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Interview

Italian Melodic Metallers The Ritual Release 2011 Debut; Bassist Liuk J. Abbott Offers Some Thoughts

We shall wait to see what kind of impact The Ritual make outside their native country of Italy before we conclude whether justice indeed exists in the music world. They ought to get huge in the States. Brandishing a vital and diverse modern metal sound that's polished but always potent, emotional but never cheesy, and thunderous but deliciously melodic, they have something to offer nearly everyone under the metal and hard rock banner. I've made no secret of my delight with their recent debut album "Beyond The Fragile Horizon" (reviewed here), which makes their case with a catchy, deceptive simplicity that masks a complex and thoughtful intertwining of musical styles.

In the midst of relentless gigging in support of the album, bassist Liuk J. Abbott was generous enough to take time to correspond with me and discuss just that.

Mike Smith (OverkillExposure): As I understand, The Ritual has undergone quite a musical evolution since forming in 2002. Can you guide me through that process, and explain how and why your musical priorities shifted?

Liuk J. Abbott: We started as a thrash metal band, playing covers of bands like Metallica and Pantera. Through the years the sound changed, and evolved into a more modern type of thrash/core. We decided to juxtapose the melody with the power and the aggression. It was a long way, you know, in which we grew with our sound.

Mike: How long had you been working on your songs before you finally recorded your debut? Did they undergo many changes?

Liuk: We worked on "Beyond The Fragile Horizon" for two years, from 2008 to 2010. When we went to the studio in April/May 2010, all the songs were finished. We had a clear idea of what the songs would become on the album, working so clear in mind without risking a leap into the void.

Mike: What’s your favorite track on the album, and why?

Liuk: My favourite track is "Together,” because I really like to play this song! It energizes me particularly.

Mike: Your album is a blend of several metal subgenres – power, thrash, melodic death, groove, metalcore, rock, etc. Which one(s) do you feel plays the strongest role in your songwriting and performing?

Liuk: You know, we range through many different genres. Personally I don't listen only to metal music, but also jazz and fusion – two completely different genres from metal. We like to weave our musical influences on a metal base, so the sound is heterogeneous but not contradictory.

Mike: To which musical influences do you turn most regularly for inspiration, or just in your free time, or for energy before a show?

Liuk: If you listen to The Ritual, you could hear in many passages the influences of bands like Trivium, Lamb Of God, Pantera, Damageplan, Dream Theater. These are the bands that we have in common. In free time, I like to listen to jazz and djent. Before shows, I prefer to listen to the music inside my mind to predispose myself to meet the spirit of the music in the show – or I simply listen to the band who plays before us!

Mike: The various elements of your sound have, in many cases, each their own secluded fan bases, who sometimes work against one another. Do you feel challenged by the task of bringing fans of thrash, power, metalcore, etc. under one roof?

Liuk: I think people want something new, and we want to give to them a new kind of mixture of all genres. You know, to play different genre content to many different ears.

Mike: Here in America, we have a lot of rivalry between fans of different metal subgenres. How does it seem over in Europe? Do you all get along better, or is it more of the same?

Liuk: The reality of Europe is not different from America, but we know especially that northeastern Europe is an ideal breeding ground for the genre that we play. This spurs us to continue on this way.

Mike: Of all the prominent international bands out there, what’s your ideal package for a large tour that would turn the most people on to your music? Whose fans are you aiming to win over?

Liuk: I would like to make a tour with different kinds of bands, but my dream is to open a show for Tesseract and/or Devin Townsend. We would like to reach not only metal fans, but also rock fans because our music is more melodic.

Mike: Tell me some things about the metal scene in Italy. What types of bands get the most attention and love over there? Where do you feel you fit into all of that?

Liuk: The metal scene in Italy has grown over the years. We have many different bands, but I think that the most popular are the power and progressive bands, like Secret Sphere and DGM. But don't forget that we have some very good extreme bands like Empyrios, Mainline, Extrema and Septical Gorge. Unfortunately here, the metal scene is still too undergound.

Mike: Tell me about the first show you ever played, AND your most recent show.

Liuk: My very first show ever was with a rock/blues band called Nevrotica, when I was 15. It was a wonderful experience, but I remember that I was really afraid and also stuck in the same position the whole time. The last show with The Ritual we played only some days ago, and it was exciting and fun as ever! I know that I've grown through the years, and this demonstrates it.

Mike: As guys starting a career in music, what has been your biggest disappointment so far, and what has been your biggest victory?

Liuk: In the music business, there are many people who want to take advantage of your talent, but fortunately we didn't have a sensational episode. Don’t trust those who promise you money and glory! And the biggest victory we have in our hands: "Beyond The Fragile Horizon!”

Mike: What are your top releases of 2011? What have you been listening to most, and what would you recommend most strongly to people?

Liuk: The best albums of 2011 are the Tesseract debut "One,” Steven Wilson’s [Porcupine Tree] "Grace For Drowning,” Opeth’s "Heritage," and Pain Of Salvation’s "Road Salt Two.” I recommend every one of these albums.

Mike: How about guilty pleasures? What do you enjoy when no one’s looking or listening?

Liuk: Aha! Beautiful question! So dangerous! I really like to imitate the strange attitudes of others. It’s relaxing and fun.

Mike: There are many, many Americans that would love your music if they were exposed to it. Some will be reading your answers here. Do you have a message for them?

Liuk: Yes! Help us to give real value to the music. I want to explain to you what I think about the current Italian cultural situation. Italy needs a cultural revolution. We have many formidable musicians in Italy, but most of the public does not understand. I'm not talking about the "metal" genre; I'm talking about how it seems people consider art as an addiction in life. But art is emotion. It reminds us that we are human beings. We must destroy the mechanism and just open our minds. Thank you if you're reading!

OverkillExposure's avatar

Mike Smith is a Southern-born, New England-based writer and a diehard metal and hard rock fan. As a music journalist, he is a staffer with Metalunderground.com and Outburn Magazine. As a screenwriter/producer, he is currently working on his first film with director Jason Matzner ("Dreamland").

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1 Comment on "Interview With The Ritual"

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1. Jenny writes:

Very interesting transformation in these guys, considering how they started out. I'm wondering how long they've been together.

Even being a sort of a genre nazi, I still like bands that combine all sorts of things; so long as they do it well. With this particular song, however, I sense this is something Power and Melodic Death fans will definitely take a liking to. They have my interest thus far.

I wonder how conscious bands are in deciding "what kind of fans" they will draw in--I somewhat doubt that there's huge attention on that. Bands usually just do their thing, and whoever likes it, likes it.

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