My Album Review of, and Conversation with Ritual Moon
By Boris Lee
While attending what would become my final music show in Los Angeles, my heart found a beat again for new metal music. A nearly all-female band caught my attention and cast a spell upon my aging Metalhead heart. Sirenhex. The band’s performance took me back to my youth in the metal music world and infused my desire to write about music again. So, when Sirenhex released their debut album in May of last year, I wrote about the music just as fast as I could listen to it.
“Then we have the rhythm section of Sirenhex. The backbone to any solid band is the rhythm section. Geezer Butler and either Bill Ward or, Vinny Appice of Black Sabbath, Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo of Slayer, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine, are just a few solid examples to prove this point. Belen and Mars come together in that same classic fashion, forming a rhythm section that could easily break away and offer a side project on their own (wink, wink, hint, hint).”
~Excerpt from Hechiceras de la Seducción Mágica de Metal… my Sirenhex album review.
Mars and Belen, the rhythm section of Sirenhex, set out to cast their own musical spell Majik, forming Ritual Moon. After listening to their creative abilities in Sirenhex, I wasted no time in ordering a copy of their self-titled debut. Once I listened to the album, I decided it was time to write about music again. Similar to my experience with Sirenhex, the music created by Ritual Moon infused my journalistic desires. So much so, I asked Mars and Belen to have a conversation with me to coincide with my review of their album. To my creative joy, the ladies agreed.
This past March, the young maidens of metal magic released the self title debut, showing a two piece can bring the metal madness to the pit, just as powerfully as any three to six-piece band can.
Passage, the opening track of the self-titled release is a well structured, mosh pit pounding instrumental. Mars and Belen begin the song with a “Groove-tastic” riff, displaying appropriately rough tempo changes, and musical timing that breathes. Though there is no bass playing on the song (or any of the other tracks on the album), Mars and Belen do a good job between themselves creating a full, heavy sound to the song. The tone of Passage, reminds me of Black Sabbath during the Eternal Idol era (an underrated album).
The title track of the Ritual Moon debut tolls in next, as what I declare the strongest song on the album. Opening with a heavy drum riff by Mars and deep chord picking from Belen, the melody wets the appetite for what is lurking ahead. When the tempo picks up and Bee begins her demonically baritone like vocals, the music has feeling. With the next tempo change in the song, the melodic pace quickens into a state of anticipated climax, breaking the song into the movements of a metal music symphony.
Grave Soul, slams you into the grave pits, with a brutal pace and beat. Mars drumming on the song presents a phenomenal pounding pace like that of Phil Taylor, and her tempo changes are as smooth as those you would hear from the great Bill Ward. Belen jumps right in with the tempo change success. Her guitar riffs flow with Mars drum work like a well-oiled machine. The vocals are again heavy and match the song’s intense beat.
Uncontrollable Death, the closing song on Ritual Moon’s self-titled debut, takes over orchestrating the mosh pits where Grave Soul left off. The marriage of Mars drumming and Belen’s guitar work, and the short run of the song, call on the early days of thrash metal. If Lars of Metallica and Kerry King of Slayer had a jam session when each band released their respective debut albums, Uncontrollable Death would be what that song may sound like. Kill ‘Em All having a head on collision with Show No Mercy.
Ritual Moon put out a strong debut album, highlighting their creative cohesiveness. Mars has improved a great deal over the past year behind the skins, showing she has the chops to hang with the boys. Belen stepping out from the bass and taking the position of front woman is executed well for a first timer, and her guitar work emphasizes her talents on a stringed instrument.
As strong as the album is, the throaty demonic like vocals get lost in the guitars and drums. Belen is shaking off the discomfort of stepping out of the shadows and taking the reins of front woman and doing a good job. However, the energy translated into the music gives away her being new to the position. I am confident that with time, this will improve, and I suspect with the release of new Ritual Moon material, Belen will shut me up on this minor drawback to the albums overall result.
Mars Dimitri, in my opinion, is the best new drummer in metal music from SoCal. She plays with an energy that brings drumming attention it deserves in music. That being said, she went to the thrash metal beat well once too often on the album. Grave Soul and Uncontrollable Death, share a similar feel, taking away from the talent Mars displays earlier in the album. Again, much like with Bee, I suspect with the release of new Ritual Moon material, Mars will shut me up on this minor drawback to the albums overall result.
