Ritual Chamber - Obscurations (To Feast on the Seraphim)Simply put, Obscurations (To Feast on the Seraphim), the début by one-man band Ritual Chamber, is easily an archetype of how “evil” music should sound. Guitar riffs and growled vocals rise from a gutter filled with tortured souls, putrid bile drips from drum kicks and rumbling bass lines, and a general atmosphere of rot and despair fills each and every song. Cliché as it may seem, it’s dread incarnated: at its best, it’s chilling, at its worse, even more so. Bay Area-based Dario J. Derna might be an upstanding citizen, a dad, and a husband by day, but once he assumes the persona of Numinas, well, you better cower and hide.

Filth. That’s the word of the day. That’s the word you’ll first be trying to g(r)asp for while listening to Ritual Chamber. The music might snake from slow to fast, from dissonant to shyly melodic, but the existential, spiritual sense of filth and looseness never fades and is exacerbated by pseudophilosophical, quasi-satanic yet strangely fitting lyrics. At the same time, there’s the noticeable impact of an invisible hand at work; arranging, guiding the meticulous creation, and carefully placing elements in the music. As if behind all of this inhuman grime there was a cleverly designed, clinical process that leaves nothing to chance. Even the introductory demonic sounds, growling and tearing at flesh, feel processed and wittily emphasized, the result of some kind of wicked Foley work. Having played in a number of death, black, and doom metal bands (Krohm – his other solo project, Drawn and Quartered, Evoken, etc.) in various roles, Derna once again demonstrates he has the chops, enough creativity, and self-control to single-handedly pull off a successful death metal album based on a mixture of old school traditions, while also drawing heavily from many other, younger death metal styles. You might find hints of Deathspell Omega, Morbid Angel, and Cannibal Corpse scattered throughout the cuts, but rest assured that most of these are done with measure and taste.

There are three songs, two of them selected to be ambassadors for this release, that justify the existence of Obscurations (To Feast on the Seraphim) by themselves. The first of these, “Beings of Entropy,” is what made me lust after the record to begin with. The massive and excruciatingly nasty opening riff, the suffocating, drowning-in-tar stream of bass and drums pouring through the walls, and the unexpectedly catchy solo all twisted into a varied, dynamic song rooted in Incantation’s sort of death metal. On the other hand, “Void Indoctrination” with its smoldering tremolos and the death-gone-doom, unnaturally slow “A Parasitic Universe” were tunes that kept me coming back. There’s a bit of everything and everyone mixed in Ritual Chamber’s approach, with Derna reinventing himself slightly from song to song, but keeping the mood steadily oppressive and dire. The album is not without its flaws, though, with the buzzing “The Aphotic Dread” and the overly long closer “As Dust and the Animal” making most obvious the record’s drops into generic and somewhat bland territories. Even songs like the generally pleasing “The Eternal Eye” have a tendency to dissolve into poorly defined madness before being pieced back together, with mixed results.

Ritual Chamber 2016

Looking at the quality of one-man band releases during the years, one gets the feel that, while generally hit-or-miss as with all other bands, the quality-to-quantity ratio leans in their favour (Leviathan, Necrophagist, and Panopticon, to name just a few). Taking control of all segments of the music creation process, they act with a single-minded focus, but are also forced to deal with a more painful incubation period, foregoing the support, creativity, and direction of other members. While freeing, such an approach brings its own bag of problems. Ritual Chamber demonstrates this in full, crafting a thoroughly enjoyable if at times flawed record. From a technical standpoint, Derna’s solid musicianship, regardless of instrument, is sustained by a bassy, heavy and surprisingly dynamic sound that muddles the guitars and drums just enough to bring out and accentuate the riffs’ sludginess and the drums’ muffled kicks, yet that never masks their tone.

Coming on the heels of the solid and generally lauded demo The Pits of Tentacled Screams, Obscurations (To Feast on the Seraphim) is a well-rounded and thought-out follow-up and a worthy “proper” debut. If nothing else, it’s the fascinating sense of demonic, otherworldly putrescence and the oft ingenious, borderline catchy riffs that make it a compelling, easily recommendable listen.

Rating: Good!
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Websites: ritualchamber.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/theritualchamber
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2016

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  • Goldicot

    There are a huge number of really bad one-man bands. They tend to lurk around in atmospheric forests and geometric pluralities, and sometimes they come out to explore diminished arpeggios or fuzzy downtuned blues licks.

    That said, this one’s pretty good, if unassuming.

    • Roquentin

      That’s true, but I somehow don’t consider those projects “bands” at all. Guitar + Ableton does not a band make.

      OTOH, Derna plays everything here (drums, guitars, keyboards, bass), so he’s pretty much legit. Plus, the music he writes is solid.

      • Goldicot

        Limiting actual bands to having the one man actually play all of the instruments is not a bad methodology. I wouldn’t use it, but I can see the logic in it. And it would likely make your statement about one-man bands having more quality per quantity more accurate.

        The first Necrophagist album was drum machine’d though, which would put it in the same class as many bedroom projects who play everything but the digitized ambiance and the drums.

        • Diego Molero

          Last year Ashbringer’s record was pretty good, he played every instrument and vocals, he did the mixing and mastering, he even did the artwork, and he is only 18 years old, very impressive

  • Sounds great, but… aren’t these two songs basically the same? Is the whole album built around one riff?

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I see Last Rites took a chunk out of this album for being largely unimaginative Incantation worship. I’m interested in hearing it tomorrow.

      • Roquentin

        I don’t agree with that review. Yes, there are clear Incantation influences in the riffs and songwriting, but it’s not that pronounced nor does the record rely only on that.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Good review, btw. Made me stoked to hear it. I love that grimy, filthy kind of atmosphere, like what Autopsy produces.

    • Roquentin

      These two are similar, but in general there’s not much recycling between the songs. Still, the album can sound a tad repetitive at times – not really unusual for brutal death metal. That’s why it’s a 3.0, after all.

  • Roquentin, I absolutely loved your intro. Sold me hook, line, and sinker. Well done! Love the rating too.

    • Roquentin

      Thank you, kind sir!

  • hallowed

    This is really good. Thanks.

  • sir_c

    I just dig that atmosphere like hearing a dark guttural rumble coming up from the deep in a cave, of which you don’t know what it is, but you know for sure it won’t bring any good. The orcs are a coming!

  • OzanCan

    The cover art kinda reminds me of Gustav Goré…Somehow I have a problem listening to the embedded track :(

    • Roquentin

      Yes, the artwork certainly shares some similarities with Doré’s approach: the contrast between shadows and light, the density of depicted characters…

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Great review, Roquentin. This sounds like the record I’ve always wished Father Befouled would release.

    • Roquentin

      I’ve always felt that FB did better on splits than on full-lengths. “Morbid Destitution of Covenant” is pretty good, though.

  • Awesome track. Sounds like the first Incantation album with a lot more imaginative riffs and song structure. Looks like I’ll be picking this up.

  • Tom Hardy

    Vocally I see parallels to what Corchado accomplished with Diabolical Conquest. The only thing setting it apart from Incantation is the frequent use of leads to push the song melodically, unexpectedly. I don’t see myself coming back to listening to these songs though, gets old fairly quick.