I’m sure that when Ash Pearson and Justin Hagberg chose to name their debut album Give In To Despair, it probably just sounded really metal and maybe tied some lyrical themes together. But here we are nearing its release, and a global pandemic has dramatically altered public life and forced everyone indoors. Basically everything has been cancelled, including concerts large and small across the planet, and even the bars and venues that would host listening parties for new releases like this one are shut down. The worldwide economy and US financial markets have struggled to adjust to life under a pandemic, and they find unique ways to shit the bed as they discover new lows (record breaking! U-S-A! U-S-A!). Huge portions of the population are out of work. Due to how easily the virus is transmitted, families cannot visit their sick loved ones or even attend the funerals of those they’ve lost. There are plagues of locusts threatening food supplies in Africa and Southeast Asia, and earthquakes in Utah and Croatia… [add whatever horrible stuff has continued to happen here; I’m so fucking tired…]
If you had to pick a base genre here, it would be the aggressive death/thrash hybrid that defined 3 Inches of Blood and continues to anchor Revocation. But that’s just the start. There are blackened accents: both speedy tremolos and icy interludes, plus punk and good time rock ‘n’ roll with some keyboard accents that recall Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard.
Give In To Despair rips out of the gate with a tight 90 seconds of punkish classic rock ‘n’ roll underneath some harsh thrash metal vocals. So far, so fucking good! Next, “Dominance and Will” adds guttural vocals from Auroch and Mitochondrion’s Shawn Haché to the deathy, thrashy template. Then along comes “Given To Despair” with some clean vocals courtesy of Hagberg’s Klandestīn bandmate Ryan Driscoll. Not content to just soar above the power metal riffs, Driscoll gets intimate with an almost Opethian (Damnation-era) acoustic passage at 2:48. Then the earlier heavy, stomping riff returns amongst angry chants of “Given to despair!!” and it’s only the sheer conviction of those involved that allows them to pull off the song.
For an album that is under 34 minutes long, a track by track breakdown seems a bit silly but almost necessary given the breadth of material. We shall blame Hagberg and Pearson but endeavor to avoid that reviewing cliche. They are the ones that decided to cram a dozen genres into short, remarkably cohesive songs. If it sucked, we could tell you that it’s a mish-mash-mess and that they should stick to their day job(s). But praise Lemmy, it’s not! (Not insignificantly, RIP their day jobs until this pandemic bullshit is over. If you can, support Ritual Dictates and all your favorite bands with online purchases, GoFundMes for impacted venues, and take-out from the sleazy grease joints nearby.) Seriously, though, each track just has so much to offer! Take the driving, relentless bass of “Poisonous Proclamation” that becomes a blast beat-riddled, tremolo-infused rock ‘n’ roll anthem with maestro Danko Jones leading the triumphant chorus.
In lieu of tedious breakdowns of each song’s components, you, dear reader, will just have to trust me. Or at least trust the pedigree of Mr. Hagberg and Mr. Pearson. Trust their group of fun-loving friends who all pitched in to make this album such a smashing success. Save a few surprises for your own personal listening party. Give in to excitement, and to the power of the riffs and beats and great vocals that are all over this album.
What have we learned here today? Firstly, Ritual Dictates has managed to distill the talents and essence of fun from Revocation and 3 Inches of Blood. Secondly, Ritual Dictates sucks at naming albums. Save Give In To Despair for some mopey black metal project, fellas. (Though to be fair, I’d probably ignore a metal album called It’s All Going To Be OK! or Hang In There with a kitten on a rope for the cover art.) Thirdly, and most importantly, Give In To Despair rips and rocks and rolls and riffs all over the damn place, and it is fun as hell. Do not give in to despair, but give in to Ritual Dictates and for at least a little while, ignore the world around you and rock the fuck out!