One thing I have repeated throughout the years about music, is music needs to breathe. Good music has feeling to it. Musicians who are putting their heart and soul into what the listener ends up hearing, share that creative energy. These musicians touch the fans of their music. Mars and Belen are excellent at translating creative energy into their music. Their perfections and flaws shine, and that is a telltale sign of a true artist. Although the Ritual Moon debut is easily categorized as a “Death-Metal-Thrash-Fest”, the bottom line is that if you listen to the music, you’ll hear things go deeper than that. The ladies are talented.
The debut from Ritual Moon proves that Mars and Belen can venture out on their own and create music that is energetic and seamless in creative concept. The album shows the ladies diversity in talents and is a good foundation for building future musical success.
I give the Ritual
Moon self-titled debut, 4 out of 5 raised horns.
A Conversation with Ritual Moon…
The life of a creative person is usually complicated. Well, for those of us looking to do something in several genres, in a word of one trick ponies, things can become such. A true artist, no matter what their creative medium, puts their soul into what they complete.
Being a fiction writer and journalist, I find myself an introvert. Because of that, I wonder what crinkles the wrinkles of other creative being’s brains. What motivates them to come out of their shell? Musicians, artist, authors, performers, some of these people carry an energy in them. An energy that tells the true story about what they are creating.
Ritual Moon, composed of Mars Dimitri and Bee Sobalvarro, are talented young women, and watching them play in Sirenhex, prompted me to wonder, just what is their story. With the release of the self-titled debut from Ritual Moon, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Mars and Belen, about their music and a few other subjects.
Boris Lee: Where did the idea for Ritual Moon come from? Creatively, visually? What prompted the bands formation?
Ritual Moon: We created the band as a side-project between us because we clicked. We would chill at Mars’ house and just mess around before or after Sirenhex practice and we would free-jam for hours. We put a name to the project and after having some down-time with other bands; we started putting in more time to playing our songs and felt it was appropriate to move it from a part time side-project to a full-on band.
BL: What was it like recording the Ritual Moon record, and how did the recording process vary from your previous musical projects?
RM: Allen was the best recording experience we’ve had! He was super fucking chill and just let us have at it. We walked in, everything was set up and ready to go, and we pulled out our mango micheladas, smoked an obligatory blunt and jammed. We originally went in thinking we’d only record “Ritual Moon” and “Grave Soul”, but we recorded the other two songs, “Passage” and “Uncontrollable Death”. It was fun! It differed from previous experiences in that we had the control to do what we wanted in the studio without having input or strong suggestions from anyone else.
BL: Belen- What has it been like to switch gears, taking the guitar and vocal reigns over for Ritual Moon?
Belen: It’s definitely been fun and challenging. Props to the musicians who sing and play at the same time–it’s difficult! I’ve had to go from hiding behind my hair and bass to being a front woman, singing and playing guitar… so it’s something I have to keep practicing.
BL: Who are your truest musical influences?
Belen: I like all the metal sub-genres, but to name a few bands, I’ve recently been listening to a lot of Satanic Warmaster, Devil Master, Bolt Thrower, Baphomet, Motorhead, Nattefrost, Fenriz’s Red Planet, and Metallica’s Kill Em All, and the first two Iron Maiden records. I can’t spot out individual people at the moment, but these bands and records are some that I can listen to any time.
Mars: Black Sabbath, Venom, Cruel Force.
BL: Mars- Do you feel that your playing style in Ritual Moon is any different from other bands you are involved with?
Mars: My style will always sound like me, but yes it’s different in the sense of I can different speeds, and I can put more creativity to it since there’s only two of us making the music.
BL: Letting out the creative creature in us brings that touch of self to what the end results are. From painting, to writing, playing instruments, it is all about letting who you are shine.
What placed you both into the creative mental state, for writing the material on the Ritual Moon record?
Belen: Knowing I have the freedom to write my own riffs with someone that can easily follow is something that lets my creativity just flow out. Consciously knowing I can bring anything to the table in this band lets me explore and expand my writing style. Of course, we smoke weed and have an occasional beer, but I think the fact that there’s only two of us and the fact and we have similar musical taste allows us to write more easily.
