Abhor - Ritualia Stramonium - (8.5/10)
Published on March 5, 2015
Formed in 1995, Itialian cult black metal act Abhor have released five prior full-lengths, and 2015 sees the band releasing their newest accomplishment Ritualia Stramonium via Moribund Records. Complete with great musicianship and snarling vocals, this new release shows the band at the top of their game, and putting forth some wonderful, and haunting black metal music even after 20 years of existence.
From the opening seconds of the record, Abhor waste no time getting into the thick of things. This continues throughout the record with plenty of harsh, blood curdling vocals, and mostly mid-paced music. The drums are performed very well, the bass is nice and deep and the guitars provide plenty of memorable and great riffs throughout the album’s run-time. While lacking some standout moments as far as solos, the dark sound the guitars bring to Ritualia Stramonium does plenty to make the album feel as mystic and esoteric (to use the band’s own words) as it should. One of the striking features of the band’s sound is the use of keyboards. Having an organ feel at times, and other times just simply helping to create an aura of mystical satanic worship; the keys are subdued when needed, but work extremely well on these tracks. The final track on the record is an entirely keyboard driven piece that closes the record very well, and really feels morbid and haunting.
The album rarely slows down, and maintains at the very least a solid mid-pace over the 52 minutes, but the few slower sections help create more tension in the music, and lead the listener down a deeper path into the dark voyage this album embarks on. These sections fit really well next to the faster sections and the overall flow of the record is something that makes this easy to listen to in one sitting. The near hour play time breezes by. The overall production and mixing helps this as well. The album is clear and clean, but feels gritty and dark at times as well. It may not be as raw as some bands out there, but the slick production and mixing job ensures everything little nuance in the instruments as well as each raspy vocal line is heard perfectly. It really helps make this album a more complete package and brings it to one of the stand out black metal records so far this year.
With their sixth release, Abhor have really done it again. The band has been consistent with releasing some great music, and for the first record in four years; the time was clearly well spent. 2015 has been wrought with some interesting and great black metal releases thus far, and Ritualia Stramonium deserves a place near the top of that list. Dark at the right times, aggressive, memorable and addictive, Abhor have done the genre proud.