Sadistic Ritual – Prepare for a Boundless EnigmaSunday, 29th May 2022
Bringing thrash metal into a primal juggernaut of sound, featuring influences all across the board while adding some extreme and psychedelic elements into the experience, Sadistic Ritual hail from Atlanta, Georgia – a four-piece hell bent on aggression. Steadily building a recording resume of demos, EP’s, live records and split releases, they made the jump to Prosthetic Records for this second album The Enigma, Boundless – a harsh effort volleying crunchy riffs and pounding rhythm section activities plus savage vocals tearing you limb from limb.
We reached out to guitarist/vocalist Charlie Southern, and drummer Joe Sweat in this chat, where we cover everything about the history of the group, signing with Prosthetic, the psychedelia surrounding the band’s sound and cover art, how local support launched more national networking, and future plans.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the evolution of Sadistic Ritual – as the band has been around since 2009 but only released demos, EP’s and live efforts until your debut album Visionaire of Death in 2019?
Charlie Southern: I started the band when I was fourteen. I played the field; we had a bunch of lineup changes and demos. We actually recorded a couple of full lengths that we just completely trashed. I wanted the first full-length to be proper, and I wasn’t working with the right people yet. I waited until I found the right crew – I finally did when Joe joined the band. We made Visionaire of Death which I am super proud of, and then The Enigma Boundless with LaMar (George) getting added to the mix.
Joe Sweat: Once Alex had joined the band and I joined the band, we had a trio going but struggled to find the perfect bass player. Then LaMar joined us, and it was a good match.
Dead Rhetoric: The Enigma, Boundless is the second and latest album. Did you end up signing with Prosthetic as a result of Alex’s association with Paladin being on the label as well – and how do you see the differences in this record in terms of production, songwriting, and performances versus Visionaire of Death?
Southern: Since Alex’s other band Paladin is a part of the Prosthetic roster, it got our foot in the door. We sent them The Enigma, Boundless, the finished product and they loved it. We signed with them, we wanted to get things out to a wider audience.
Sweat: I think Visionaire of Death, our goal with that was to get the record out and Charlie had that whole record written. I threw the drums down on it, there wasn’t really any kind of effort to make it something else. With the response to that and the live shows, we started to push it more. The goal with The Enigma, Boundless was to get on a label that had more of an international push.
Southern: As far as the performances, what makes this different is Visionaire of Death is a collection of songs that I had written during the demo days, and many songs before this lineup even came together. The Enigma, Boundless is brand new material that we wrote as a band. Mainly Joe and I wrote the meat and potatoes of everything, Alex produced it, LaMar wrote some killer bass lines. It’s definitely an equal band effort, we wanted to push more unique sounds, something different for the genre. Hence the psychedelia with thrash, which we feel like hasn’t been touched on enough.
Dead Rhetoric: There is a dark and paranoid undercurrent of the lyrical content between Charlie and yourself for the record. What sort of themes and topics did you want to get across – and is it a mix of research and personal/social experiences that enhance and influence the output?
Southern: Absolutely. We wrote through personal experiences. A lot of the lyrical themes, we wrote the lyrics under the quarantine, police riots, all of that stuff. We had a lot of bad taste in our mouths based on the government, Big Brother. It’s very paranoid and we want everyone to look at themselves and see what a piece of shit they really are (laughs).
Sweat: It’s hard to come out and say it. It’s a way to get the paranoia and fear out, living in this age. We feel like it’s some real shit instead of escapism or some fantasy, dopey love songs. We really wanted to say something with this (album), shove things back into people’s faces like what’s really going on. Everybody is feeling it, it’s undeniable. And also, to point out I don’t know what happened to thrash metal lyrics, but nobody wants to hear another nuclear waste zombie song anymore.
Southern: Or some party bullshit.
Sweat: Yeah, we would rather talk about stuff we’ve experienced day to day, channel that emotion into this. Hopefully it’s more relatable. We also experimented with psychedelics when we wrote the songs, Charlie and I did. Which I am sure other artists do. Something like that, almost feels fantasy-like until you are really in it. And then it becomes something else.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the musical compositions for the record, were there any songs that were trickier or challenging to get down from the demo stage to the final completion?
Sweat: Yeah, I would say it’s always harder to lay down tracks after you get into the studio. Things change slightly. “Maelstrom of Consciousness” was a really weird one. These bizarre changes that go from slow and groovy to the fastest double bass and blast beats on the record.
Southern: “Maelstrom of Consciousness” was definitely the biggest bitch to get down on the album. I am really proud of that one, I feel it’s really unique. “Murmur” was also a little weird writing, that was our first song written in threes, Joe was about to kill us for having to count to six, God forbid (laughs). Those were the two songs that were different, unique territory for us.
Sweat: Those two songs are where we envision going down the line. We are really proud of those songs.
Dead Rhetoric: The artwork collaboration between Erica Frevel and yourself is also stunning. Could you discuss the process from initial conception to completion – and where you see the importance of imagery to setting up what the listeners can expect in line for Sadistic Ritual musically?
Sweat: Most of that, there is a collaboration but as far as the artwork goes, that’s mainly her. I saw her art online, and what really captured me was her collage work. She does paintings too.
