RITUALS OF THE OAK (Hour Of Judgement) 2LP/CD
Well, actually Australia is a known country because of its ass-kickin' rock 'n' rolls bands. The first thing that people recall about Oz' rock/metal are popular bands such as AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, and Radio Birdman. But there are also a few others that are closely linked with the spirit and music of Saint Vitus and early Black Sabbath. Except for a small amount of "stonerrock" influenced bands, there are also a few doom bands around. This includes RITUALS OF THE OAK, formed in later 2008 in Sydney, Australia. 'Hour of Judgement' is their debut album, released at the end of 2009 through NSP/Eyes Like Snow and offers nearly 46 minutes of minimalistic epic doom. Most of all, vocalist Sabine Hamad's manages to express herself as emotional as possible without being too kitschy or obtrusive. In their best moments RITUALS OF THE OAK are able to reach an emotional depth as we know from other groups such as Revelation, Solitude Aeturnus or Warning. Compared to the previous grandmasters of doom, RITUALS OF THE OAK is more like a trimmed down version of the big brothers. They deliver a bone-dry sound in combination with a minimalist execution while at the same time all five tracks are dominated by captivating melodies.
Sabine Hamad creates one beautiful melodic line after the other and finds the right balance between different moods. What is also very pleasant is the fact that there is variety in pace. 'Drown the Wood in Blood' is a catchy mid-tempo track, blending British heavy metal and 1970's hardrock to create a stirring tune. 'Standing in the House of Suffering' is virtually the opposite of the aforementioned track. They slow down and thus fulfil all bad clichés about doom metal but thankfully it's not only slow and heavy. There's a nice middle section and thanks again to Sabine Hamad for her strong vocal capacity and natural performance of the song all this expressed with an unusual virtuosity and truthfulness. Shane Linfoot surely is no guitarist who delivers one heavy killer riff after the other, but enough to reinforce the epic structures of the last song 'The Spell of Doom'. There's also an unexpected middle section which demonstrate that RITUALS OF THE OAK are also ready to leave the boundaries of doom metal if necessary. That part brings to mind Pink Floyd, and fits very well with the rest of the song. 'Hour of Judgement' is undoubtedly a good, atmospheric debut (highly recommended for long winter nights or sunny autumn days) and it is not wrong to spend some money on this.