The state of California is a bountiful land that has given many things to the world: over the top, big budget movie productions; delicious wine made from the fruit of its green, idyllic hills; and truly superior thrash metal. I prefer my movies foreign and wine nowhere near my mouth, but as a person whose childhood soundtrack was provided by the “Big Four of Thrash”, I take my thrash metal very seriously.
I have often been told that I am overly critical of the genre, but my harsh words come from holding the musicians that venture in the heavy world of thrash to high standards that are unfortunately very rarely met by newcomers. Yet even newcomers can surprise and amaze, and such was the case when I listened to Kill Ritual’s newborn album Karma Machine.
Okay, we can’t really call Kill Ritual newcomers since the band has released three albums in as many years, but for a band that has only been around since 2010 and has survived an almost complete lineup overhaul, Kill Ritual has managed to develop its own thrilling sound that is sure not to disappoint.
Like a bad lover (but a great metal band), Kill Ritual heeds no warning before going in. The first song on the album, “Just a Cut,” starts off with a distant, muted guitar that quickly becomes louder and viciously attacks the eardrums within seconds.
The sound crafted by the Californian band is a mix of old school thrash metal with a modern heavy metal twist. The voice of the new man behind Kill Ritual’s vocals, David Reed Watson, takes center stage on the album. Melodic, mighty, and just a little smoky, the singer’s voice would be well-suited for any metal subgenre, but is unique to the very particular brand of heavy thrash metal played by the entire ensemble, making the band’s sound more tailored and uncommon.
The band seems to have found inspiration from a variety of genres, which creates an eclectic yet strangely cohesive mix of songs. For example, “The Enemy Inside” features a dark, video game-style guitar riff that makes it sound like you’re walking into a villain’s lair; it had shivers running down my spine.
“My Green Room” is a completely lyrics-free zone that showcases the ridiculous musical talents of the deep-toned knight Bobby HQ Storm, the faster-than-his-shadow drummer Koryun Bobikyan, and the six-string master Steve Rice, who shines brighter than the northern star on the album’s sixth track.
Of course, every band with a shred of self-respect knows that you cannot have an epic album without a signature metal ballad. Kill Ritual knows exactly how to make an album great, and “The Key” gives a slow break before the end of the brutal aural assault that is the rest of Karma Machine.
I could write for days about this album. It’s everything that a great thrash album should be, with heavy guitar riffs that will make your headbanging muscles sore for days, pure rockstar vocals, deep and intricate bass that makes you forget about the lack of a second guitar, and percussive perfection that would put the world’s great drummers to shame.
So while Hollywood movies are consistently getting worse, and other wine-producing areas make Napa Valley green with envy, Kill Ritual is the glimmer of hope that the great state of California needs to show the world that it still knows how to do one thing better than everybody else; nothing beats Californian thrash metal.
(Honorable mention to Jobert Mello for the exemplary artwork of this magnificent album.)
Written by Kai Robidas
*edited by Kate Erickson