It seems like forever ago now since Ritual Servant released their killer debut record Metallum Evangelii in 2019 on Roxx Records. Much has transpired in the world during the past 3-4 years, and also with Ritual Servant in the wake of that spiritually challenging and uplifting thrash/classic metal hybrid. [To read more about it click on the album title link above, or HERE for an earlier review by Keven Crothers.]
Brian McKenzie once again produced, recorded and mastered Albus Mendacium, but instead of it being released as one big collection of new music, the songs – written and recorded from 2021-2023 – were released as a series of four 7” vinyl singles during that same span of time. [See more on these below]. And while the timing (due to some manufacturing delays) did not allow for all four of them to be released before the full-length CD was released, the process represented a unique (and old-school) way of slowly introducing fans to the new songs.
Furthermore, in addition to the new songs, Ryan Roebuck (Motivik, Vultures Gathering) has joined the dynamic duo of Patrick Best (vocals/guitars/songwriting) and Seth Boone (drums), which just adds more creative energy and “shred-ability” to the Ritual Servant songs.
For those not familiar with Ritual Servant, their music is written and created through the inspiration and guidance of God and the Spirit. Both the music and the lyrical themes, admonitions and exhortations make this abundantly clear. This approach not only assures the truth-filled message in the lyrics, but also assures the highest integrity in terms of the song execution, the mix and the presentation. In other words, if you are looking for solid-as-a rock Christ-centric metal, look no further than Ritual Servant.
Albus Mendacium (“white lies”) consists of 8 songs, each based lyrically on a verse or section of verses in Scripture. “Anima Christi” is a prayer placed as a prequel but is embedded within the final track “Revelation 3:16.” The CD version of “Revelation 3:16” represents the “extended” version, which as best I can tell is the same version as the one on the 7″ vinyl.
Right out of the gate, Ritual Servant pick up where they left off with Metallum Evangelii. “Whitewashed Tombs” deals with the hypocrisy of religious leaders. This straight up 4-on-the-floor beat heavy metal admonishment features crushing guitar riffs and three guitar solos! Immediately apparent is the sound. Compared to its predecessor, the mix here has more of a live vibe – a bit muddy and distorted but not in a bad way – with a ton (but not excessive) low end push from the bass and kick. Patrick Best’s vocal style and quality hasn’t changed from the debut which is a good thing – biting yet not “preachy” or overly shrill.
“Two Masters” is up next with one of the catchiest choruses on Albus Mendacium.
“No one can serve two masters/No one can serve two masters”
I love the use of space/pauses on this thrasher to convey the urgency in the message. As with many of the songs on the debut, Ride the Lightning/Master of Puppets era Metallica comes to mind here, but Ritual Servant makes it their own on the breakout section in the middle (and of course with the words).
Engagingly, the end of “Two Masters” flows without break right into “Hearers and Doers,” which warns not to judge others, “lest ye be judged” and to stand prepared for God’s righteous judgement. Seth Boone’s drumming on this song is a standout, the perfect balance of double bass and accented rhythms with tom flams and choked cymbal notes.
The opening guitar tones/leads of “Lazarus” touches on early Mortification and Tourniquet, and then the song rolls into a galloping, plodding rhythm. One thing Ritual Servant has done with these songs on Albus Mendacium is add a variety of beats and grooves so while all the songs are heavy and evenly paced, the lurching stops/starts keeps the flow from being monotonous.
“40 Years” opens with an acoustic guitar which catapults into a frenzied guitar lead and more complex vocal phrasings. The distinctive way in which Patrick Best uses his voice is one of the qualities which makes Ritual Servant’s metal so compelling. He doesn’t possess a wide range of tones, but the cadence in which he delivers his catharsis is quite unique.
The aggression and speed on “Death and Life” will resonate with fans of Megadeth, especially the kind of riffing, soloing and drumming we are familiar with from Rust in Peace. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks here, certainly from a musical standpoint and also from a lyrical perspective.
“Death and life are in the gift of the tongue/those who indulge must eat the fruit it yields… for the tongue that deceives/shall be cut off”
Contrastingly, writing a song in this era about demon possession could be considered completely out of vogue … but one of the great things about Ritual Servant is that they not only first answer to the God of the universe (rather than the gods of the music industry), but from a more human perspective they are completely comfortable in their own skin. This is what they do and its one of their most charismatic qualities.
“Into the Swine” offers up yet another incredibly infectious and catchy chorus chant:
“Enter into the swine/begging the Master they denied/enter into the swine/permission given to reside/enter into the swine/at the hand of the Divine”
After the brief, musically doomy, “Anima Christi” – a supplication to the Lord for sanctity, protection and praise – the band kicks in high gear on the final song “Revelation 3:16.” Primarily an instrumental track – one of the few times we are privileged to simply enjoy the band exhibiting their impressive musical gifts – the only vocal contribution from Best is the Revelational declaration which he “spits out” in duplicate three different times amidst the onslaught of metal exaltation.
“Because you are neither hot nor cold/but rather lukewarm/I spew you from my mouth”
Daringly, Ritual Servant and Bill Bafford devised a way to slowly release Albus Mendacium over the course of the year, prior to the release of the full-length, by issuing collectible 45 RPM 7-inch vinyl “singles.” As I stated above, this didn’t go exactly as planned, but it all worked out well in the end.
Undoubtedly, since pictures of these gems will do more justice than words, I’ve included the “amateur” shots of my copies for reference. Each vinyl 7″ comes in an outer sleeve with a paper inner liner. Interestingly, Misericordiae has a simple fold-over sleeve (open on 3 sides) whereas the other 3 parts all came in a full sleeve (open only on one side). Additionally, parts 3 and 4 were released in both black and white vinyl (see pictures) whereas parts 1 and 2 were pressed in black only.
Truth, Mercy, Judgments, Redemption
Consequently, I will leave it to the listeners to determine the significance of the way the songs are coupled with the four parts – Veritas, Misericordiae, Opinione, Redemptio – other than to point out that the songs on the 7” singles were not released in the same sequence as the full album. Also, take note that in addition to the “completed” artwork, each song has its own graphic depiction.
Faster is Slower
The sound quality on these 7” singles (after careful cleaning) is amazing. I do like the CD mix, but the beefy, low-end punch on these adds even more of an expansiveness to the soundscape. Each 7” obviously features 2 songs, one on Side “R” and the other on Side “S.” Although these have been pressed at 45 RPM, the tempo feels just slightly slower than their respective CD versions. I suspect, but don’t know for fact, that these versions were mastered for vinyl.
All Glory to God
Albus Mendacium certainly belongs in the top tier of releases this year. Compared to the debut, they’ve shortened up the songs, added a rough, live vibe to the mix, salted up the tunes with a bit more shred while all the while staying true to the vision God put before them. The addition of Ryan Roebuck is complimentary in that it doesn’t alter the core Ritual Servant sound but rather enhances the complexity and quality of the output.
Glory to God, indeed! Amen.
1. Whitewashed Tombs (4:38)
2. Two Masters (4:02)
3. Hearers and Doers (4:08)
4. Lazarus (4:46)
5. 40 Years (5:19)
6. Death and Life (4:14)
7. Into the Swine (4:48)
8. Anima Christi Revelation 3:16 (extended) (7:26)