Demo:listen: Ritual Inscription

With the release of their self-titled demo only a few weeks ago, a new name was carved into the wall somewhere in the sprawling catacombs of underground black metal. That carving bears the name Ritual Inscription, the latest USBM solo mission to form from the aether and seize the throats of listeners across the globe. 

Allured by Ritual Inscription’s ferocity, energy and utter lack of pretension, we found ourselves returning to the homegrown recording’s four tracks again and again. Finally, frustrated with the scant information available regarding Ritual Inscription, as ever, we reached out . . .

As it turns out, we were dead-on about the unpretentious aspect. Upon trying to find out who’s behind these four attacks, the sole musician behind Ritual Inscription replies:

“My name is Joe, I’m 25 and currently residing in western Massachusetts. Ritual Inscription is my first black metal project. Everything was done by me.”

As you may have guessed by now, like many of our contemporaries, Joe got started in punk and hardcore before finally finding the courage to go it alone in the extreme metal realm. 

“Yeah, I’ve played in a few hardcore punk bands in recent years and definitely tend to wear those influences on my sleeve. I’ve always been mostly a metalhead at heart but hardcore punk is the scene I ended up spending the most time in, which certainly had some influence on my playing.”

Explaining what made him finally start his own black metal band, he says, “Ritual Inscription was born in quarantine. I was furloughed from my job in March due to Covid-19 lockdown and found myself suddenly with a ton of free time, so it felt natural to just do a solo project. My band had stopped practicing around the time of the lockdown, so this project became really my only artistic outlet.”

He decided to play raucous and raw black metal with punk and thrash influences because he “wanted to accomplish something that draws on these elements with the addition of the ‘moshable’ riffs you might find on a record like Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, which is one of my all-time favorites.”

“I have a very disjointed method of songwriting where I obsessively record tons of riffs on my phone and then comb through them,” Joe admits. “I ended up doing a lot of the writing for this demo in Guitar Pro, primarily because it was the easiest way for me to program MIDI drum tracks. Probably a common answer for solo projects, but the most challenging aspect of writing for me was imagining each instrument in a full band context while creating parts and trying to capture some sense of synergy that you would have in a band.”

As for the emotions and ideas that fuel the rage of his black metal violence, Joe says, they’re “the usual suspects—death, nihilism, the pursuit of meaning.” He continues, “The overarching themes are primarily responses to the increasing alienation and atomization that we experience in this neoliberal hellscape. Seeking meaning can feel like a somewhat hopeless endeavor when every single aspect of our existence is marketed and all our suffering is individualized and divorced from its greater context. The lyrics reflect my own journey through these experiences; the temptation to retreat into nihilism, the uncertainty we face in death, and the continued erosion of our wells of purpose. I wanted to reflect these feelings in a way that was personal yet without casting ideological judgement, as I feel that this sense of alienation and uncertainty is something felt amongst many irrespective of how it fits into their greater worldview.

“I recorded [Ritual Inscription] in my basement by myself, slowly across the winter and early spring,” Joe says. “At the time I had just been gifted an old analog mixing console, and this was my first self-recorded release, aside from a handful of harsh noise cassettes. I was sort of learning the recording process as I went along, so naturally everything moved at a pretty leisurely pace.”

With his demo finally recorded, Joe hired illustrator Chamber Realm to execute the cover artwork. 

“[Chamber Realm] does a lot of awesome work that seems geared more towards old school death metal than anything else,” Joes says. “I just happened to follow him on Instagram one day and his most recent piece just sort of immediately clicked with me. Great dude to work with. His recent works he’s been posting look incredible.”

As of right now there are two copies of the second run of the demos left. The first run were gone before most of us even saw the name Ritual Inscription. Joe explains, “I had initially only made 30 with the intent of giving a lot of them to some friends, so I was quite surprised how quickly they sold. It’s funny to me because now it has the appearance of being an artificially limited tape, I guess to build hype or whatever, which is of course one of the most obnoxious aspects of black metal. No further plans for this demo, just setting my sights on the next one.”

As for a follow-up release, it would appear that Joe’s taking his time. 

“For now I’m slowly beginning the writing process for the next tape,” he says. “I wouldn’t expect anything soon but I’ll certainly have a release at some point in 2021 

“I don’t expect the new tracks to sound too dissimilar to the first tape, perhaps a bit more on the melodic side but hopefully without sacrificing any of the energy,” he continues. “One thing I’ve always appreciated about black metal is that it sort of rejects this constant need to ‘evolve’ or ‘push the boundaries’ of the genre with every release. I like when bands work their way into a good sound and then stick with what they do best. I’m also hoping to move away from programmed drums and track them live for the next one.”