Album Review: Casket Robbery – Rituals of Death

Album Review: Casket Robbery - Rituals of Death
Reviewed by Sam Jones

So, it has been quite a while since I had an album that was plucked out for me. I didn’t know what to choose so, instead, I requested for a random pick. This was it: Casket Robbery and their upcoming, sophomore record, Rituals Of Death. In a way this can be interesting; I would go into this album completely blind having had no prior knowledge of this band nor what they intended to release come early November. The band have in fact been around longer than one may initially realise; forming back in 2010 out of Wisconsin, United States, the band got a steady start with an EP, Demo and Single in the first few years. But, that was before they began working on their debut full length release titled Evolution Of Evil. Another EP and Single followed suit but soon, it appeared the band dropped off the face of the Earth… or so it would seem, as the band returned again to announce the oncoming of their first album in six years: Rituals Of Death. This was where I came in. I was curious to see what these guys were all about and whether or not, their first record release in some time, was up to par for their longer-time fans.

It’s quite the bass-heavy soundscape, one can feel a synergy flowing between the guitar work and drumming that truly possesses the vast majority of this record’s power. It’s certainly difficult to separate one from the other here as, in terms of mixing, they are on the exact same level as one another. Perhaps in a live setting one can discern the drums and riffs as different parts of the band but, within the context of this studio record, that simply isn’t the case. This would often be a derogatory statement most of the time to the band in question, yet for this record it actually works well for Casket Robbery. This twinned synergy that is evidently on display here delivers a powerful one-two punch to our senses as the drums and riffs appear to cooperate in tandem with the other, rendering their blows with more vicious, and explosive impact. Add to the mix that the band have utilised drums that cut out pretty effectively when a particular drum beat is finished with, and you’ve got an instrumental performance that, generally speaking, doesn’t choose to languish. The bass within the mix also provides an additional beating for us as well; it all comes together to bind us into this nightmare and ensure we can’t help but dive further into the band’s self-created madness.

The vocals are really not what I was expecting to find from Casket Robbery; owing to what style of songwriting they have for their record, I went in anticipating your usual super deep and guttural delivery. That really isn’t the case this time or, at least, not all the time. There are moments where the vocal pitch does take a downward turn and we receive something far more guttural and expected with the kind of brutal death metal Casket Robbery have been deemed as. But, for the majority of this album, the band adopt a much more approachable, accessible vocal front where the timbre is far lighter and isn’t as grating on our senses as we would immediately think. It’s honestly a nice change as it goes to show there’s a clear expectation with what we would get out of this record because it’s been done so many times before. In addition to the easier tone too, the vocals ensure the audience aren’t going to be trudged down by the same vocal style and delivery again and again. Casket Robbery offer something we’re all familiar with but twist it with their own implementation that renders them with some sense of identity plus, there’s clear control and ability going on behind these screams too.

Album Review: Casket Robbery - Rituals of Death

The guitar work also mirrors the vocal tone that’s on display for us here too. For a work of ruthless death metal, the riffs and general guitar work isn’t so completely concrete dense that it’d be difficult for a newcomer to get into their sound. Casket Robbery clearly demonstrate an affinity for death metal; that much is utterly seared into their chemistry yet, it isn’t so total that it cordons off anyone else who are not fully familiar with this extreme variant of metal to give it a try. There are numerous occasions where the songwriting relaxes, not only giving us an opportunity to breathe but also allowing the guitar work to showcase some variety from time to time. It can be deeply clenched as the main display of riffs show us but it can then be much lighter, opening avenues into the band that other death metal acts may not be prepared to attempt. All in all, the songwriting this band are capable of is nicely varied and Casket Robbery give us examples right from the first track running.

The band know when they need to slow their pacing down, and they do so with effective impact I’d say. While the primary objective, and flow, of this album is evidently pointed towards speed and an adrenaline-fuelled performance, Casket Robbery firmly understand the insistence on providing variety through songwriting and pace just as much they knew they needed to deliver, just as much, through their riffs and vocal prowess. Many tracks here are pretty straightforward and harness a breakneck speed that sees us through the beginning to the end of that track, preparing us for the next. But every once in a while, the band break the pattern and offer up a track or, at least, a strong segment of a track that is far slower and actually crunchier than the rest of what their songwriting has otherwise been dishing out. I find it fascinating that I can call their slower playing as the crunchy form of songwriting as opposed to their faster pieces; when the band do play slower, that aforementioned at very from the dual guitar and run work comes through in droves, producing headbanging results the likes of which are impossible to deny. What’s more, the band may not extend their songwriting all that much but sometimes a clearly shorter track will crop up; this doesn’t outright give us a slower, crunching track however. The band did well to ensure unpredictability and even as I proceeded to the end of this record, I couldn’t tell you what I would find. The band could have been on their final track and I would still have been anticipating some hidden surprises.

In conclusion, Casket Robbery’s Rituals Of Death must be one of my most pleasant surprises of the year. Considering that this was merely a lucky dip of a band and record to check out, I’ve come away very happy with what I’ve been offered. For a work that’s dubbed as brutal death metal, Rituals Of Death manages to be far more accessible than other records that have in fact been a little lighter than Casket Robbery are. I believe it boils down to how the band were willing to unveil some variety in their songwriting and instrumental flair; had they simply dished out one track after another for the full duration of this record, then there’s no way I could have my attention engaged as deeply and as long as what the band managed to achieve. Furthermore, the band would never have been able to maintain that sense of unpredictability right to the end either, as I still felt such even as the album ventured into the last seconds. There was always that feeling the band would offer up something out of the blue or, something that we hadn’t yet heard throughout any other song. Overall, Casket Robbery is a great band that I feel deserve more watchful eyes and one that I’ll be keeping my ears open for, for now on. Considering how this was a lucky dip, I’ve come away both winning and smiling.

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