Ever since the trio Matos, Mariutti, Confessori had left ANGRA and the news spread that they continued under the name of SHAMAN, together with Luis' brother Hugo Mariutti, I was eagerly waiting for the day that I could finally hold "Ritual" in my hands.
After VIRGO had gone into a completely different direction, SHAMAN is a band that is absolutely a competitor for ANGRA for the Brazilian Power Metal throne and that without sounding like them too much, but being absolutely original in their compositions.
That starts with the great intro "Ancient Winds" that would fit into any grand, monumental movie like "Braveheart", a start in style before "Here I Am" delivers us with a fast, double bass driven Power Metal hammer that is far off any of the many Power Metal acts, playing in its quite own league, in which only maybe ANGRA play, which in a way also serves as only possible reference, but hey, ¾ of SHAMAN had been in ANGRA before, so if there are any parallels, how could there not?
That André Matos is an exceptional singer with a really original voice, is far known, just like being one of the nicest guys ever is hopefully too. And his voice is one of the pillars of strength and originality, just like the way these Brazilians write their songs, with riffing that is just different than the standard, very intense and diverse arrangements and the use of Brazilian folky melodies, rhythms and even instruments, great!
Like in the beginning of "For Tomorrow" with an Indian Dioruba, which is also used in other songs. And no matter if it's a fast Power Metal-track, a more balladesque passage with such a folky influence, SHAMAN here on "Ritual" are synonymous for high quality and originality. Like also the almost Progressive Power Metal tune "Over Your Head" with a guest keyboard solo of Derek Sherinian (Ex-DREAM THEATER, PLANET X), which still is a straight smoker as well or the classical female choir introing "Fairy Tale", "Blind Spell" with its almost tribal sounding rhythm or the fast and furious "Pride" with a great duo between Andre and EDGUY/AVANTASIA fronter Tobias Sammet, all of them great songs with their own identity and soul.
So SHAMAN have managed to create an album that is equally original and qualitatively outstanding, something that has grown very rare these days and even if you have grown tired of Power Metal, give SHAMAN their more than well deserved chance and you shall not regret it! (Online January 13, 2002)