Release DetailsLABEL Code666
RELEASED ON 1/18/2013
The band understands that the balance of symphonic elements and slightly neoclassical melodies is a dance...
As a style, symphonic black metal is generally theatrical, grandiose, and (without necessarily implying fault) often quite pompous. It isn’t exactly a sub-genre known for scaling it back. That made Irreversible Decay, the debut from Belgians Saille, all the more refreshing upon its release in 2011. It wasn’t loaded with long intros or overwrought attempts at conjuring the macabre, but just great black metal with a symphonic bent. It was a fresh album in a starved style, and the band wasted little time delivering a follow-up in this year’s Ritu.
In fact, if one had to make a real complaint about this sophomore effort, it is that Saille probably should have employed more theatricality. A massive mood-setting intro would have served the overall tone of the album better than the first two tracks, “Blood Libel” and “Subcutaneous Terror.” Both are made up of quality ingredients (neoclassical black metal tremolo riffing, blasting, harsh vocals, etc.), but their structure feels a tad disjointed in comparison to later tracks. Similarly, closer “Ritual Descent” just ends with little fanfare, cheapening the finale of what had grown into a very strong album by that point.
Thankfully, the meat of the album is stellar. Once the third track, the slower, menacing “Fhtagn” gets going, Ritu hits a stride of high quality material that shows a near mastery of the craft. (The only remaining missteps are that truncated ending and a brief interlude that adds little to the overall proceedings.) “Upon the Idol of Crona” weaves a tapestry of tasteful blasting, soaring string/key enhancements, and intense riffs into a song that somehow just feels important. When a superb guitar solo plays over an evolving backdrop and carries the song into its massive conclusion, it shows Saille at absolute peak strength. The main theme of “Haunter of the Dark” takes two steps up and one step down repeatedly, as if the song itself is aiming ever higher towards some great goal.
Other parts of Ritu bring the slightest touch of folk (the sorrowful, weeping “Runaljod”) or an even slighter hint of goth (“Ritual Descent”), but it isn’t in these extra flairs where Saille finds their success, but rather in the mastery of their main focus. The band understands that the balance of symphonic elements and slightly neoclassical melodies is a dance, one that must be presented like a painting in motion. The drums, intertwining guitars, keys, vocals and everything else are all just players in this dance, moving gracefully around each other and only coming together at the most crucial moments. The understanding of this key cog in writing symphonic, dynamic black metal is what renders the majority of Ritu quite fantastic, in spite of the bookending choices.
So even if Ritu is a slightly less of a complete album than Irreversible Decay, it would be incorrect to say that Saille has taken a step backwards. The best material here is every bit as strong as that on the debut, there were just some faulty choices in the department of album structure. This would get a hearty recommendation to fans of symphonic and melodic black metal even if there wasn’t a drastic shortage of the style these days, but there is, so eat it up. Just keep in mind that Ritu is really a killer 35-minute album disguised in a 48-minute suit.