In This Moment seem to be a band who are huge in the US, and slowly but surely finding steady feet on British soil. Featuring a stunning front-woman in Maria Brink (regularly featured in “hottest woman” lists *yawn*, but also one of eleven women in a 2012 “Women who matter in metal” list) the band come across very strongly in the live environment as a kind of cross between Marilyn Manson’s trappings and Lady Gaga’s showmanship. This is a band who entertain.
Of course, you need to have material which grabs an audience to the point where they’ll get tickets to see you put on that show. In This Moment’s last album, Black Widow, was a great listen and it’s a shame that the following tour dates, including Glasgow Barrowland, were cancelled due to a severely damaged guitarist. However, with the upcoming release of Ritual, perhaps we can expect the band to make the long flight over here for another shot.
A quick look at the tracklist in comparison to Black Widow shows a continuation of the seedy, gothic stylings though with perhaps a darker twist. Opener (well, after the intro of “Salvation”) “Oh Lord” is slow and atmospheric, and not exactly a rocking start. Owing more to mainstream rock with distorted vocals it’s a decent song, but an unusual one to kick the album off with (and drop as the lead single), especially when it’s followed by the more uptempo “Black Wedding” which is more in line with much of the remainder of the LP.
“Black Wedding” features guest vocals from none other than Rob Halford, and a chorus which owes a lot (with love I’m sure) from a well-known similarly-titled Billy Idol classic. Seriously, listen to the repeated refrain of “It’s a nice night for a… black wedding” and tell me this isn’t an unsubtle homage. It’s wrapped up in an absolute foot-stomper, though, and it’s definitely not a track written purely to shoehorn in a mega-guest.
Keeping up with the influences is a cover of the Phil Collins track “In The Air Tonight” (lyric video just released) which maintains the haunting flow of the original… just more eerie – even after the final, rockier quarter kicks in. In This Moment have truly made this version their own.
“Joan of Arc” steps up like a figure standing on stage, legs crossed, clicking its fingers. Subtle, small, yet full of confidence. You know it’s just leading up to something. And then the first chorus kicks and any doubts that this is a track to relax to are blown away. More distorted vocals of various styles run through “River of Fire”, a slow and plodding number which crashes like thunder. In its’ quieter moments in between storms it reminds me a little of gospel music for some reason.
The halfway point and the downhill section is reached, but by no means think this refers to the quality. “Witching Hour” is a little too electronic for me and never quite gets going as a decent rock track, but it’s the only song on the album that I would say ever approaches being disappointing… and as ever I’m wary to write something off after a few listens that may grow on me later. Not that I’m averse to anything lighter, proven by the power ballad-esque “Twin Flames” which soars and soars and soars.
“Half God Half Devil” brings back the crunch and strikes me as one song that should be played live. It’s got a lot of imagery and a brilliant chorus for just shouting out with your fist clenched in the air. Great heavy guitar work as well. “No Me Importa” is an angsty number, sung by someone who sounds utterly torn up inside, trying to pretend that “I Don’t Care”.
The final pairing, “Roots” and “Lay Your Gun Down”, couldn’t be more different. The former is one of the catchiest, bounciest numbers on the album. The latter tears your heart apart rather than your face. A beautiful arrangement of soulful yearning builds towards a huge orchestral-sounding conclusion. This is an opera piece that, done right, would raise hairs on your neck in the live setting.
What In This Moment have here is something vastly different from what has come before, but which probably defines them more as a band than any previous album. Beautiful Tragedy was fast, heavy and a bit generic, especially by today’s standards. A Star-Crossed Wasteland still had those screaming vocals, but a more industrial element was creeping in. With Blood, we started to see the band really expand their boundaries and generate that image, with stalwarts like “Whore” and lose a fair amount of harsh vocals without ditching them entirely. Black Widow took us further down that dark path – adding more atmospherics and production and making more use of sultry, twisted vocals and keyboards, with a pinch of post-metal bass to add to the mainstay musicianship.
Ritual takes that atmosphere and makes it thick enough to cut with a bloodstained penknife. The great thing is that In This Moment now have a body of work that’s transformed over a decade or so without any of it lacking in quality. They’re equally at home doing a heavy screamo number as they are a creepy, operatic overture. Ritual is different from what’s come before, but not by a huge amount and in the right direction. It’s a great, dark collection and fans should thoroughly enjoy it.
Ritual is out on July 21st