The Swedish quartet's third album in nine years makes one wonder if Ritual was ever influenced by Rage Against The Machine's release schedule. But here they are, they're back, they exist. Vocalist/guitarist Patrik Lundström is probably best known for his uber-expressive Mercuryal delivery—his voice certainly keeps things interesting. Joined by keyboardist Jon Gamble, bassist Fredrik Lindqvist, and drummer Johan Nordgren, Lundström & co. plod through another organic, bread & butter, jigfolksy power-pop romp, with the prog barometer falling sharply. Simply adjust your dial to home in on the good, the bad & the proggy.
"What Are You Waiting For" and "Humble Decision," the first two tracks, are testament enough that accessibility is very important to this outfit. The first is an energetic, jiggy pop-rawker, the latter a moody neo-ballad (not that neo). If the band wants to hit the Big Time (or was that what Lundström was supposed to be doing with his other band, Blond?), they need to get filmic with it and turn out a video for "Humble Decision"—it wouldn't be too out of place on MTV with its trip-hoppy~hip-skippy groove. "Explosive Paste" is a bit much to stomach with the throaty vox, while the instrumentation is nice, heavy…and repetitive. "Once The Tree Would Bloom" is the first truly good track, an acoustic jig-rock tune which is pretty much Ritual doing what they do best; the percussion, guitar & whistle work to great effect.
As much as they keep your attention, Lundström's vocal quirks can require some patience. "Moomin Took My Head" has some great off-the-wall music with some unexpected turns—if only there were longer instrumental passages. Patrik tones it down some on "Infinite Justice," which sounds partially tailored for the grunge market with its dirty, overloud guitar lead, though quieter verses alternate with the loud 'rawkin' ones—nice 'psych-synth-organ' crescendo by Gamble. And finally, "On" is an instrumental. That's right--no singing! Turn it up for "On," which would fit right at home on Jethro Tull's Songs For The Wood. Alas, it is succeeded by a pile of dreck in the form of "Shamanarama," a straightahead alt-rock number with less inspiration than a Sha-Na-Na and Dramarama collaboration. Keep it real, guys. Good production won't always cover up the offensive. There is much more to appreciate with "Breathing" and it's gloomy, Floydian demeanor & raw Mellotron strings—it's phantom limb must be the final track, "Off," a short wordless ditty of analog synthiness. The verdict: ±3/3-¼ stars.
No party poopers—Ritual fans are gonna love this. Everyone else to the taste test line, don your aprons. Blindfolds on.