Over in sunny California, Ripple Music is nearing its tenth birthday and seems to be celebrating appropriately by signing a ton of interesting new bands. With Ripple, you can be almost certain that you’re going to get plenty of riffs, either of a heavy metal or stoner rock variety, and their newest signing Ritual King doesn’t disappoint. Hailing from Manchester, they’re self-styled as a Heavy Blues/Stoner Rock trio, and for once I’m not going to take issue with the band’s description of their sound. The Self-Titled album is their first, having previously released two EPs, the second on When Planets Collide.
Where to begin? I suppose for starters it’s worth noting that Ritual King actually sound like a trio – there’s minimal multi-tracking on the guitar – and the six-string isn’t tuned all the way down to hell’s basement so you can hear all three instruments nice and clearly. What it lacks in outright heaviness, Ritual King more than makes up with a live, organic feel. Also, every time I’ve listened to this album (which is a good few times) I’ve always come away thinking of it as essentially instrumental. There are vaguely Ozzy-esque vocals on every track, bar the one genuine instrumental, but with the exception of closing track Black Hills they’re used so sparingly that the tracks feel more like instrumentals with a spot of singing, rather than actual songs.
Opener Valleys is quality track; built around a simple repeating bass riff it really travels, encompassing tasty guitar solo work, up-tempo head-nodding passages, and sparse but effective vocals. I’d say that second track No Compromise is even better, interspersing mellow, almost jazzy sections with stomping stoner rock goodness. Headspace follows this pattern and runs with it, juxtaposing textured mellow sections based around another tasteful bass riff with the heaviest moments on the album.
I’d say that second track No Compromise is even better [than opener Valleys], interspersing mellow, almost jazzy sections with stomping stoner rock goodness…
602, the only genuine instrumental track on the album is, conversely, a bit more straight-forward and ups the tempo within a simple but effective structure. Next up is Dead Roads, which is the one track I’ve found popping into my head in between lessons. Although you could argue that the vocal section is a pretty standard Stone Rock fare, it’s very well done and the lengthy instrumental digressions definitely add another layer of interest. The closing two tracks follow a similar path, being perhaps a bit more vocally-focused than the others but still offering plenty of room for Ritual King’s excellent musicianship to shine.
If I was feeling hyper-critical, I’d say that Ritual King perhaps suffers from the issue I have with much instrumental music: after a certain point it begins to sound just a touch samey and it’s missing the one or two awesome tracks needed to make it a genuinely essential album. That said, I’ve listened to it regularly over the last month and half and enjoyed it on each occasion. It’s definitely worth 50 minutes of your time.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc