Ritual Killer- Exterminance

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, October 23, 2015

I hadn’t come across New Orleans black metal band Ritual Killer before, but I’m certainly familiar with the group that three out of their four members have been a part of are currently play in. That particular band is Goatwhore, and Ritual Killer has guitarist Sammy Duet and bassist James Harvey along with former drummer Zak Nolan in its ranks. Whereas Goatwhore goes for a blend of black metal, death metal and thrash, Ritual Killer heads fully into black metal territory on their sophomore effort Exterminance with riffing that falls somewhere between the earliest variants of the genre and that rawer 90s sound. With ten years between Exterminance and its predecessor it’s likely quite a few of you out there will be like me and be discovering these guys for the first time, and what a hell of an impression they make with this effort.

Following a short intro of garbled, creepy sounding vocals, Ritual Killer launches right into their attack. The eight songs on Exterminance fly by fairly quickly, with the overall effort coming in at under half an hour, but the instrumentalists make sure that listeners barely have any time to breathe for that entire period of time. There’s a noticeable emphasis on a rawer sound that allows the guitar and bass riffs to cut through your speakers with maximum abrasiveness and destruction, and with song structures that are often focused on blasting and speed this works to the band’s advantage. It’s worth noting that the rawness doesn’t necessarily sacrifice the details, as the added noise makes the guitar leads razor sharp but you can make out what every instrument is doing if you pay close enough attention. For the most part the majority of the tracks follow a similar pattern, using the harsher blasts to create a dense wall of sound that threatens to completely overwhelm and suffocate you, though there are some exceptions. Songs like “Feral Eyes” and “Cuntius” inject a bit of thrash and riffing that takes more of a first wave black metal influence, scaling back the attack ever so slightly without losing any intensity. But despite the similarities between riffs from one song to the next, there are enough subtle differences between each one that it never feels like Ritual Killer is repeating themselves and they have enough substance behind the jagged edges to keep listeners wanting to return for another kick to the face.

As aggressive and raw as the instrumental work may be, it’s the vocals of Jordan Barlow that really push Exterminance over the edge into the brink of total insanity. Rather than going for the usual higher shriek or lower growl, his vocals come through as a raspy scream that sounds downright psychotic and terrifying. There’s so much grit and rasp to the performance that it seems like Barlow’s vocal cords might come out through his mouth by the end of the album, and on pieces like “Bury The Earth, Bury The Sky” it sounds like he’s fully channeling demons from the underworld in a ritualistic fashion. It’s one of those pitches that never lets up for a single second and sometimes feels like it’s attacking the listener even more than the instrumentals, which is something that I don’t think I’ve been able to say very often. Ritual Killer recorded this material in a way that places Barlow front and center, and he definitely makes the most of it with one of the most over the top and unnerving performances I’ve heard recently.

On their sophomore effort Ritual Killer offers twenty seven minutes of complete destruction with an emphasis on speed and razor sharp riffs. It’s a welcome return to the first/second wave of black metal’s focus on violence and sheer chaos, and these guys are able to pull it off in a way that offer some substance behind the harsh aesthetic. Even with some similar song structures and tonality that will still remind listeners of Goatwhore at times (which is probably unavoidable with Sammy Duet in the band), Exterminance stands on its own. Hopefully it won’t take another ten years for another release, as this group has that filthy, take no prisoners approach that is so damn appealing.

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