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The Ritual - "Beyond The Fragile Horizon" (CD)

The Ritual - "Beyond The Fragile Horizon" CD cover image

"Beyond The Fragile Horizon" track listing:

1. Beyond The Fragile Horizon
2. Show Me What You Can Do
3. Jason On The River
4. Hysteria & Madness
5. Shoot Me
6. Without
7. Together
8. The Liar
9. Nothing Is The Same (Sacrifice)

Reviewed by on November 21, 2011

"'They'll rock your socks and panties off.'"

The mundane news: The Ritual is only the latest in a slew of metal bands to debut from Europe this year – in this case, from Italy. The fantastic news? They’ll rock your socks and panties off. What they may lack in wholesale originality, they make up for in spades by blending their various subgenre influences in a hearty, invigorating way. Wielding that stylistic template, they simply write great, catchy songs.

The full-length album in question, “Beyond The Fragile Horizon,” is a study in seeming metallic contradictions that somehow manages to reconcile its disparate origins while making it sound as easy as a bridesmaid on wedding night. It’s hard rock with a bigger set of balls; metalcore with a greater emphasis on hooks and guitar heroics; power metal with a staccato modern edge; and a current specimen of the In Flames-led evolution of clean-sung melodeath.

Opener “Show Me What You Can Do” lays it all out, burning through The Ritual’s myriad influences with a rare grace as guitarist/vocalist Marco Obice belts out a concert singalong refrain for the ages. Obice belongs to neither the fairyland, groin-challenged ranks of modern power metal nor the pubescent, emo-drenched toy soldiers of today’s “metalcore.” He’s a firm tenor, solid as a rock, who brings an epic blast of gravitas and authority to the album’s eight songs. The rest include the thrash-led “Hysteria & Madness” and “Together,” the Iron Maiden gallop of “Jason On The River” and “Shoot Me,” the furious power groove of “The Liar” and “Nothing Is The Same (Sacrifice),” and the closest thing to a power ballad you’ll find, “Without.”

The whole shebang recalls what felt so arresting and intoxicating about Killswitch Engage’s crossroads effort “The End Of Heartache,” while maintaining a broad enough sonic display to avoid sounding like a mere melodic metalcore retread. Lead guitarist Marco Pastorino shreds when he has to, and then retreats to where he shines brightest: behind the scenes of Hooktown. Bassist Liuk Abbott brings a muscular virility to the album’s backbone, and Luca De Vito belongs in that manly echelon of third-cock power drummers who substitute straightforward passion and restrained ability for a mere showoff session. Along with the rumbling production and mix, De Vito makes these songs as ridiculously heavy as they are heartfelt and infectious.

There’s only one major problem with “Beyond The Fragile Horizon,” though it may prove a glaring one. Impressive though the blending of signature – and often conflicting – subgenres may be, it’s hard to visualize fans from those disparate camps uniting behind such a hybrid where every influence is given equal weight. For now, the best The Ritual can hope to gain is a nonpartisan audience that tosses petty nonsense aside in favor of terrific, memorable, melodic, heavy songs. That’s what this band is all about.

Highs: Truly memorable and hard-hitting tunes from a smooth blend of influences. There's something for everyone.

Lows: Devotees of one subgenre or another might have a hard time jumping fully into this mixed bag. We'll see.

Bottom line: A fantastic debut album that attempts to reconcile hard rock, metalcore, power metal, and melodeath through the peace offering of sincere, genuine songwriting.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)