There exist forces in nature which are eternal. Though they may ebb and flow throughout the ages, they never truly die. Some are peaceful and nourishing, bringing about a renewal of life and hope to what lies around us. Some are meant to keep us honest with ourselves about our own imminent mortality. And then there are those that just kick too much ass to be capable of being killed. The San Francisco/Bay Area thrash metal scene, born in the very early eighties through the likes of Metallica and Exodus, is such a force. It may have faded into obscurity, to a point where many thought it was dead, but now and again it rears its bloody and battered head, and more importantly, it cranks it up to 10 and raises the horns, thrusting them violently into the air. Heralding from a bevy of bands from a spectrum of genres, the Bay Area’s newest force in thrash, Kill Ritual, comes in with a fifty ton steamroller of an album, The Serpentine Ritual. In this album, they not only bring back the classic thrash sound, they draw on a multitude of influences from heavy metal to hard rock and even some prog metal elements to deliver a package that, though packaged in the all too familiar tattered denim, has a vicious surprise inside. Bay Area thrash is back, and I think it’s pissed off.
Kill Ritual was formed by two former members of Imagika, guitarist Steven Rice and Drummer Wayne DeVechi. Starting with some base material they had been working on from the Imagika days, the sought out serious talent to fill the bill. They ended up finding gold in the form of former Dark Angel bassist Danyael Williams and former Eldritch guitarist Roberto Prosetti, both musicians arriving with an extensive international recording and touring resume. To finish the line up, they needed pipes, and boy did they take care of that spot with Bay Area vocalist Josh Gibson, a man whose voice is varied enough to be a welcome addition to any band. With all the seats filled, they set out to record The Serpentine Ritual.
The album opens with the title track, The Serpentine Ritual, and goes from zero to insanity in a few bars, and aside from one breather in the sixth song; it sets a relentless pace for the entire album. With the standard metal lineup of drum, bass, two guitars, and vocals, these guys seriously tear it up. DeVichi and Williams set a furious yet calculated pace, with just enough spontaneity to keep the vibe fresh throughout the album. The rhythm guitar parts are incredible, varying in and out of sync with each other in a wonderful fashion, one always keeping in part with the rhythm as the other flies off on a blistering solo. The sound is viciously raw, as good thrash metal should be, yet it has so much more to it. There are the best elements of more standard heavy metal, 80s metal, and prog metal all infused in, presumably brought in by the experienced and brilliant musicians. To have a band with talent is one thing, but the addition of experience just adds so much more, it gives them the edge that other newer bands can take years trying to hone. Kill Ritual comes out of the gates sounding like scarred battle veterans.
To add to the nostalgic aspects of the music, Kill Ritual manages to also rehash some of our favorite metal themes. They touch on the dark and surreal in The Serpentine Ritual and Coat of Blood. The always popular subject of war is covered in Ambush and Time to Kill. The ones I love the most though are the songs whose thematic elements are simply “we’re a kick ass metal band here to blow your fucking mind away”, and boy do they. Torn Down is a class A homage to the pit, “look to the sky and watch your eye, elbows and fists come smashing, jump up and down and thrash around or you will take a lashing!”, or my personal favorite on the album, My Neighborhood, a quick glance at the furious night life that I’m sure many of us shared at one point or another, “The sun’s coming up, I’m almost out of alcohol, what’s that….it’s the garbage man.” If you haven’t had this experience, then this album might not be for you.
It’s so refreshing to hear this sound, so nostalgic yet so new, all in a polished manner. These guys bring some serious pain, and make no qualms about force feeding it down your throat. No excuses, no apologies, just metal. And best of all for me at least, unlike all the other European bands I review on this zine, these guys are from my stomping grounds, so I can see them all for the ticket and a half tank of gas. Expect a concert review at some future date, because I can’t wait to see Kill Ritual bring it live.