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Impetuous Ritual & Separatist: dirty chaos, clean chaos

Separatist Closure art

When I was in college, the professor who taught one of the several fun but impractical humanities courses I took characterized a paper I’d written as a “well-executed compare and contrast paper.” At the time, this feedback registered as a backhanded compliment on the order of telling a professional musician that he’d delivered a shredding rendition of “Hot Crossed Buns.” Thanks, teach.

In retrospect, I probably should’ve been happy with the comment. Comparing and contrasting, for all its simplicity, can be revealing, or at least fun. For instance:

The first above song is a new tune by Impetuous Ritual, an Australian death metal band that shares members with Portal and Grave Upheaval. Their second album, Unholy Congregation Of Hypocritical Ambivalence (wow!), will be out on Profound Lore on April 15. The second is a song by Separatist, a fellow Australian (Tasmanian, specifically) death metal band. Though the album it comes from, Closure, just came out on February 7, the composition is much older. It was originally written and then shelved in the mid-aughts when Separatist’s original lineup dissolved. Vocalist (and now multi-instrumentalist) Sam Dishington eventually dusted off the songs and recorded them as a one-man band, with little outside help. Closure is now available on Separatist’s Bandcamp.

These bands have a fair amount in common: nationality, death metal, incomprehensible vocals, DME lyrics. But there’s good reason to think that they wouldn’t want anything to do with each other. Though Impetuous Ritual are neither as impenetrable as Grave Upheaval nor as progressive as Portal, they have plenty in common with both. The drums flail; the tones are dark and analog; the vocals wheeze; the tremolo picking virtually never stops. It is an old sound that goes back to the golden years of American death metal, but by virtue of its current popularity, it’s a strangely contemporary one at the same time. By contrast, Separatist bear overtly modern features — huge digital tones, crazy-high tempos, slams, occasional Meshuggah-esque grooves — that ironically hearken to the recent past, as all slightly dated visions of the future do. They occupy different corners of the same stylistic world.

I bring them up together for two reasons. The first is utilitarian — easier to post about them both at once. The second is because I find that both bands achieve a similar effect, despite their obvious differences. Impetuous Ritual play loose and messy. They project their vibe impressionistically — they’re chaotic, but it’s “dirty” chaos. Separatist is rigidly precise most of the time, but still unpredictable and hard to follow — “clean” chaos. Listening to either band creates the sensation of being squeezed in a giant vice. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to choose between these two approaches; each has its dogmatic adherents. But personally, I’m content to waffle between them.

— Doug Moore

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