Mars: It’s all emotion for me. When I create music with Belen, it’s mostly blowing off aggression and anger I’ve always felt strongly in my life.
BL: What’s the first song you two wrote for the Ritual Moon record? How did the song come to life?
RM: The first song we wrote is called “In Darkness”. It’s more of a doom song with a punk twist at the end. We didn’t think of putting it on the album, so it didn’t make it on there. As for the first song we wrote for the album, it was the self-titled song. It started off as a free-jam a year ago in Mars’ garage, then I added lyrics to it.
BL: To have a recording contract, or to not have a recording contract. In today’s creative world, with technology being at your fingertips, do you feel a recording contract with a label serves much purpose anymore?
RM: At this time, we don’t feel compelled to get signed for a recording contract. We love doing things DIY for the most part and technology is half of the reason it’s so much easier nowadays. If we are presented with a great opportunity, then we are up for negotiation at that point. For now, doing everything ourselves feels so much more liberating and at ease.
BL: I agree about technology and being a DIY creative type. It takes work, but the end results are more rewarding.
The commercial metal music world is not what it once was in the early ’80’s, metal’s heyday. What are your thoughts on the state of the metal music world today? Is the smaller venue playing a more intimate way to enjoy your favorite bands, or is it a sign that metal music will never regain the commercial success it once had?
Mars: I’m cool with metal not being mainstream, and I like the smaller venues! Keep it to the true! Metal ain’t for the yuppies.
Belen: I feel the same way as Mars, I don’t care if it’s not commercial or mainstream. I think it’s very hard nowadays for a band to become commercial, and that’s a big difference from how it was in the 80s. However, it’s easier nowadays to come across bands at our fingertips. I like small venues for the bigger bands I follow. I guess it adds ambiance.
BL: What’s your earliest exposure to music that lead you to become musicians?
Belen: My cousin gave me her System of a Down, Toxicity CD when I was in third grade. That led to my appreciation of heavy music. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was in seventh grade because my middle school taught guitar for beginners and I felt empowered as a kid to pick up the guitar in a class full of boys.
Mars: Believe it or not, the bands that used to play at the churches my mom made me go to. That’s how I started playing guitar in middle school, learning how to play Jesus songs!
BL: Mars, Why the drums? What is your creative connection to the drums?
Mars: I started playing guitar in middle school, then I ditched that because I got bored. Then around 2013, I messed with bass and I paired up with my boyfriend’s sister who was drumming at the time. She showed me some basic beats on the kit, and I got the hang of it. After that I was hooked, I loved playing the instrument, and honestly if you got rhythm (I’m a good dancer BTW) drumming and any percussion will just come natural to you. Dancing requires keeping a beat, and I used to dance in school. And the other aspect that got me was the energy I could put on the kit. I could really blow off steam and pound away at them! Been a drummer ever since.
BL: Belen, what brought you to take over guitars and vocals on the Ritual Moon record, rather than bring in a guitarist and, or, a vocalist?
Belen: I wanted to learn how to sing and play. Once we started free jamming, I slowly messed around with vocals while playing. I don’t see myself as being a stand-alone vocalist, however I play guitar for some songs in another band as well.
BL: Mars, greatest drummer of all time, and why?
Mars: I don’t know about greatest! But my all-time favorite is Bill Ward, mostly because of his jazz influence on his style, and Phil Taylor because of his speed!
BL: Belen, greatest bassist of all time, and why?
Belen: Steve Harris, because he was the main composer for Iron Maiden. His style is unique, yet I love that you can hear what his influences are.
BL: Ladies- King Diamond, Dio, or Rob Halford? Who would you put in front of the mic for a dream jam?
Belen: I would choose Rob Halford. I love Rob’s range and I love his attitude.
Mars: THIS IS THE HARDEST THING YOU’VE MADE ME DO, but King Diamond no doubt!! I want to hear his screams!!!
BL: Mars and Belen, thank you for taking the time to converse with me about Ritual Moon, and giving the metal music fans a chance to get to know the creative creatures you are. I look forward to what the future holds for you both.
You can find Ritual Moon on Bandcamp here: Ritual Moon Bandcamp, or on the following social media outlets: