Rituals of the Dead Hand – With Hoof and Horn

Rating: 3/5
Distributor/label: https://www.dunkelheit-produktionen.de/presta/en/
Released: 2021
Buy Album: https://www.dunkelheit-produktionen.de/presta/en/
Band Website: https://www.dunkelheit-produktionen.de/

Band Members:

Lykaios – Bass (2016-2019), Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards (2016-present)
Isangrim – Drums, Keyboards, Samples (2016-present)
Beleth – Bass, Vocals (backing) (2019-present)

Track Listing:

1. Praesemino – 00:54
2. Sulphur – 09:40
3. Inception – 09:55
4. The Defiling Days – 10:30
5. Vuurstaeck – 12:12

Review:

Chalk a pentagram, light the candles and prepare to sacrifice some poultry as an occult ritual is about to begin. Do you want your album to tell you about a Dutch/Belgian folklore story of the Buckriders who were Demons and rode across the sky on the back of summoned flying goats?  Look no further than Rituals of the Dead Hand – ‘With Hoof and Horn’.

This is the second opus from the Belgian band who debuted with the black doom album ‘Blood Oath’ which gave you it slow, low, and pounding. This offering is no different and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Rituals by name, rituals by nature as after the brief intro we are thrown into a sinister ‘Sulphur’ which chanting chorus comes as close to what you might think a ceremony to summon a Demon would sound like. It has a plodding heaviness and the drums feed the intensity of the song along with the shuddering guitar and demonic vocals.

There is nothing light weight about this album and each song (apart from the into) is over 9 mins long. I think this is primarily down to the style of the vocals in the form of long slow growls that mean it takes a while to say anything. It’s quite disconcerting when the second tune ‘Inception’ sets off at a breakneck speed yet the growling vocals slow the pace so it feels much slower than it actually is.

As we progress through the story, each piece is an epic journey although there is a little repetitiveness to some of the songs which could have been compressed to avoid the issue. This isn’t to say it has a huge negative effect on the album and it feels like you get value for money with the length of songs. The quality of the musicianship is excellent throughout with the guitars administering a wall of sound and the deeply gruff vocals providing a perfect foil to them.

Overall, there is a grandiose sound and aura about the whole album. It’s a solid, no-nonsense, unyielding, serious opus and it promises much for the band going forward. The legend is an interesting fable of vile robbers who sold their souls to the Devil, rode by night on the backs of flying goats, and mercilessly pillaged and burned the houses of god-fearing Christians.  Ultimately, however, they were caught, tortured, trialed, and executed for their horrific and blasphemous acts undoubtedly come alive in this work. I’m sure there is a joke surrounding flying sheep or goats to be said here but I certainly can’t think of it here as this is no laughing matter. As the last ritualistic notes of ‘Vuurstaeck’ fade, I’m sure I’ve just seen a demon on a flying goat pass the window! The ritual must be complete!

Review by Graeme Smith
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