Riti Occulti - TetragrammatonRiti Occulti are a strange band. They play doom, they hail from Italy, they prefer a bass guitar to a six-stringed axe, and their vocal department consists of a goth-like, beauty-and-the-beast duo. To be more specific, the band uses only bass guitar and the two female vocalists alternate between black-metal rasps and operatic clean vox. Topping it off, the band coats everything in a thick layer of synthesizers and moody effects (many times performed using a dreaded keytar). But, it isn’t as bad as it seems. And it’s only gotten better since their debut in 2012. Serena Mastracco’s rasps have matured significantly and her constant battle against Elisabetta Marchetti’s clean vocals has developed into the no-holds-barred death match fans have been waiting for. All of the elements seem terrifying on their own, but Riti Occulti have somehow found a way to make them work.

Two albums ago you would have never guessed this would work. Debut album Riti Occulti was about as sparse of clean vocals as a kvlty black metal record. Mastracco’s rasps ruled the nest and Marchetti’s cleans served only as the eerie background to a shitty horror soundtrack. Thankfully, the band realized Marchetti’s true potential on 2013’s Secta; even if combining her clean voice with Mastracco’s bland, yet venomous, rasps was still a mystery. With Tetragrammaton, however, damn-near everything works. Maybe not all the time and not near enough to shoot this up to a “great” album, but this outing shows the band’s true potential. The bass-led riffs make sense, the drums (finally) work, and the dueling vocal styles intertwine as intended. As for the overall songwriting: this is a continuation of Secta, but with greater cohesion and structure.

Tetragrammaton is essentially a nine-track album consisting of a tetra-logy, followed by the band’s usual mix of weird and random. The “Adonai” tetra-logy inhabits the first half of the album while the remaining tracks support the back half. The result is an album that feels like two EPs smashed together. This isn’t a bad thing and I don’t want it to sound that way. There is still cohesiveness and flow between the two halves and the subtle changes to approach keeps the album from turning stale.

After the pointless opening instrumental, “Invocation of the Protective Angels,” “Adonai I” brings on the bassy, raspy doom. Like “Adonai III,” the rasps take the lead on this first cut of the tetra-logy, but Marchetti’s clean voice slips in and out of this harsh landscape like an operatic sidewinder. Once the thrusting bass, pounding drums, and accenting barks conclude, the vocal roles switch places for part two. Marchetti takes hold of the intro to “Adonai II;” weaving her voice through the synthesized moods with beautiful, stoner-ish sopranos. But, once her voice achieves hypnosis, the song takes a sharp U-turn back to the band’s black, dooming roots. Marchetti’s cleans also lead the closing number of the four-piece set; adding a ballady flavor to the growing bass and synthy mood of “Adonai IV.” But, as with the previous tracks, Mastracco seeks vengeance. Her voice resurfacing and shattering the song’s foundation like a blackened avalanche.

Riti Occulti

At the conclusion of the tetra-logy, the band shifts gears to the odd, Orphaned Land-ish “Atziluth.” If you know Riti Occulti, you know this is nothing new for the band. It seems to be a rule that they have at least one exotic, bouzouki-led number per release. Unfortunately, everything else about the song is rather typical—a trait that also befalls the blind meandering of “Yetzirah” a couple tracks later. The best songs on the back-half of Tetragrammaton have to be “Beri’Ah” and closer “Assiah.” Not only that, but these two  may be the best on the album. Every member contributes to the whole and the competing vocal styles mesh beautifully. “Beri’Ah” achieves this via melancholic passion while the closer tears through the countryside like a bassy earthquake.

After two soul-searching albums, it appears the band has found their doomy heart. Tetragrammaton may not be the doom album of the year, but this is the band’s best release to date. Unfortunately, there are a couple duds and the master is so squashed it could be consumed as wine. If you can get past these minor setbacks, you might discover the unique qualities of Tetragrammaton.


Rating: Good!
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Nordavind Records
Websites: ritiocculti.altervista.org | facebook.com/RitiOcculti
Releases Worldwide: October 7th, 2016

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  • The band photo reminds me of Mortal Kombat for some reason.

    • Diego Molero

      Oh yeah, Scorpion.

      • The Unicorn

        FATALITY!!!!!!!!!

        • Feytalist

          Test your might.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      It really does.

    • Finish him.

