On disc: Ritual
The Hemulic Voluntary Band
(InsideOut Music - 2007)
The Swedish band Ritual released their self-titled debut in 1995 and with The Hemulic Voluntary Band they present their 4th album. Singer and guitarist Patrick Lundström is currently also singing in Kaipa - and Ritual are also based in prog rock with folk elements.
But when you first see the album you might wonder about the title and cover - I did, too. In the biography its explained... The title The Hemulic Voluntary Band is kinda taken from Tove Jansson's book about the Moomins. In some stories there is the hemulic voluntary brass band and the guys liked it somehow and adapted this.
Another album where it's a challenge to talk about the music... First you hear someone counting in and then the music starts... The first music offer a strange rhythmic which they use again during the song, but when the vocals join in it has a touch of early Jethro Tull... The refrain is catchy... The vocal line is folk inspired, but due to the unusual rhythmic the song The Hemulic Voluntary Band isn't an ear catcher. And it needs full attention from the listener - like all songs on this album!
With In The Wild it gets a bit easier for the listener, even if they still use unusual arrangements and patterns, but bass riffs and vocals create a nice melody line. The keyboard of Jon Gamble partly echoes the bass parts of Fredrik Lindqvist. Later a break and the keyboard is taking over... A piano-like part, but with another break they get back to the main theme.
Acoustically starts Late In November. The acoustic guitar is joined by flute and vocals - reduced to the essentials and more a complexly arranged folk song. This song gives the listener a few minutest to recover before Ritual get more complex again with The Groke. The drum pattern is constantly repeated and it has something dark and threatening, but on top of it all the vocals of Patrik Lundström.
A 60's feeling has Waiting By The Bridge at the beginning due to the vocals... But don't expect some psychedelic tune. The last track A Dangerous Journey is a more then 26 minutes long tune which is kinda split up in chapters - only you can't get to the single parts as it's on track. In the beginning only acoustic music with very different atmospheres and instruments - like nyckelharpa (quite similar to a fiddle or hurdy gurdy) and bouzouki - and Lundström's vocals on top. Later they change from acoustic to electric guitars, etc. But it takes more then 9 minutes to get there... And then they include some jazzy parts as counter part to the catchy, almost pop-like chorus. The part with the harmonica is giving me a hard time... Towards the end the speed up, but just to slow down again and surprise with some string parts.
Okay, Ritual's latest album is on a high level and combines many different influences. This album requires full attention and is nothing you can play as background music. I think that people who like prog metal with folk elements, who listen to bands like Kaipa and Jethro Tull should check this album out. People who like it more heavy should look for something else. The album has its moments, but especially A Dangerous Journey is extremely challenging and pushes it a bit too far for me.... Even if there are parts which I really like.