Personnel: Dan Wetmore (vocals, guitar); Jeff Potts (guitar); Adam Haritan (drums).
Recording information: Stage One Studios, Bühne, Germany.
Photographers: Dan Wetmore; Kristin Koeper.
Innovative experimentation can be a wondrous thing in music; it certainly worked well for boldly original risk-takers such as Miles Davis, David Bowie, Charlie Parker, Prince, Ornette Coleman, and Jimi Hendrix. But realistically, not every recording artist is going to be an innovator; many musicians will inevitably turn to the past for inspiration. And if overtly retro performers can be a part of jazz and the blues, is there any reason why they shouldn't be a part of metal? There isn't -- as long as the people who emulate the past do it well. On their debut album, Executioner, Mantic Ritual (formerly Meltdown) offer a passionate and inspired throwback to 1980s thrash metal. Executioner was originally released in 2007 (back when the Pennsylvania band was still going by Meltdown) and was reissued by Nuclear Blast in March 2009, but stylistically, it might as well have been recorded in the mid- to late '80s. The material is a total throwback to thrash metal's heyday, and Mantic Ritual obviously get their inspiration from old-school thrashers such as Exodus, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, and early Metallica (that is, the thrash-oriented Metallica of Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets -- not the alternative metal Metallica of 1996's Load). And Mantic Ritual's look (long hair, jeans ripped at the knees, metal T-shirts, black leather motorcycle jackets) is as 1980s as their music. Clearly, tracks like "Black Tar Sin" and "By the Cemetery" are hardly groundbreaking by late-2000s standards, but Mantic Ritual play these songs with so much conviction that die-hard thrash enthusiasts can easily deal with their lack of originality -- or even enjoy it. Given thrash's importance (thrash metal/speed metal was the first type of metal that seriously incorporated punk), it isn't surprising that some 21st century bands will want to emulate thrash's 1980s heyday -- and Mantic Ritual do so with inspired, if derivative, results on Executioner. ~ Alex Henderson