Sadistic Ritual Turn Thrash Metal Trippy On “The Enigma, Boundless” (Interview)
Atlanta's Sadistic Ritual aren’t like other traditional thrash metal bands. The quartet has taken an experimental thrash metal route that sets them apart from their colleagues on their second full-length album The Enigma, Boundless. For instance, there’s a load of variation in the songs that don’t stick to the usual thrash metal patterns.
Based on sharp, blackened thrash metal tendencies — mixed with a vicious death metal quality — Sadistic Ritual’s influences are culled from the late ’80s and early ’90s metal scenes, mixed with a modern extreme metal aesthetic. Featuring guitarist/vocalist Charlie Southern (Vimur, Ectovoid), guitarist Alex Parra (Paladin, Cauldron Born), drummer Joe Sweat (Vimur) and bassist LaMar George (Wolves and Jackals), the band has honed its craft in just a short period of time.
Sadistic Ritual created a decent buzz amongst thrash fans with its 2019 debut full-length album Visionaire of Death, but they’ve taken their intensity a step further on The Enigma, Boundless. The nine ripping tracks contain equal measures of aggression and melody, delivered with an unabashed musical approach. During a recent Zoom meeting, drummer Joe Sweat talked about the origins of the band, its new album, its members’ other projects and more.
Hailing from Atlanta, when I think of prominent Atlantean metal bands, the first ones that pop into my head are Mastodon and Sevendust. How is the current Atlanta metal scene as far as venues, festivals or local support?
I think there has always been a metal scene in Atlanta and over the years it fluctuates to how busy it is locally, meaning how many bands are playing at the time. Right now metal wise, we have Withered doing a lot; Cloak as well. Obviously Mastodon have been staples for a long time. Charlie and I actually play in a band called Vimur as well; a black metal band on Boris Records. But I think right now we're in an upswing, especially coming out of COVID. Like I said, there's always been a metal scene and it goes up and down. And right now, I feel like we're on the upswing.
You mentioned your other band Vimur. With every member in Sadistic Ritual involved in other projects, what are some of the musical differences between Sadistic Ritual and your other bands?
I think Sadistic Ritual is more experimental… just trying to make music without thinking about how it's really going to sound. Just trying to let whatever's in the old noggin come to fruition. Just using influences of all kinds of different metal; death metal and black and thrash and everything. Alex Parra plays in Paladin, and that's more of a power metal thing, very melodic. Charlie also plays in a band called Ectovoid, which is… I don't know how to put it, just sounds like you're in a cave; cavernous. I think Sadistic is a little more experimental, and Vimur, the other band that Charlie and I play in is very traditional black metal. I guess it's more of just different feelings for different bands; different attitudes but different outlets of expression. Because underneath all of this, there's always some kind of floating theme or energy.
The cover art for The Enigma, Boundless displays a strong psychedelic visual. Yourself and Erica Frevel co-designed it, what were you going for conceptually?
As far as the cover goes… I found this artist, Erica Frevel, she had done work with Devil Master before. And she makes collages that are completely just nightmarish. So I contacted her and gave her Visionaire of Death, just to see if she would like the music. And she was into it and agreed to make this piece of art for us, this collage. It’s kind of like a collaboration, she and I came up with this sigil and mailed it to us. So we had that in our room and we would give her demos, just primitive demos, and then our songs throughout. We were trying to influence each other's art. She was really relaxed about doing a little collab at least. She brought the collage to me and we kind of moved it around and talked about what we like and what we don't like, so it was a whole process. I've never done anything like that before, so it's very special. As far as psychedelic goes, yes, there's a lot of colors into it. I think schematically too in this record, it's dealing with psychedelia, but also just the speed at which society is just fucking going out of control. And typically a lot of metal bands use black and white; to have occult imagery or fantasy or whatever the fuck else, so I thought it'd be interesting to have something more “real world.” A little more Cro-Mags and less Dio, although I love Dio, but you can see where I'm going with this right? Like Rust in Peace on fucking acid!
You and Charlie share co-writing credits on all the tracks. What are some of your general lyrical inspirations?
