Rites of Thy Degringolade being, next to Sacramentary Abolishment and Conqueror, one the true pillars of what we could call the second wave of Canadian War Metal (obviously after the true and only initiators of that current, namely Blasphemy), it's hard to believe how underrated, or maybe I should simply say unnamed, they are in all the discussions regarding the genre nowadays. And let me put this in a very clear way: I don't think the genre would exist as it is right now if it wasn't for them. Sure Blasphemy, Conqueror and Revenge have had the major impact on this scene (not that I don't like them, quite the contratry actually, but common ...), because of their sound but also because of their imagery and simbology. But when we're speaking of the different elements defining the basis of the sound of what's usually called War Metal, Rites of Thy Degringolade have had a major role in that, and you can hear it in a lot of those bands that have made the once very minority sub-genre a much wider scene.
If the announcement of their comeback two years ago wasn't enough to push some chills up my spine (it's been thirteen years since 'An Ode To Sin' ... ), the release of the advance track 'The Universe in Three Parts' on tape by NWN! Productions got me hooked more than easily. A hell of a track, announcing some sound changes, but also a very short apetiser for my high expectations. So the wait was quite long until the fourth album of these war-mongers was finally out. But, fortunately, it was more than worth.
I must admit the cover and overall layout didn't strike me that much; even if it keeps the usual symbological side of their artworks, I find the picture on the cover a bit dull and empty, just as the rest of space of the vinyl gatefold cover (kind of gives me the impression the elements were placed with photoshop on the black background). I would have definitely prefered a drawing based on the same ideas, keeping some of that rawness their previous artworks had.
But maybe that artwork style change actually advances the obvious changes one will find also on 'The Blade Philosophical' music, which in this case are not dull at all. What differentiates Rites of Thy Degringolade from the rest of Canadian or simply other bands in the same genre (no matter if we call it War Metal or Bestial Black/Death), is how their music really transmits, through its sound and ambience, a warlike and martial spirit, and not only the aggression and ferociousness other bands of the same scene are known for (Axis of Advance probably being the only ones with a very close approach). And this is more emphasized than ever on 'The Blade Philosophical', because of several reasons. The compositions being for sure the main one, but the production being very close to that by shaping the whole work with a very special feeling.
On the first, their new songs retain the essence the band is known for, yet providing some slightly more intrincate progressions (I don't want to use the term "technical"), containing a great variation of blasting and furious fast parts (maybe they slightly slowed down since 'An Ode to Sin', and quite a bit if we compare this to 'Totality', which was a lot more grinding) with some very entrancing mid-paced heavy riffing; but on an overall level, with a more natural and mature flow that allows songs to develop in a much better way and makes them stick to your brain for a while. I actually find them a Thrashing vibe in some spots.
Another thing I was positively happy about is the fact that Paulus has not lost his personal touch at all. On the vocal side, he might very well be one of the most original singers in this sub-genre, as his register was always a lot easier to understand than others, but also because his lines are majestically places and developed between the different parts and tempos of the record, perfectly adapting to them. And that helps getting into their lyrics and memorising them very easily (can't count how many times I've found myself reciting the title track or their first single's). He sounds a bit less raspy this time, true, but I think this fits very well the overall sound. And on percussion, well, just as J. Read is the most savage drummer I can think of, Paulus is a lot more creative and always finds the perfect rythm and detail for each situation.
Not to give less importance to Mr. J.Wroth and N.K.L.H, in charge of the strings, who take a lot more advantage this time of heavy riffs and disharmonies to entrance the listener into their warlike ambiences. The combination of both, heavy low chords and twisted high-pitched insanity, is as devastating as piercing and brain-damaging. And do not shiver if I say I even spot some melodic intentions that, believe me, suit very well the rest (best example could be in "The Universe in Three Parts").
On the production, as I was advancing some paragraphs above, there's also some important improvements. No matter how punishing and intrincate the songs are on 'The Blade Philosohical', and they are indeed, there's always a very cold, conquering and almost machine-like atmosphere surrounding them. The drums sound definitely helps on that, which is strange because they sound more natural and defined than ever, specially as their sound wasn't that good on 'An Ode to Sin' to be honest. Despite the massive retaliation they unleash and the constant chaos the guitars spawn, they provide a martial and pounding effect that gives an extra heaviness and strength to their music.
Rites of Thy Degringolade came back, and they can deservedly reclaim their place on the extreme Metal pantheon, as they go much further than the regular War Metal band. Their way is the one of the conqueror, always surpassing themselves, always finding new ways to vanquish, always marching on to victory.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.