Let’s get this out the way. This review does not include the cliche comparison of Maria Brink to ‘a metal Lady Gaga’. For a start, that is just lazy journalism. Secondly, In This Moment are much more than a quirky stage show with an attractive singer. It’s true the genre-spanning metal-ists from LA never do anything by half. You can see this in their live show’s, vocalist Maria Brinks’ social media feeds, and most importantly – their music. A lot of critics seem to think ITM are all about their image. Their sixth-studio album ‘Ritual’ looks to disprove this notion.
The album begins with some haunting chimes and atmospheric voices, reminds me of WWE’s The Undertaker for some reason, just needs the church bell. This slowly morphs in to tribal chanting and distorted voices, setting the scene for ‘Ritual’. We then go in to the album’s lead single Oh Lord which you are forgiven for thinking is a Halestorm track. As expect, it’s different to what we are used to with ITM , but still very rock n roll. This track has more of a country-blues feel to it, a great track to open the album with. We re-visit this style on tracks like River Of Fire which are nearer the hard-rock genre, with an ‘industrial’ spin.
‘Black Wedding’ starts with a bluesy piano that wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack of Westworld, and features metal royalty in the shape of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. Both Halford’s and Brink’s voices compliment each other very well, a duet made in heaven… or hell -depends how you look at it. This is almost a take on Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ but with a 21st century twist. This eases us back in to the style we have come to love with ITM. Even so, we take another slight u-turn with a cover of Phil Collins’ In Air Tonight. The most hardened Collins’ hater can’t deny this is a great song to begin with, yet Maria Brink’s vocal, Chris Howorth’s guitar, and most notably Kent Diimel’s drumming make this sound how it really should have from the start. The mark of a great cover is putting your own stamp on it. In This Moment certainly do that here. A little subdued for a metal band, but still a fantastic rendition.
The next track is called Joan Of Arc which for some reason I thought was going to be a Smiths cover, alas it is not. Strangely enough, this is a more familiar sound for ITM. A bouncy Rob Zombie-esque groove which compliments the guitar riff really well. The song is obviously about female empowerment, something Brink feels strongly about. Her passion shines through on songs like this. This is quirky enough to feature on other In This Moment albums, which is a good thing in my book. Witching Hour follows this style opening with a horror movie sample followed by a rockabilly style riff, not a million miles away from a band like The Cramps. Saying that bassist Travis Johnson is the real star of this track even giving it a slight Joy Division influence. Highlight of the album so far.
Half God, Half Devil follows this pattern and even has shades of Korn’s heavier material. Brinks’ howl is at its raspiest here, and cements her as a female Dani Filth or Chester Bennington, in terms of vocal range.Much like the following song Me No Importa this is classic, angst-y, genre-defying ITM. You feel the whole sense that this band is always a team, rather than just a showcase for Maria Brink – certainly a middle finger to their critics who feel this is sometimes the case. Each musician is helping the other to create something wonderful, as all bands should be.
Closing track (on most versions) Lay Your Gun Down is an emotional ballad, a great way to underline this left-field entry in ITM’s back-catalogue. A lot of fans may not take to this straight away, but like most classics: it takes a few listens to grow on you. Some may even look back on this record as ‘misunderstood’. It’s also worth noting the Japanese special edition include’s a cover of Radiohead’s Creep. Without hearing this I can not really give a fair judgement, but I think this would be a nice inclusion on the album overall.
Perhaps ‘Ritual’ doesn’t have the catchiest tunes or doesn’t follow the same style all the way through like previous albums by In This Moment, but that doesn’t matter this is a solid record, even if it is a bit different. The best bands of all time progress with each record. To use a good example: The Beatles weren’t the same band in 1967 singing I Am The Walrus as they were in 1962 singing Love Me Do , were they? Possibly seen as ‘misunderstood’ in the future by some fans, I feel anyone who has liked anything by In This Moment needs to give it at least one listen and decide for themselves.