Beast of Revelation – The Ancient Ritual of Death Review

Canucks about my age remember that commercial where the message was, literally, “everybody has a thing.” One kid liked bugs. Another kid did a likely inaccurate impression of a dinosaur. Metalheads don’t always understand the things of others, especially sports fans. Some are baffled as to why anyone bothers to investigate coach and player stats, scoffing at the absurdity while searching for stuff Dan Swanö produced or Fenriz recommended. As an avid reader of history, the story of metal and those who shaped it was always of tremendous interest to me. These foundational characters of legendary bands were my early ways of finding new music. I found Paths of Possession because Corpsegrinder was a member and I scoured the internet for his projects because Kill blew me away. I still like The End of the Hour.

Little has changed in this regard. Beast of Revelation involves Bob Bagchus, one of my favorite metal drummers and a foundational member of Asphyx. Bagchus knows what he likes, and conveniently I tend to like that stuff too. Also included are AJ van Drenth who handles guitar and bass, and Incantation’s John McEntee on vocals. Unsurprisingly, I’m reminded of Asphyx and its related side project Grand Supreme Blood Court, mixed with Incantation’s “comeback” era, which began with Vanquish in Vengeance. McEntee’s vocals sound as good as they did on Profane Nexus, but his phrasings and cadences remind more of Martin van Drunen than Incantation. This is an interesting touch that is likely to be overlooked.

Those familiar with Asphyx will be surprised with the beginning of The Ancient Ritual of Death. Opener “Legion” kicks in on a slow, crushing riff that recalls The Rack’s eponymous closing track. As is his specialty, Bagchus knows how to make these slow riffs lurch and lumber like leviathans. His drumming sounds simple, but it’s technically rather advanced – to do what Bagchus does, one must understand precisely what’s happening in any given riff and use each hit to draw out and emphasize its character. van Drenth’s bass performance is a nearly uniform strumming of root notes, which allows the guitars to chug and churn over a stable foundation – a smart compositional choice which allows his ample use of string bends, hammer-ons, and pull-offs to paint on a granite canvas. This is particularly apparent in “The Great Tribulation” but occurs throughout the record. The Ancient Ritual of Death showcases the virtues of technical simplicity in music. When “The Cryptic Void” is trudging on in its main riff, there’s a real heft and power to those few notes which makes the music really bear down on the listener. “The Unholy Roman Empire” is interesting in its mixture of old Asphyx and Paradise Lost melodicism and is well-placed as the penultimate track.

Nonetheless, there are a few little missteps. While parts of “The Fallen Ones” sound a bit too close to a Dirges of Elysium outtake for comfort, the Eric-Daniels-in-all-but-name lead and a quick burst of Morbid Tales riffing help salvage some identity. “Beast VI” sounds like an unused idea for Deathhammer Bagchus had kicking around – it’s a part of a song, but here is relegated to an instrumental and never builds into anything beyond a truncated Asphyx outtake. When “The Days of Vengeance” essentially turns into Grand Supreme Blood Court for a minute and then abruptly ends on some guitar noodling, I can’t help but feel that something better was intended that didn’t quite come through in execution.

The Ancient Ritual of Death is capped of by “We, the Lords of Chaos” which serves as an instrumental epilogue. It’s repetitive, somber, and sounds like Eric Daniels could have conceived it while he was on a Paradise Lost kick – a fitting end. The production here is clean and hefty and has an HM-2 flavored aftertaste that comes through in the more straightforward chugging bits. This is a good record, and not one to be overlooked. It’s not as good as Grand Supreme Blood Court’s sole full-length, but that’s okay – good death-doom is always welcome. Nowadays, with the glut of music overwhelming the senses, a good – but bordering on very good – record seems doomed to obscurity. I hope this fate does not befall Beast of Revelation. Make room for good music, because most people’s cherished records are good albums that speak to them and their idiosyncrasies, not genre-defining classics. Beast of Revelation exists to crush krush with earnest, unpretentious death-doom. If that’s your thing, give this your time and attention; you’ll be glad you did.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Released Worldwide: March 6th, 2020

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