  • Diego Molero

    I was liking the embedded song until the clean vocals appeared, they are kind of annoying in my opinion.

    • The Unicorn

      Im not sure what she’s trying to do. It doesnt fit.

  • Iain Gleasure

    I must admit , I like the album art. It seems quirky and strange to me in an appealing way. Brilliant no, but enjoyable

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Lots of color is something you unfortunately don’t see much in covers out of the doom metal genre.

  • You wot m8?

    A female-fronted band with half-decent harsh vocals? Such a wonderfully rare thing.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      They are decent now. Not before…

    • brklyner

      Fortunately not so rare these days. Mares of Thrace, Oathbreaker, False, Dead to a Dying World, Black Table, Immortal Bird and Cloud Rat all have great female harsh vocalists, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few obvious ones.

      • lennymccall

        Jonesing for that Black Table to release this Friday!
        Saw Oathbreaker a couple days ago and all I can say is WOW. Record will be near the top of my year end listical.

    • You should check out Mørk Profeti, the brand new album by Ukrainian NordWitch. Masha Crematorium grows like a Minotaur.
      (On satanath dot bandcamp dot com)

      Also, a friend just tipped me of to Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, where a female vocalist displays her scorched throat. (Search youtube for The Dead Hate The Living).

    • Reese Burns

      Myrkur?

  • Eli Valcik

    Hey, Messa just released a new single.

    • Bas

      It looks like 2 singles in the meantime, a split single (on the same label as their album) and a flexidisc single (on slimer records). The latter is very cool. Its a cover of Robert Johnson’s Helhound on my trail !

  • Wilhelm

    This would sound twice as good with a good dynamic master – such a shame because otherwise this is right up my alley.

  • By-tor

    Sorta reminds me of Beehover. I like Beehoover. This, not so much. The raspy vocals just don’t work for me.

  • Martin Knap

    Seems like this album confirms the saying “don’t judge the book by its cover” – especially compared to Ortega’s cover it doesn’t look too good :-)

  • I think this is alright musically, but there are way too many harsh high frequencies in the vocals and bass. I think AMG sometimes makes too big a deal of the DR score, but I think this is up there with the worst production jobs of the year. I find it almost unlistenable.

    • It’s pretty bad alright, though not quite unlistenable (on the headphones I’m currently using, anyway). Shame. Will have to bring out the EQ for this one, because the music sounds promising.

  • Feytalist

    If there’s synths and drums, they’re not *only* using a bass, now are they :P Bass-fronted doom is certainly a thing; it can be quite effective. Heavy Temple’s EP is a great example, and I’m eagerly awaiting a full album from them.

    Anyway yeah, I like this. The harsh vocals are appropriately creepy and the cleans are great. I even like their previous work. Guess I’ll be expanding my doom collection in the near future.

  • Bart the Repairman

    Ouch, the clean signer possesses some mad vibrato. It sounds like she’s slapping herself in the neck while singing.

  • Bas

    Very different from their debut !
    I liked their debut a lot. This one is a bit more out there…but in a good way.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I agree. A little schizo at times but it’s an improvement. They’ll never be the best band in the world, but they seem to be honing.

      • Bas

        Yeah, I am very curious how they will be live. In a couple of weeks I’ll see them at the dutch doom days.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Nice!!

  • Laveyan satanism. It’s always so hokey.

    Whatever happened to that band Steel likes that had the music video of the family being murdered? Now there were some disturbing cultists.

    • Was that Sabbath Assembly?

      • Yes sir, thank you. I found it vaguely disturbing at the time and passed it over, only to find it coming to mind from time to time ever since. Probably time I gave my life savings to the cult.

  • Excentric_13073

    Gotta hand it to them for trying something different.

  • madhare

    The clean vocal passages remind me somehow of Therion. But unfortunately not in a good way.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I thought the same thing. And the same “not as good” way.

  • Treble Yell

    On paper this sounds like the sort of thing I would love but boy are the vocals a chore to sit through. The rasps are decent (if a tad forced) but the clean bits just doesn’t sit well with me. I would’ve preferred if they were closer to The Sins of Thy Beloved or Witch Mountain, personally.

  • Needs moar guitar and better clean vocals. Meh.

    So what are the doom releases of the year then? ;)

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Not sure… But, I am really digging this Northern Crown thing.