I am old enough to remember the time when RITUAL STEEL was a very hot newcomer to the underground scene. Engulfed in the ’80s and ’90s true metal essence, the band was considered to be an embodiment of metal legends like OMEN, GRIM REAPER or early OVERKILL, yet I sadly have to admit that their albums, though enjoyable, were not state of the art. Despite that I always enjoyed their songs and their crappy front covers were quite intriguing.
Years have passed, and after a series of drama RITUAL STEEL dwelled deeper into the second league of the underground scene. Their previous album was good, and even though I am a huge fan of John Cason, at some point I thought that we would never hear from them again. However, RITUAL STEEL haven’t said their last words and now, in 2019, they are back with a new album.
If anyone thought that RITUAL STEEL might tread a little different in this album, he would be wrong. I didn’t expect anything less than raw, straightforward metal, and frankly I cannot say that I was confuted. RITUAL STEEL just do what they like and they do it in the best possible way: as straight as a die heavy metal with direct references to OMEN, SKULLVIEW, PHANTOM X, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM, MOTORHEAD and lots more underground acts with the distinctive vocals of John Cason. His “love or hate” vocals definitely make the difference in the album, since they add a sentiment of nostalgia, obscurity and uneasiness; an inexpert listener might be confused whether he likes them or not.
Apart from the vocals the music is quite unique also. RITUAL STEEL play a mixture of ’80s metal with a late ’90s essence: definitely not modern yet not the retro copycats that dominate the scene. There are lots of interesting moments in the album, songs like “Kingdom of Death”, “Civil Unrest” or the totally MOTORHEAD-esque “Ritual Steel II” which make the album more than enjoyable, yet there are one or two uninspired fillers and an ongoing sparky sense that the band is performing right next to you. Don’t expect crystal clear studio sound.
Anyways, I firmly believe that this is a good outsider. Not a life changer, yet it has lots of great moments and it will satisfy the demanding listener.