If there is an overall theme, it's just the chaos that it is to be alive in this storm called life. Charlie and I have a disdain for the way we think the world is going. I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same way. Just the rate at which technology is moving, the way that the government’s just fucking creeping into everything. It’s only getting more expensive to live. And even though we're going into the future, it seems more authoritarian as we move forward. But also I think everyone is just obsessed with themselves and putting images of themselves and watching other people, and it's just a sick kind of voyeur reality we live in. And everyone wants to be somebody and everybody wants to assimilate to this kind of global monoculture. Everyone's kind of fake to us, too. I think metal and rock music, and punk and hardcore needs to have bite, it needs to be dangerous.
Visionaire of Death created some good interest in the band. How would you compare that album to this new one? Did you want to try anything different with your songwriting or musical approach this time around?
I joined the band in 2017. I had known Charlie for a long time. When I joined the band, our goal was to release Visionaire of Death, record it and just cut that; no expectations of anything. We’re just gonna put out a record and it's going to fucking rule. He had all the songs written and all the lyrics, and I just came in and threw down drums, really just on the spot. I think Visionaire of Death is a total ripper, and it's more raw and basic. Whereas The Enigma, Boundless is more experimental. It’s 50/50, Charlie and I. Where Visionaire of Death was really Charlie, his brainchild.
Charlie originally formed Sadistic Ritual in 2009, but your first album was released in 2019. Since you joined in 2017, the band has had some time to refine its sound to what it has become on this new album. What's the band camaraderie and musical chemistry like between all of its members?
It's definitely there, because we've always approached doing music as a way of expressing ourselves and not really anything else. I think Charlie and I were able to write songs fairly quickly. It's kind of like a learning process, you learn about yourself too when you start pushing this stuff out. But I would say that Charlie and I definitely have a good chemistry going on and Alex, our guitar player and he's an engineer and he recorded Visionaire of Death and mixed and mastered it. We recorded everything but the drums on The Enigma, Boundless; we had Arthur Rizk. He mastered the record, but Alex did pretty much everything else. And our bass player, Lamar George, he did the layout for the record, and he does flyers for us. He does a lot of graphic design. So everyone basically has a role in the band and we try and keep the thing moving.
Arthur Rizk has produced and mastered many metal albums. What were you guys trying to achieve sonically?
We were trying to be like conduits, just see what's coming out; to get real weird with it. But also, I'd say a goal was to get on a label with this one. We had fun with Visionaire of Death, and we played some shows, and then we decided to take this to another level. Because I think people would like it on a larger scale, we wanted to get it out there. So, sonically, it was about being chaotic and psychedelic. Realistically, the goal was to get a record deal.
Which you did with Prosthetic Records. Since you were looking for a label, this must be a good feeling?
Yeah, it is. It's nice. We just got the physical copies in last week. So it's nice to have those. I remember hearing about Prosthetic Records when I was half my age. Lamb of God was on Prosthetic, and I think Gojira as well and some other bands I listened to when I was younger. I think Alex passed them the record and we were excited about it. So, it just worked out.
As a drummer myself, I noticed that there's some tasty fills and double kick patterns that you perform on the album. What were you trying to achieve with your playing style?
I think I want to retain some kind of groove to it. Sometimes it's very noisy and chaotic or kind of a militant style with blast beats. But I like to keep some kind of groove in there if I can find a nice balance of that. I think that's an integral part of this band, too. Because I love music that’s just total fucking noise, but Sadistic tends to retain some kind of groove to it. It’s important to have the riffs. As far as the drums go, honestly, just fucking losing myself and letting whatever came out. Charlie's guitars are super chaotic. There are a few beats or some songs that started off just with the drums, like that's the riff. And it would go off that, but a lot of it was just lost in weed smoke and mushrooms!
What's the band’s current plans? Have you had a chance to do many tours or gigs and what's your upcoming plans?
We actually have an East Coast US tour in the works right now. Hopefully, we'll be announcing that shortly. Really, the plan is to finally get this record out, because it had been a little minute and COVID kind of slowed everything down. But we plan on writing more and doing this tour. And realistically, we just want to get on the road because we think that it's something that people want to see live. So that's the main goal of the band, is to get out there and have all these crazy maniacs banging their heads.
The Enigma, Boundless was released on May 20th, 2022 via Prosthetic Records.