RITUAL - WIDOW - SHADOW KINGDOM
This album was originally out in the year 1983 and no one noticed either because we were all watching Indiana Jones or that the band and its label were as anonymous as compassion and humanity in the USA. Apparently, according to the band, 500 original copies of the album were issued without a band logo/name on the front leading to many believing it was a release by a band called Widow. Nonetheless, the original artwork on the back cover of this re-release does feature the band’s name. In that case, there are now several versions of this album floating around.
One does not get to say it often on the heavy metal scene, but Widow is an inferior set of songs compared to its younger sibling, Valley Of The Kings. Widow is unfocused and often off target. With no cohesive element or definitive sound the album would not have had much of a following even had it received any kind of a promotional push.
Following an intro, the song Widow quickly sets up a sound akin to Black Sabbath’s Heaven And Hell. With the music playing one cannot but start to hum the lyrics to the Sabbath song. The same can be said of the song Morning Star. Never For Evil, in contrast, launches into a Motörhead slice of rumble despite the dissimilar vocals of Gypsy and Lemmy. This track is another example of why this album is unimpressive. It begins with a minute-long instrumental that is rather banal and off-putting. Aside from these segments, songs drag on or occasionally fade out for no reason. Only on the song Burning does one find some of the feel and emotional connection that the band would put to tape ten years later, This song has more character and in that sense is more akin to Ritual’s lyrics.
Apparently, Ritual has not had much luck in this world. Some of it is of the band’s own doing. A more substantial and compact album would have been better. It is good to see Shadow Kingdom bring this disc out though. It is a piece of history and features a lost sound, the old and the new cover and an interview with the group’s founder within its booklet. - Ali “The Metallian”
RITUAL - VALLEY OF THE KINGS - SHADOW KINGDOM
Valley Of The Kings is one of those wonders of the heavy metal scene. It is either a testament to metallic resolve or blind obsession. The Brits were formed in 1973, issued their debut in 1983, issued this sophomore LP in 1993 and have had it now reissued in 2008. There is a not a 'valley' depicted anywhere on this album’s artwork, but the aforementioned saga might be perceived as a 'ritual' of its own.
Wrongly classified as NWOBHM, for the band’s founding and sound have little relevance to either, Ritual is an organic, honest, no-frills hard rock band with a penchant for delivering on the goods. The band’s sound is fairly simple and uneventful instead relying on the vocals, music and the riff to deliver its purpose. That music ranges from the searing hard rock - which is a trademark for the band obviously - to fairly workmanlike balladry. The impressive guitar work of Re Bethe (yes, I know) is soulful, bluesy, but hard and loud, yet his vocals are the centre of the gravity on the album. The passionate wailing voice of the man conveys a sincere feeling in the recordings very often missing in contemporary music. The arrangements do get repetitious however and the song Come To The Ritual, for instance, has to resort to an awkwardly abrupt ending. One would not want to stare into the man’s eyes for too long. The gravity of the combination is reminiscent of Diamond Head; not in style, but in feeling. Come to think of it, some of the lyrics bear some relationship to Diamond Head as well. The end of Burning has a distinct Led Zeppelin flavour, which is unusual for Ritual, while the song after is a slow and brooding one. The combination is often to be found here. The album’s closing cut, Children Of The Night, has a little more frill than the rest of the proceedings. This is good stuff and not just as a lesson in patience! - Ali “The Metallian”