Album Review: Ritual Cloak – Divine Invasions

Two words ritual and cloak that, put together, almost immediately make you start thinking of Hammer horror films, night time, dry ice, woods, mysterious strangers meeting by a stone Celtic cross in a clandestine tryst. Monks and devil worship, Dennis Wheatley and dancing naked round fires, like the opening credits to Roal Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. Am I close? Well not really…

Ritual Cloak are a Welsh duo made up of Daniel Barnett (formerly Samoans) and Andrew Sanders, who write/produce piano led, mostly instrumental post rock that is full of atmosphere with inventive twists, pulses and drones. This is their second album since getting together in 2018, the first being I Lawr Ymhlith y Tywyllwch, which translates as Down in the Darkness. It does all have a dark soundtrack vibe to it, sumptuously produced and packaged, the cover depicting a scribbled collage of cherubs and angels lifted from old paintings.

The opener “Opaque Crater” starts with a 4 note repeating pattern upon which deep bass and string drones accentuate a descending feeling, with two chords pedaling over the pattern that repeats throughout; later more chords are added which then build into a glorious melange before losing steam. “Conversation (Blackmail)” has a kind of early 80’s European film soundtrack vibe, once again utilizing a 4 note repeating piano pattern with a two chord pedal. Perhaps there’s a theme here. Talking of themes, any one of these would lend themselves to themes for tech noir thriller films depicting night time city lights and malevolent violence, especially “I Accuse History”, with its dark subterranean bass tremor, and “High Teens Low Twenties” city atmosphere sound effects and finger clicks. Elsewhere “Silent Running” and “Running With A Mullet” (not advisable!) provide incidental music from the same kind of movie, all style and ambience, reverb drenched and dreamy. “Manylion” ends the album which, although it is slow and expansive, has  a fresher acoustic feel, not just down to the acoustic guitar. It’s just less soundtrack and more band and has more dynamism and range. I can imagine being enveloped in its hugeness live, with lights and smoke doing their damnedest to take me away with it to some vast and beautiful place.

Of the two vocal led songs on the album “Valis” has a Massive Attack kind of vibe, with a monotone soft syllable rap over a heavy bass, and “White Noise” has similarities with the more electronic experiments of Kid A Radiohead and The Engineers, with its repetitive phrase of ‘I wish I could be someone else’ over an electronic back beat with stereo shimmers,  reverb laden strings and 80’s Juno pads.

Calling your band Ritual Cloak could be risky if you don’t wish to summon the ghost of Roger Corman, but there is enough of a swirling dry ice drenched gothic landscape here to satisfy fans of huge reverb laden ominous repetitive liturgical practices. However be warned you might miss the excessive flame-headed cape wearers of prog rock.

More ritual…less cloak

Divine Invasions is out now on Bubblewrap Collective and is available to buy on vinly and digital download via Bandcamp.

Find out more on Ritual Cloak’s official website.

Review by Andrew Wood

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