"The Ritualist"

(Northern Silence/Eyes Like Snow)

01. The Gathering
02. The Ritualists
03. Naked Star
04. Demons All Around Me
05. Possession
06. Soldier of Satan
07. Evil Inside
08. The Crawlspace

RATING: 9/10

If you listened closely you might have heard critical rumblings about an outstanding new heavy/doom metal band called HOUR OF 13 that released a monumentally impressive self-titled debut album in 2007 on Shadow Kingdom Records. It was an underground success story that garnered little attention initially, then world spread slowly but surely and virtually everyone that reviewed the disc raved about it. I didn't review it, but I damn sure bought a copy and couldn't wait to get my hands on sophomore album "The Ritualist" on Germany's Northern Silence Productions (I'd sure like to know how Shadow Kingdom Records let this band get away). Believe me, it was worth the wait. "The Ritualist" is one of the best doom-based traditional heavy metal albums you'll hear this year, rivaling both its predecessor and albums like THE GATES OF SLUMBER 2008 release "Conqueror" for its old school spirit, godly riffs, and immensely memorable songwriting.

Let's clarify first that when I say "band" I'm talking about two people that make up the entirety of HOUR OF 13. Playing all the instruments is Chad Davis (ex-DEMONCY, FATHER BEFOULED, PROFANE GRACE) and vocalist/lyricist Phil Swanson (VESTAL CLARET, UPWARDS OF ENDTIME, SEAMOUNT). The duo make the magick happen on "The Ritualist" by combining the moroseness and chilling dread of doom — made even spookier by Swanson's haunting, Wino-meets-Ozzy vocals and occult lyrics — with the (relatively) conventional structuring of traditional heavy metal. The result is a collection of big, bruising songs falling predominantly in the six to eight minute range that burn, groove, and hypnotize with passion and purpose. This is an album for those worshipping at the altar of the mighty riff, as well as for those tired of the soulless digitization that has sucked the life out of far too many metal offerings. If a chill doesn't run down your spine when the main riff to "Possession" kicks in with its mammoth "Mob Rules" power (think "The Sign of the Southern Cross") or the hairs on the back of your neck don't stand at attention for the wicked trad-metal groove-riff of "Demons all around Me", then one can only hope that someone is nearby to check your vital signs.

From BLACK SABBATH to PENTAGRAM to MERCYFUL FATE to PAGAN ALTAR, "The Ritualist" reminds of those periods of the '70s and '80s where certain albums held listeners captive with a larger-than-life essence, owing both to songs that got better with every listen and a compositional form that wasted not a single riff or tempo change; everything counted and everything was remembered. That is exactly the type of quality that makes "The Ritualist" an album that is deserving of high praise. Don't let this one go unnoticed.


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