Rings Of Saturn - Lugal Ki En - (9/10)
Published on October 16, 2014
Self-dubbed “alien-core” outfit Rings Of Saturn have drummed up a considerable degree of notoriety within death metal/core circles on two counts: first, by having released two dazzlingly technical and well-received albums – 2010’s Embryonic Anomaly and Dingir (2012) – that display a heightened aptitude and consideration for solid composition and memorable songwriting; and second, by the band (particularly guitarists Lucas Mann and Joel Omans) purportedly being incapable of playing such dazzlingly technical and well constructed songs that they record at half speed – an accusation to which Mann bizarrely responded by posting a play-through video that turned out to be him miming along to a guitar pro track…
Such recording practices shouldn’t come as too much of a shock in this modern age of pro-tools, triggers and Axe-fx, what have you… but it’s a criticism given extra weight given that technical ability is an integral part of the appeal of the tech-death genre.1 I’m sure there’s a plethora of tech-death fans who’d be all too happy to take time off from salivating over the upcoming Abysmal Dawn album to tell my why I couldn’t be more wrong, but at the end of the day, if it makes the album sound good/better then why the hell not? Such technological utilization and reliance goes hand in hand with the band’s preoccupation with the realms of science fiction – as Mann explains, “The concept of the album in a nutshell is that long after the Aliens conquer humanity, they evolve to a point where they transcend space, time and reality to take their conquest into the realm of the gods where they wage war on angels and demons.”
Lugal Ki En, whose title we’re told (again by Mann) “translates from ancient Sumerian cuneiform to mean ‘King Of The Earthlings, Lord Of The Cosmic World,’“ sees a prominence of –core elements leaking into Rings Of Saturn’s sound, with a noticeably increased breakdown frequency and, vocalist Ian Bearer’s added use of his higher-pitch shriek. The move seems like a conscious decision given the album’s dedication to late, Suicide Silence frontman, Mitch Lucker – whose praise for Rings Of Saturn can be heard closing out the album, following a nifty cover of Suicide Silence’s trademark tune, “No Pity For A Coward” – and the addition of Infant Annihilator/Black Tongue sticksman Aaron Kitcher to the fold.
More like Rings Of Sat-turn that shit up!
With The Faceless having lapsed into progressive obscurity,2 Lugal Ki En is the kind of record that might have been expected of that band had they stuck with the otherworldly, technical approach of Planetary Duality while retaining the chunk of their equally-impressive debut, Akeldama. Sure, Rings Of Saturn might not hold up to The Faceless’s scope, and Michael Keene can certainly play his instrument(s), but there’s simply no denying the compositional quality of Lugal Ki En, nor its expansive aspect for that matter. These songs hold up to repeated listens, with songs like the glorious “Eviscerate” palpably boring themselves into your brain.3
Mastodon art; shmastodon fart.
The added penchant for chuggery gives these songs a far more definite shape and staying power than the band have managed before. Lugal Ki En falls short of being a properly “progressive” album but it’s an undeniably expansive one. The record also furthers the technological debate by actually – and often – incorporating unconcealed MIDI guitars into the mix, which often works rather well – especially on such masterful tracks as “Natural Selection” and “Godless Times” – adding a further sci-fi twist to things, and should (again) come as no surprise given The Faceless’s precedent utilization of MIDI-programmed drums on Autotheism.
Lugal Ki En is a far more accomplished record than anything Rings Have Saturn have managed to date, which plays to the bands strengths while simultaneously pushing their sound into new and interesting (if not unexplored) frontiers. Whatever your thoughts on the controversy surrounding the band, there’s no denying Rings Of Saturn’s knack for dense and stimulating song construction, which – in a genre that can become as tiresome as technical death metal – is inexpensively vital. In a world populated by countless, nondescript tech-death bands (with increasing instances of up-turned, brightly-colored caps), Rings Of Saturn stand apart.
For the kinds of people who like:
The Faceless, Fallujah, Beneath The Massacre
If the whole allegedly-supposedly-can’t-play-their-instruments (but probably totally can) thing bothers you, maybe give these a go:
Disclaimer: This review was written at full speed (50 wpm) with no augmentative technical assistance besides the industry standard use of formatting tools, spell-check and the occasional, sparing usage of the thesaurus function when really, really stuck for a word.
1 Though, for what other genres would half-time recording really be appropriate?
2 i.e. having disappeared up Michael Keene’s very own personal butthole.
3 Presumably to burst forth at some opportune moment in some kind of fucked up, death metal interpretation of “the John Hurt moment.”