Errol Blyth: vocals, Steve Pankhurst: sax, Jamie Stewart: guitar, Mark Bond: bass and Ray Mondo (Ray Taylor-Smith): drums, comprise Ritual, a name which contrary to my suspicions has no religious significance but was picked for its sharpness and “it goes with the music to an extent”. It’s easy to spray on walls too.
“Did you know we got nicked by the law for sticking posters up? It put our Poster-Sticking-Up career at an end. We went to court and got fined 10 pounds each me (Mark) and Jamie. We were under the impression that sooner or later we’d get pulled up by the police but we didn’t think they’d charge us. The thing was where we stuck this poster up there was a dirty great “Ritual” sprayed behind it that had been done a week or so earlier.”
They are the best known of all the Harrow bands, which include Malice, Mayhem and Martyr, and also stem back into Harrow’s punk rock history, beginning two and a half years ago in a band called General Confusion, with a line-up pretty much the same as Ritual, but with Steve the saxophonist on drums, as well as an extra rhythm guitarist. They played their first gig at Watford college supporting Toyah, but progress was very slow, right through Suppressed Emotion, until Stigma was formed, a group which included a drummer called Peter Gould who gave them great scope for progression but their best ever drummer is definitely Ray.
As Ritual they played their first ever gig at the Windsor Castle in Harrow Road, in September 1981, and have since progressed ten fold, picking up a following of their own and recently pulling 130 people in a local pub. “Anyone can come and see us. We don’t care. I prefer someone shouting ‘crap’, ‘balls’, ‘wanks’. At least you know where you are, instead of complete silence. If people stand there like zombies it’s no fun. To perform well you need feedback. You seem to play so much better when people dance or look enthusiastic. Just smile in our direction, or something.”
“There is personal politics in some songs: Closedown, Manpower, Human Sacrifice, all deep songs” but the idea is to entertain, and not to preach or write about politics. All of the songs are written together as a band, although most of the music comes from the more musical Jamie.
The band’s biggest achievement to date is a John Peel session featuring Human Sacrifice, Brides, Play Time and Mind Disease. They have also been advertised on Zodiac Radio, a local pirate station and are currently planning to release a cassette tape with demo tracks, live material, sound effects, lyrics and artwork, but the immediate aim is to get a single out:
“We sent about sixty tapes to every independent label. We got about ten replies, out of which two people were interested. Peter Kent of Situation 2 Records and Ivo from 4AD”. Ivo like the music but wasn’t able to commit to a record at the current time, but they are not going to finance their own single due to lack of money and the futility of being “just another band with a single….you may as well just have a tape in your bedroom”.
An Apology to Ritual
Re-reading the 2 reviews below I’m embarrassed by what I wrote. I owe Ritual an apology. The recordings have stood the test of time unlike my reviews. Check out how wrong I was.
Ritual – Songs For A Dead King (cassette only album).
Songs for a Dead King is a disappointing cassette from an otherwise first rate band. Its failure is due to the unvaried collection of self-limiting music. There is very little energy or atmosphere created. Where it is, it is spread thinly, leaving an otherwise very plain and ordinary selection of music.
The tape opens with a live recording: Structure of My Madness, which has the spirit needed for such an opener. In places the vocals can hardly be heard, this only adds to its potent attention possession. The quality of the recording and the parts done in various studios is pretty good.
The other exception to side one’s collection of Music for Fourth Bridge Painters is Play Time, a track which I raved about on their demo tape: the four tracks of which are found on Songs For A Dead King and are by far the best. I won’t repeat the description of the song, but will say now I’m able to read the lyrics, that the lyrics are terrible, real sixth form type of expression which doesn’t make any impact except one of cheapness. The lyrics are presented in a booklet accompanying the cassette, purchased together in a plastic folder. The artwork in the booklet in various places consists of pictures taken from the Sunday magazines (does everybody read them?) which has the effect of removing the mystery and replacing it with undeveloped common ideas.
Undeveloped and common is how I would describe most of the music on the cassette. In places where the argument fails, as in Brides and Mind Disease, the effect is stunning. Both are classics and stage faves. The remaining tracks all seem to be trying to capture the unique feel of these two, the idea that this is Ritual at its best and everything should be as good. The result is a feeble collection of similar sounding songs, self limiting and uninteresting.
This effort is not to be slagged by anybody, least of all me.
Ritual – demo tape.
Human Sacrifice is a poor opener to an otherwise excellent cassette. The majority of the band would like to release this track as a single but I tend to agree with saxist Steve that Brides would be a better choice. Mind Disease has a catching chorus on top of tribal drumming and is a very powerful track. Play Time, better than Mind Disease contains some Birthday Party howling and growling with the distorted guitar replaced by an abstract blast of plinkety plonk piano. The distorted guitar at times sounds like a power saw buzzing in the background, but it is exploited to its full potential in Brides. This track is very atmospheric with haunting hoots from the sax creating a Gothic feel. Jamie lets rip with a real heavy metal style slashing guitar solo where the weird harmonics created by the distortion unit are set free. Overall, this tape is really good and I strongly recommend it. The band describe themselves as a cross between The Birthday Party and Theatre of Hate which to my mind is a fair description.
Ritual – the singles
Mind Disease/ Nine 7″ (Red Flame Records)
Kangaroo Court EP 12″ (Red Flame Records)
(Brides / Conscript / Questioning The Shadow).
Ritual – the legacy
Errol and Mark teamed up with Spon from UK Decay and formed In Excelsis and were later interviewed for No Class 8 by our man Chris P.
Jamie and Ray joined Ian Astbury in Death Cult. Ray – I believe – got deported to his native Sierra Leone, and the band shortened their name to The Cult. Jamie became The Cult’s bass player. You may have heard of them.