Ritual Carnage

I, Infidel

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Following an extended three-year break that left a good many fans worried about the band's future, Japanese-American thrashers Ritual Carnage eventually returned with their fourth album, I, Infidel, in 2005 -- ready to "bang the head that doesn't bang" like it was still 1983, as it were. Of course, the band's sonic assault isn't entirely retro, but rather founded on the genre's hallowed origins, and then pushed to overdrive by modern studio technology for a sludgy, almost death metal-like wall of sound, never dreamt of by the original Bay Area bands. But make no mistake, regardless of their occasional mislabeling under the "death" column, Ritual Carnage are a true thrash band in most every way -- both good and bad. Dan Montgomery's new "singing" technique might be an acquired taste, but there's no denying that its nasal, atonal shouting quality -- in a John Connelly (Nuclear Assault) or Sean Killian (Vio-Lence) mold -- is perhaps even more legitimately old-school thrash than his former Chuck Billy (Testament) growl. No guarantees, in other words, where that item is concerned, but plenty of them when it comes to the cleverly named Eddie Van Koide's frenzied riffs, some of which (the title track, "Straight to the Nether Regions," "I Am War") are so damn great they'd make Slayer jealous. (Others, like the ascending pattern snuck into "Twilight of the All Too Human," copped straight out of "War Ensemble," may leave them crying lawsuit!) A good majority of the remaining tracks lack the personality to truly stand out from each other, but "Do Not Resuscitate" is a definite exception, being uncharacteristically rife with time changes and slower passages. As for the overall grade of I, Infidel, the massive display of thrash metal riffing it contains is unquestionably impressive, but more discerning listeners may find the songwriting a little lacking in terms of variety and creativity.

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