Italy’s Plateau Sigma have been on my radar for a couple of years: they always edged something quite interesting with their emotive doom metal but they lacked consistency and the song-writing was choppy at best. Yet it was with eagerness that I encountered their second full length, given the chinks of excellence evident previously. Rather than continuing the trend of slow but steady improvement, Rituals enveloped me entirely in its sheets of atmospheric doom and calming beauty, upheld by a strong, mid-paced core. Imagine My Dying Bride by way of Novembre but with stunning, serene passages intertwined. It’s almost unmatched for doom this year and has continued to resonate more as time has passed.
It should come as no surprise from this introduction that a lot of the record is thick and lumbering, delving deep into the Funeral toolkit. It’s oppressive and despondent but always retains a distant sense of hope in the manner of the doom greats. Balancing this are the passages where the pace accelerates, with quicker riffs and a tone bordering aggressive rather than merely dejected. The 4 core tracks all navigate these 2 styles deftly so that the heaviness is never repetitive nor plodding. It’s tough to surmise exactly what Plateau Sigma nails here when compared with similar bands who are resolutely boring but the atmosphere generated is highly evocative and gripping.
But the most amazing aspects of Rituals are assuredly the brilliant contrasts created between this towering heaviness and their delicate, quieter moments. I’ve previously stated this to be one of my favorite tools in metal and it holds true here. The quieter bits are gorgeous and easily as powerful as the heavier but it’s the easy fluctuation which ensures the material is interminably compelling and buries deep under your skin. This is exemplified by my 2 favorite tracks, “Palladion” and “Rituals pt. I” – the former of which is among the best music I’ve heard this year period. Both are more fluid than the other principal tracks and the melody-writing muscle of the band is truly flexed, both on the quieter guitars and the vocals. The cleans confer sincere grandiosity while the growls are deep and mournful; both flesh out a wider and more subtle soundscape than is typical for such doom, despite the retention of orthodox instrumentation.
Rituals is a wonderful album by a band that’s been diligently honing their sound for a number of years now. It draws together the deathly doom of the Peaceville trio with emotive solemnity to form a beguiling package. In a year replete with great doom metal, it stands tall among the best of them.
Tracks to Check Out: “Palladion,” “Rituals pt. I”