Southern: We are trying to do something different with every album cover. The first one, we took a photo, and we made this mound of skulls. The second album let’s do a collage. It’s really popular artwork right now and can be creepy. We wanted a symbol that would stand away from our logo. Joe approached Erica about making the focal point of the artwork – sending her demos, lyrics, and concepts.
Sweat: We created the music with a little bit of influence from her. While we were doing that, we sent demos without lyrics to her, as she was making these things. That’s the collaboration. We pieced it together as far as the collage goes, which I really appreciated from her. We were all involved in this process, it took months and now it’s coming to fruition.
Dead Rhetoric: What qualities do you believe are inherent in making an ideal Sadistic Ritual song at this point? As you obviously grab from a number of diverse influences and eras when it comes to your thrash ways?
Southern: We basically want to make really fast, ripping music. Heavy, not just thrash metal, and take it to another world with psychedelia, real world imagery, different rhythms as heavy metal has gotten really stiff.
Sweat: It could use some breathing room. And attitude. I feel like bands are playing it safe. There’s no fight, there’s no militancy anymore. There are a bunch of hippies and annoying people that force their way into the scene.
Southern: So, we are going to kill them! (laughs)
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Sadistic Ritual when it comes to playing live – what qualities do you think you guys bring to the table to put on great performances, and what have been some of the most memorable tours or shows to date for the group?
Sweat: For me, a good show is just to get people’s blood boiling. Just to get that fire in them and see the reactions, feed off that. Having a network of people that don’t give a fuck: outlaws, bikers, metalheads, freaks, punks.
Southern: Since Joe has joined the band, our Visionaire of Death album release show was the most violent shit I have ever seen on stage. Those songs on that album do something that makes people want to beat the shit out of each other. That show… our first show back from quarantine with Withered was awesome. We played all new songs, and we never got to play those songs live. We had been holding on to those songs for two years, we were so ready to play them live. Our next record release show is happening next month in Atlanta.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s the scene like for thrash or metal in general in your part of Georgia? Do you believe you get the proper respect and support for what you are doing compared to veteran artists?
Sweat: I wouldn’t say we necessarily deserve anything quite yet. We just want to wow people and give them a real show. I am very appreciative of the metal scene in Atlanta. It’s great. A lot of other cities have the same thing. We want to reach those people.
Southern: We have a lot of help from a lot of people. Boris Records, they started putting out local bands in the scene, their first 7”, helped release our first album, get our foot in the door. The local newspaper Creative Loafing, they are always helping us out. We’ve been working at this for a really long time, and it’s paying off for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges the band is facing at this point in your career?
Sweat: I think COVID-19, like anybody, shows being cancelled. That is one of the biggest challenges.
Southern: Lately, social media fights bands to get their word out. That and COVID-19, popping up back again. No one knew if we were going to play another show again a couple of years ago. We are thankful for what we’ve got.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to your influences on guitars and drums, what do you consider some of your strengths for your playing, and who shaped your outlook and style for your instrument?
Southern: The band holds Rust in Peace by Megadeth to a very high standard. Dave Mustaine is one of the reasons I picked up a guitar at a young age. Definitely we don’t dismiss big bands. We really like Metallica, Slayer, Alice in Chains.
Sweat: Yes, we love Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne. Charlie and I play in another band Vimur which is black metal. LaMar loves black metal, and Alex has been in the power metal, thrash metal scene in Atlanta for a long time. Our influences are steeped in a lot of the sub-genres, but we like the big bands too. We are not trying to be cool and name some jerkoff black metal bands that never play any shows. We like the core stuff.
Southern: As far as our strengths, Joe is a heavy hitter and a machine behind the drum set. When he joined the band he took us to the next level, for sure. Alex Parra is a great producer and an awesome lead guitarist; he does shit that blows my mind. I’m a self-taught guitar player, so everything I do is very natural. That’s where a lot of our weird songwriting comes from. I love classic rock, Dave Mustaine and Trey Azagthoth, both people send me to weird places.
Sweat: My biggest influences I would say, exposure to classic rock. Keith Moon, and then metal with Dave Lombardo. I was a big Danny Carey fan as a kid. Just for the rhythm aspect. And Nick Menza for sure.
Southern: I love the old punk bands, as a young kid. Joe used to play in a couple of old badass punk bands, we try to use that like Poison Idea into things for our band.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries, or concerns, do you have about the world we live in today, especially coming out of this pandemic?
Sweat: What can you say? I feel like the world has really gone to hell. People have their head up their ass. With The Enigma, Boundless there is that aspect of pain, fear, paranoia. There is bite to it, we are also saying we don’t like the way people are, the fact that people have to be online or put their information out there. Everything is hypersexualized, fantasized, fetishized, it’s sick.
Southern: In a way, this is personally, I’m glad it happened. A lot of people were able to take a step back and take care of shit. They didn’t realize how much they were getting screwed by the government. I was able to personally hone my craft, make a great record. I’m hoping soon, some really great music comes out of this – everything was backed up.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Sadistic Ritual over the next year or so? Are there other bands, side projects, guest appearances that the members of the band are involved in that we can look forward to down the line?
Southern: Yes, Joe and I play in a band called Vimur, we just released a new record. We are going to tour from the Northeast to the Midwest. And we are going to try to stay ahead and write music for a third Sadistic Ritual record as well. Mainly we are focusing on the touring – we have a big festival we will be playing in Canada. Once the album comes out, hopefully there will be a buzz and more touring offers.