Interview with Robert Ritual
Interview conducted by Michel Renaud
Date online: November 8, 2009
Ritual is a L.A.-based Black Metal band that I first ran into more than 9 years ago, when I found their last album Soldiers Under Satan's Command, a damn cool, catchy Black/Thrash album. The band was formed in the early 90s and had released two albums of raw and atmospheric Black Metal before Soldiers..., after which they called it quits. Band leader Robert has now re-formed the band with a new line-up and they are busy writing new songs with a new direction, incorporating more varied styles and influences.
Hails! First things first… Ritual isn't a band that I've seen discussed much in the past 10 years, so a little history won't hurt. You guys formed back in 1993 and were most likely one of the first USBM bands. How did Ritual come to be? What inspired you guys to play this genre of music?
Ritual was formed by myself after playing in a friend's Death Metal band and growing tired of the limitations of said genre. My interest in Metal was always geared towards the more sinister occult aspect, so it was a natural that a style shift would happen. I went through endless session musicians before finding the right people and with this line-up three albums were made.
I've seen "The Black Circle" mentioned, but have no idea what this was. Could you shed some light on this?
I was in contact with certain fellows in Norway and being young, I wanted to be a part of musical history, or so I thought. I was basically an outcast and could identify with this outsider movement of misanthropes who wanted to wage war against the establishment. It doesn't bother me that people like antihumanism.com think I am a retarted ghetto kid from a broken home because they would never say that to my face. They were the nerds in school who viewed Metal as an escape from being bullied in school and now with the advent of the Internet, have decided to become cyber bullies to get even with the villains of their childhood.
You released three albums in four years. How were they received at the time?
The first and third were the best reviewed as far as I recall, earning 80% percent average ratings. Many zines hailed us for being the first U.S band to their ears playing a more atmospheric style of Black Metal. The American acts at the time were still stuck in the Dark Death Metal sound until some years later. Of course there were a few assholes who couldn't stomach the idea of a band playing this style from the land of sunshine and filth. Of course no one complains about that these days, but back then some had a problem.
The Summoning and Demonic Winter Metal are closer to each other musically – raw and dirty, somewhat primitive Black Metal. Soldiers Under Satan's Command is quite different, a pretty catchy – yet dark enough – slab of blackened Thrash Metal. Were there any reasons for the change of direction at the time?
We lost an original member who played the keyboard parts and didn't have a keyboard at the time so we changed the style.
Where did the cover art for Soldiers... come from? That's what caught my eye when I found the album. Tsjuder's Kill for Satan album (from 2000) has the same cover art, but in black and white and with the horseman headed in the other direction (mirrored image, basically.)
We stole it from some D&D book I believe since we lost contact with our original artist and had no time to find a new one.
All of your albums were released by Wild Rags Records – another entity I haven't seen much good comments about. How was the relationship with that record company back then?
Richard (Wild Rags) was very upfront, maybe too upfront for the sensitive momma's boys who came into the shop. He was always a prick, but an honest one, and offered much better deals than rip offs like Odin from Moribund now offer. Richard offered now what would be the equivalent of what Century Media would offer a new band. So much for the good old days!
Are there any chances of seeing your albums reissued, or does the defunct Wild Rags still somehow own the recordings?
I have many fans asking this question and the only thing I can say is: complain to the labels for rather signing a poser act like Abigail Williams or the attention whores in Watain than re-release a record from the early days of Black Metal.Some events led to some band members being jailed. When was that, and what happened exactly?
Three churches were vandalized in different ways and plans were being made for more acts when the FBI landed on my doorstep and put a stop to things. They were ugly buildings anyway with no achitectual quality and looked much better after we altered them!
What led to the split up in the late 90s? Was it because some members ended up in jail, or did that happen later?Partly yes, since I was the band founder and made all the important decisions. Also members lost interest in what we created, which happens. Fuck it, we are back with a new line-up, darker weirder insane material, and hopefully live rituals early next year.
Ritual is now a band again, although it's not the line up from back when the band split up. Were all former members invited to join, and why didn't they?
Mike left because he would rather make trendy Metalcore music to pick up girls at the local gym. I'm quoting him almost word for word so if he has a problem, it is with himself. Ian lost interest as well but now claims he wants to be a part of the new songwriting effort, and material heard was decent with vibes of the debut springing to mind. New material will be different though with Deathrock, Ambient, Industrial, and Blacker than Black Metal sounds being explored. Picture The Doors at their darkest covering Burzum and your almost there!
Could you introduce the new line up?
Me and new guitarist Pete with special guests contributing various instrumental and vocal parts.
I read an interview on a web site a few weeks ago and, well, it was extremely unprofessional (to put it mildly…) Looks like that guy hated your guts. Seeing the questions, I'm wondering why you even bothered to answer them?
