Six albums and ten years deep sees In This Moment achieve a notable career milestone with Ritual (Roadrunner/Atlantic), celebrated with a prominent change in focus. Toned down is the throwaway innuendo and sexually tinged frippery of previous albums, gone is the overt silliness, and ramped up is the stomping “industrial-tinged” Hard Rock side of the band that has always, in reality, been their calling card.
While vocalist Maria Brink and guitarist Chris Howorth have seemingly stated each album from A Star-Crossed Wasteland onwards (Century Media) to be “darker and more serious” than whichever predecessor – it’s fine, it’s album promotion bingo, these sayings are allowed – this time around, though, it probably, finally, rings true as Ritual does portray itself as a more crafted and practical album. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a good time to be had while rocking to its anthems, just that the songwriting duo have been more aware of making this a more “credible” album.
Credibility, though is an odd argument, as, surely, what makes you good, makes you stronger, reputation be damned, no? Either way, it’s fair to say Ritual takes chances, too; this isn’t simply a plethora of wham-bam-thank-you… of rock club cheesery. Opening track proper ‘Oh Lord’ is a soulful, mid-paced chain-gang stomper, while last track, the sedate and reflective ‘Lay Your Gun Down’ brings us to a contemplative close, and it’s clear In This Moment are working out how to do things differently.
The problem they’re having is, where in the past they could open the throttle and bang out several thoughtless party jams and rock the house, this time around, perhaps courtesy of their over thinking and trying to overemphasize their sincerity, they’ve overlooked the quality of songwriting that has earmarked their previous releases. That said, ‘Black Wedding’ and its nods to the similarly titled Billy Idol song (and featuring a Rob Halford who sounds like he’s having the time of his life) and ‘Joan of Arc’ are quality anthems, worthy of the rockiest of late night clubs.
No, the problem isn’t when Brink is drawling over Rob Zombie stomps, and Haworth is hitting mid-paced grooves that make them feet go dancing, the problem is in the overabundance of bloated, go-nowhere stodge that blocks up the album, particularly side two. Indeed, once you get past the twisted pop of ‘Witching Hour’ there’s little worth sticking around for (and the less said about the dire cover of ‘In The Air Tonight’ the better; as much as Brink reputedly loves the track, this is banal naffery at its weakest).
If the above sounds like a kicking, it’s because the standards set by ITM are high. Ritual only meets those standards in passing and, despite a very competent performance from Brink, there’s little to recommend here beyond adding ‘Black Wedding’ and the Marilyn Mansony ‘Joan of Arc’ to whichever “Get Ready For The Night Out” playlist you’re currently rocking, and then moving on to something far more substantial and worthy of your time.