Infernal RitualsThere are many bands who claim their music is a ritual, but there are precious few who make anything that sounds even remotely religious. Alight in Ashes, the fourth full-length from Montreal’s Menace Ruine, indeed sounds like some kind of occult mass.
They accomplish this with a deceptively simple, yet entirely unique approach. The arcane mechanics of their method are shrouded in mystery, given that they credit the members as playing only “instruments.” In some places it sounds like it’s your typical guitar, as in “Set Water to Flames” or “Arsenikon (faded in discord).” But the bulk of the record sounds as if it’s played on a keyboard instrument through guitar-type distortion. The effect is something like an infernal church organ.
The droning, mostly percussion-free compositions and the folk-inflected female vocals add to the ceremonial effect. Those compositions have genuine melody, and despite the fact most of them exceed the 10 minute mark with little variation, their hypnotic quality ensures that you are drawn in, help rapt for the record’s 62 minutes. Geneviève’s husky, vibrato vocals sound somewhat like Marianne Faithfull, the woman on Metallica’s “The Memory Remains.” Her delivery is at least as melodious, more dynamic emotionally but chant-like in its measured tempo. Completing the ritual impression is a veil of white noise behind it all, seeming to obscure something terrible in the unholy of unholies. They mix things up occasionally, including percussive industrial sounds, subtle percussion, backmasked vocals, and layered vocals at various points.
I may be more inclined than most to enjoy this, given my profound love of SubRosa’s No Help for the Mighty Ones, which also had folksy female vocals and understated, slow-paced melodies. This is without a doubt one of the strangest metal records of the year, if metal it is. It won’t appeal to everyone, and will not reveal its worth upon one or two listens. Joining this ceremony is a commitment, but a rewarding one for those who are willing to give it due time.
The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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