Ritual Killer is one of those bands I thought I’d never see live. They were always an ominous whisper among the underground scene as a band that was somehow a relic,yet ever-present. Inside Siberia, just stage left, a Ritual Killer poster has hung for a few years. The poster bears a hooded Aleister Crowley making the sign of silence. Ironic and deeply mystifying, that poster has been enthroned in various decibel levels. I’ve stared at it countless times wondering exactly “Who and what are Ritual Killer?”
Rising from an almost ten-year slumber, Ritual Killer returns to the forefront of the underground with their new album Exterminance. I caught up with the band outside Siberia for their record release show this past October. This was their first show in a few years but the members are active in other bands, familiar names in the underground and international metal scene: Jordan Barlow (Gasmiasma and Psychon Vex) on vocals, Sammy Duet (Goatwhore and Acid Bath) on guitar, James Harvey (Goatwhore and Psychon Vex) on bass, and Zak Nolan (Psychon Vex and Goatwhore) on drums. I grabbed few minutes of their time before their set to talk about everything from recording to occult symbolism.
Ritual Killer started as a side project, but has it progressed in any other way?
Sammy Duet: Yeah, Ritual Killer has definitely built itself up into something that wasn’t expected. It was basically Zak sending me drum tracks. Just like going in a room and playing a whole song of just drum tracks and him going, “Hey, put some shit over this.” It’s not a very easy thing to do, actually.
Zak Nolan: I think the main factor is that Sammy and I met in ’91. We were into Floridian Death Metal, Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse; and then that quickly turned into Beherit [Finnish black metal] and I know [Sammy] has always been into Celtic Frost, Venom, Bathory… but it was mainly Beherit and Sarcafago [Brazilian black/death metal] kinda thing—
SD: Bestial Warlust!
ZN: Bestial Warlust was very influential. Around ’93 or ’94 is when it seemed to turn and we started getting into extreme metal. I don’t know if it was serious, but we wanted to record stuff. But I have to say another band that was a big influence on our sound was Niden div. 187.
SD: Definitely, that’s one of those bands nobody has heard, but Zak and I connected off of that. If you listen to that album, which one is it?
SD: It’s just a non-stop hate-filled recording. Pure violence. This album came out when the atmospheric black metal scene was popping.
ZN: Black metal was getting lame and then that album came out in ’97 and that’s the year I came up with the name Ritual Killer.
SD: It all evolved from four really good friends starting a band together that developed into something. Something like this doesn’t happen very often, where a bunch of friends get together, jam, and sees what happens… and this happened.
ZN: And we met the perfect singer and bass player.
How long has Exterminance been in the works?
Jordan Barlow: We recorded it like eight years ago.
ZN: Well, in 2008 is when we recorded it.
SD: It’s like our recordings are cursed, it always takes a long time for them to come out. I guess you know it’s like God (or something) trying to stop it from happening.
Did the sound change at all from its initial recording to where it is now?
SD: I don’t think so, because we were all in the same mindframe on how the band should sound.
ZN: It was such an organic thing that we didn’t have to think about it too much, because all four of us are into this type of extreme black metal. Like, when I listen to the parts and the changes, nothing sounds contrived to me, it flows.
James Harvey: With the post- production, when it was done it was done. And then it was shelved.
JB: Well, it did take us six years to master it.
SD: With this band we don’t really think about things in that sense, we just do it. If we know it’s right then that’s the way it is.
I noticed a similarity to Celtic Frost and Hellhammer. Would you agree?
SD: Hellhammer? I hear they’re pretty good.
JB: I was going more Attila, like Tormentor style rather than Hellhammer. Hellhammer didn’t even register, actually… but that’s not to say Hellhammer wasn’t on my mind. I guess subconsciously, Hellhammer is always on our minds. [laughs]
The new album has a song on it called “Cuntius.” What’s the backstory on that?
James Harvey: I was wondering the same thing myself.
SD: [pointing to Jordan] You need to talk to that guy about that.
ZN: He’s into the more magic and ritualistic topics.
JB: It’s an old story about this Silesian vampire who was a shoemaker back in the 16th century in southern Poland. There was this village where all the little children started disappearing and this guy, Cuntius, was a hermit. He lived outside of town and because he was the outsider, everybody thought that he was the one killing these kids off. So they pull some Frankenstein shit and paraded up to his cave, killed his ass, and buried him. Well, all the children still kept disappearing so they dug his body up and stabbed him in his leg and drew fresh blood. They hit him with the butt of the sword in his chest and his hand grasped the sword. So they said he was a vampire coming out of the grave still killing these children. They pulled him out of his grave, burned his body, and scattered his ashes throughout the fields. As soon as they did that the killings stopped, and his name was Johannes Cuntius.
I noticed some magical symbols in some band promo shots, specifically the unicursal hexagram. How does it relate to the band?
JB: It relates to my personal spirituality. The pentagram can be dulled down and attributed to Christianity, but the hexagram can be taken to an astrological level. The seven planets coincide with the seven points of the hexagram, but also the four outer points are the four elements of earth. Put a circle around it and it makes everything one, astral gods to earthly elements. This is kind of a hard question to answer. If you put a hexagram over your pineal—your mind’s eye—it helps you exert your personal will. It helps you attract the energy you call forth.
Now that the record has been released after five years, what is the next step?
SD: It’s just like anything, the future is uncertain. With this band we take everything in stride. We don’t really stress about trying to get shit done. When we feel ready to do shit with this band we get together, jam, and get shit done. Until that time comes, we’re going to hang out and drink beer together and not talk about this band. [laughs]