He is a character from our past who thought we had forgotten about him and decided to be an Internet bully because we confronted him years ago about a bad review he posted online. He surely wanted publicity for his site by giving a shit interview, hoping I would send fans to his website which I did not, so he went under different names and claimed to own me on a forum no one gives a shit about. I challenged him to back up his claim that I was a fraud and bring a camera crew but he declined as most Internet warriors do. He thinks Ritual has made a career out of a gimmick, but a gimmick doesn't get you a year in prison, and where is the money from this lucractive business of Black Metal? I didn't make albums for him since this is not fast food and he had to be an Internet brat and complain which is just an excuse to talk about himself since he lacks any real talent to make music of his own.
Were there any "fall outs" from that interview? I noticed that the comments on the web site were pretty inflammatory, and rarely in your favour. Did you get any other feedback from that?
A few fans read it and got pissed off and said they would find him and kill him but it's not necessary as they are a spoof webzine similar to Grimoire Of Exalted Deeds and have like 50 people visiting it. They are like Revolver/Decibel trying to turn Black Metal into Spinal Tap by making stupid Black Metal Christmas issues and How To Dress Black Metal articles and they really deserve letter bombs instead of people sending money for subscriptions. Oh well, I am working on a new moniker for this type of music and fans can commit crazy acts for merchandise instead of petty cash since we all earn a living by other means anyway. I've given away much merchandise to true fans because I would rather have a true fan from a third world country than sell it on eBay to a rich spoiled brat.
It seems like there's never been much lost love for Ritual. Back when I found Soldiers Under Satan's Command in 2000, I inquired about the band on a Black Metal forum on Usenet (not sure many people know what this is nowadays ;)), and even though I was able to learn about your discography, the few comments were very negative. Then we have that guy with the interview, and I also noticed a couple of reviews that were extremely negative. Did you guys fuck somebody's girlfriend or something? Haha Seriously, what's up with all the negative press? I haven't found much press about Ritual, let alone much positive comments...
We posted some of the only reviews that exist on the web on our Myspace page and they are positive, so I'm not sure which sites you are reading from (Metal-Archives is one - Ed.). Of course they hated us because I voice my opinion (talking shit) but why should I censor myself when I am merely stating an opinion. I'm not U2 so I don't have to worry about suits breathing down my neck telling me what I can and cannot say. Of course I could go to The Gathering Of Shadows and everyone could apologize for talking shit and then go home and talk more shit on message boards no one looks at, but why bother.
In 2002, Hell's Metal released a compilation of very raw, early material named Chapter 666 (1993-1994). Was this done with your blessing? Were there any intentions of re-forming Ritual at the time?
No, that release was terrible and made using 3rd generation tape dubs. It was an attempt by an ex guitarist to generate quick money by releasing recordings that were meant for the band only. Fuck off for that.You published a remake of "Dark Cathedrals" on Myspace a couple of months ago, slightly less raw, and more polished than the original. Is this the kind of sound we can expect from new Ritual material? I guess I'm just asking what's in store for us with a future release?
No not really. It was just a good way to figure out the new direction by first remaking an older track. The new material will be psychedelic, ambient, industrial, trance-like in its riffing and altogether darker. We won't be so conservative in approach and instead bring many new elements into the song writing.
You're now using a "slogan" that says "Criminal Black Metal". What should we read into that?
Criminal Black Metal is us recognizing the roots of Black Metal as a forum to spread dark ideas and to promote real rebellion instead of merely covering ourselves in pigeons blood to sell records. The idea is that the individual can be transformed into something better by descending into darkness to then ascend into the light of Lucifer. Black Metal is a tool for spiritual rebellion in the same way Lucifer is. These days bands like Watain are promoted as the most dangerous band etc but I don't fear for my safety at their concerts. I would dare them to cross the band/audience boundary like GG Allin did and fight with their audience or cause a riot. They would never do that because they are still bound by the chains of the recording industry and not a real force of rebellion. I will point out that their music is excellent but when they claim to bring chaos, violence etc to venues it is still restricted by the laws they claim to rebel against.
You can hear some new (currently unmastered) Ritual songs on their Myspace page at www.myspace.com/ritualofficial ("Arid Empires" and "Doomed Revelation"), as well as some other material. Robert also sent me a couple more unmastered tracks: "Bedlam My Awakening" and "Rumoured Hope", both of which fit the band's new direction (described above) very well. Atmospheric Black Metal with a strong ambient/psychedelic feel - a bit "trippy", if I may say so. Nothing like my favourite album of theirs (the Black/Thrasher Soldiers Under Satan's Command), but interesting nonetheless.
|Other information about Ritual on this site|
|Review: Soldiers Under Satan's Command|
|Review: Demonic Winter Metal|
|Review: Chapter 666 (1993-1994)|
|Review: The Resurrection|
|Review: Epic Sagas|
|Interview with Ian Fleming on February 10, 2010 (Interviewed by Michel Renaud)|
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