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The Hemulic Voluntary Band

Ritual

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Recensione album

First, there had been a striking debut album of Scandinavian folk-prog meets hair metal. Then, number two had marked a sharp turn toward heavy rock, ditching the prog and folk elements. The third album had come back some way toward those influences, letting go of the commercial leanings of the second. And now, after a live record that synthesized all that came before, Ritual's fourth studio album resolutely comes back to the prog and medieval/folk direction of the first opus, even going beyond that marker in the process. Yes, The Hemulic Voluntary Band is more progressive and more traditional folk-tinged than ever before, as if Ritual had decided to fully embrace their prog rock nature. And it works all for the better. The Hemulic Voluntary Band (the title comes from Tove Jansson's books about the Moomin family, whose characters populate several Ritual songs) may be a bit harder to get into at first, but sticking with it pays off. After all, it takes some time to break down and get familiar with a 26-minute epic like "A Dangerous Journey." Yes, a prog rock epic — a first for this band. Now, don't expect a pompous symphonic piece about the Order of the Universe! In typical Ritual fashion, the song, however long and complex, has a lightness to it. Elegantly arranged (with prominent accordion), it tells the tale of a girl and her cat — much closer to Alice in Wonderland than to Yes' esoteric territory. "A Dangerous Journey" occupies the second half of the album. Before that, listeners are treated to five strong and very diverse songs, starting with "The Hemulic Voluntary Band." One of the group's most complex and lively numbers yet, the song points straight to Gentle Giant, thanks to its use of counterpoint and vocal harmonies, although the vocal delivery itself and the Swedish folk bounce are 100 percent Ritual. "In the Wild" adopts the group's trademark hard prog rock stance, with singer Patrik Lundström getting in his high-pitched screaming range — he has plenty of softer, more delicate moments elsewhere. "Late in November" is the album's acoustic number, with recorders, violin, and acoustic guitars galore. And so on: each track features a new facet of the band, all these being brought together later in the epic track. Simply put, The Hemulic Voluntary Band is an amazing album by a band that definitely does not stand still. ~ François Couture, Rovi

The Hemulic Voluntary Band, Ritual
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