious fuzz that lends its warmth to the icy blasts…
Notre Fin Nous Connaît chooses speed at the outset with hammering drums and strained, multi-layered vocals before almost collapsing back into the wallowing doom and gravel dragged vocals, whilst closing track Fallow_Hallowed again opts for the slow building dynamics.
Over the course of its twelve minute run time, it lumbers, almost drone like, in a similar manner to some of Jesu’s heavier moments and at roughly four and a half minutes, it becomes a powerful stately march. The reappearance of the manic fast part is negated in predictability as it breaks out into a gorgeous shoegaze style passage, which in turn morphs into black metal and for a moment I could have been listening to the likes of Deaf Heaven, if not for the vocals.
Therein lies my dilemma, Rituals has plenty going on that make it an interesting release and I always try to put a constructive spin on my reviews, but in this case I really struggled with the vocals. The guttural, throaty delivery, whilst executed with plenty of undeniable passion, I found really off putting and strained. Personally, the vocal style can make or break an album for me and as much as I wanted to like Rituals, I’m sorry but I would have enjoyed it more if it was instrumental and I’m willing to hold my hands up and say that’s one person’s opinion.
To try and leave on a positive note, Everson Poe has an extremely driven work ethic that’s clearly guided by an abundance of ideas and fire to produce challenging music, often creating moments capable of telling great stories. There are plenty of twists and turns on Rituals that are well worth listening to, and you can make your own mind up about the rest.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden