Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Ritual Decay are a power trio plying a particularly nasty-ass brand of blackened death metal. On The Conquering Darkness, their debut demo from the seemingly unstoppable Caligari Records, the band aren’t likely to be accused of being innovators anytime soon, but their patently ugly, primitive assault more than makes up for their staunch traditionalism. It’s a ripping opening salvo from a trio of musicians who are obviously dedicated to their craft.
Ritual Decay’s influences likely don’t go much past Hellhammer’s discography, the first few Bathory albums and Welcome to Hell, but the band are damn good at what they do, so you likely won’t give a rat’s ass that their palette is deliberately limited. It’s what they do with that palette that counts, and what Ritual Decay do is kick ass. Each track here is loaded with memorable riffs, whether it’s the tremolo-picked madness of “Reach for the Axe” and “An Oath to Spilling Blood,” the trudging, doom-laden power chords of “Sadistic Path of Destruction,” or the eerie arpeggios of “Ashen Wasteland.” The songs are mostly slow to mid-paced, with several lumbering past the seven minute mark, but Ritual Decay mix things up enough to keep these lengthy tunes from ever getting boring.
The production is rubbed raw but features enough clarity to easily tell what’s going on musically, and has plenty of bottom-end in spite of the band’s apparent lack of a bass player. The recording quality is a pleasant surprise; typically demo-level black/death metal is either an all-out treble attack or an audial swamp of churning sub-Incantation murkiness, but not so with The Conquering Darkness. In fact, Ritual Decay’s demo sounds better than many bands’ official albums.
Ritual Decay show a lot of promise on this, their maiden voyage into the abyss. While some of the songwriting could stand to be tightened up a bit, the material on display is well-crafted and imbued with an appropriately malevolent atmosphere, making for a delightfully deathly listening experience. I expect them to only get more impressive as they continue to hone their grisly trade.