Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rituals Of The Oak - Hour Of Judgement

Rituals of the Oak may be young (they were only formed in 2008 and Hour of Judgement is their first and only album) and they come from Australia, but the band plays very old school traditional epic doom deeply steeped in the European tradition. Candlemass, but even more so Reverend Bizarre, immediately come to mind when the opening title track starts to plod.

Heavy, but rather stripped down, with guitars not overdistorted. The release, entitled Hour Of Judgement features 5 tracks, with some ranging in 5 mins to length and a couple being more than 12 minutes long, the band offers a challenging experience to the listener. On some occasions Rituals of the Oak display a sort of atonal divergence, where guitars and vocals tend to drift along the edges of non-parallel harmonies. If one aims to go up, the other is pointing downward. While unusual at first, this subtle dissonance does not divert attention as much upon multiple listens. The title track does not cause the female lead singer Sabine Hamad to take high notes or stretch herself, but in the drony Childhoods End, where “deadlight seems so far away” her voice inflections and modulations are the main attraction point.

Rituals of the Oak are not only about the molasses-slow monster chords and depressive melancholy. Drown the Wood in Blood showcases much steadier tempo, melody flowing through weaving riffs, hooky chorus and interesting percussion. The course of the song almost forces Sabine to elevate herself and assume leadership. At the same time, the band is also adept at space-rock, almost lullaby feeling with wirebrush on cymbals and jingly guitar in Standing in the House of Suffering. A pair of evident bass lines on this track also can’t be missed.

The closer The Spell of Doom at first embarks in the direction of the title track, but the half-way beginning outro uncorks a melody nobody will be able to soon forget. Rituals of the Oak has an uncanny ability to latch on to this captivating mind-penetrating piece of music and milk it for all its worth, slowly killing the song away, as they are doing it on The Spell of Doom and Drown the Wood in Blood.

An easy pickup for Reverend Bizarre and Solitude Aeturnus fans, being fronted by a female vocalist, Rituals of the Oak present another, more rare, interesting point in doom metal. ~ Metal reviews


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