posted on 8/2008 By:
I'm two for two with South American doom bands in the last few months. After the excellent surprise that was Mar de Grises' Draining The Waterheart, I got lucky again by running across this record, the latest from Peru's Reino Ermitaño ("Hermit Kingdom"). Rituales Interiores ("Inner Rituals," I believe) is the band's third record, and it warrants comparisons to a host of metal masters, including Sabbath, Pentagram, and St. Vitus, with dashes of Tull-ish folk influences to make the whole shebang sound positively massive, vintage and stunning. (Aside from the geographic connection and the requisite sense of despair and the fact that I’ve recently heard both for the first time, what’s here has little else in common with Mar de Grises’ expansive post-metal prog-doom. Reino Ermitaño is more riff-heavy, more hard-psyche, more classic doom than their Chilean neighbors.)
Whilst I’m making comparisons, there’s one that’s inevitable. Everything I’d read about Reino Ermitaño name-checked Acid King, and yes, the two bands are very similar, both in the guitar-work and in the vocals of Tania Duarte (vs. those of AK’s Lori). There’s also some Jex Thoth-y dreamy psychedelia in what Reino Ermitaño does—a similar sense of space and atmosphere along the crawling groove. That said, the crushing riffage in "Escudo Y Cruz" is straight-out trippy fuzz, the swaggering down-tuned power chords and the classic-rock vibe, and the album’s rare up-tempo moments (the mid-section of "Desencarnado") are in the same vein. But beside those stoner-doom instances, Duarte’s voice soars and twists, the melodies falling just a step beside wherever I expected them to fall. The final track, "El Ermitaño," features a male vocal, slightly phased, and between that, the mid-tempo pace and the clean-guitar lines, it ends the record on a spacey note reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s "Planet Caravan."
The lyrics are in Spanish, so I have no idea what the songs are about. I honestly kind of like that about Rituales—it lends a sense of mystery to the music and forces me to focus on the instrumental side of it, the melodies and the lumbering tempos. In an interview at StonerRock.com, Duarte declared Reino Ermitaño’s music to be about nature and magic and existentialism and poetry, and there’s a folky airy quality to Rituales that supports that statement, even if the language barrier prevents me from citing lyrical references as confirmation. Regardless of lyric, the riffage is stellar, worthy of praise across the board, with simplicity and heaviness in equal parts (take, for example, the three-note sluggish bent riff that opens "Hacia La Nada").
Rituales is a majestically slow affair, trudging along at a sloth-like pace and filled with morose, heavy psychedelic riffing and some slight twists to complement a solid base of traditional doominess. Very well done. Highly recommended.
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