Satanic Ritual Abuse
PHOTO CREDIT: Georgie Scott
The track, Hurting (Adjective/Verb), is available via:
The album, Hurting, is available via:
Memorials of Distinction
7th November, 2018
I am not sure whether this will be my last...
PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Cohen
review of the year but, before I get to Satanic Ritual Abuse, I wanted to address a few themes that I am considering for 2019. I have been thinking about reviews and what I take on because, through 2018, it has been an interesting year but there has not been a massive amount that stuck in the mind. Maybe that is my problem – short attention span or too tired – but I am going to be going after artists for reviews rather than have people come my way. I think one of the main issues is a saminess that has pervaded the music scene. I have yearned for difference in terms of sound and artists who go out of their way to create something unlike anything else. It sort of takes me to Satanic Ritual Abuse and, whilst the name is not something that interests me or has that edge; the music being created by him (Josh) is excellent. I shall mention sound difference and, because there is strength and difference in the music, a couple of constructive points relating to social media and images that I reserve for those who can go far; a bit about minimalism and a sense of the basic – in order to create something quite epic and atmospheric. As I said, I am not really taking too many requests next year because I feel like a lot of my reviews have been about the same sort of thing. Consider how I write them – long and in-depth – and it is hard to say something new about an artist who sounds pretty much the same as the one I just covered. That is not necessarily the fault of the artist but I am seeing a lot of the same thing coming out. I listen and look at Satanic Ritual Abuse and there is that room for interest. The name might point you in the direction of Heavy Metal or something foreboding but that is a bit of a mislead. It is a humorous take and name that certainly gets in the mind and sort of points you in the direction of the music.
Certainty, there is a lot of hectic and strange energy running throughout and one is reminded of artists like Aphex Twin to an extent. Rather than repeat what is out there right now; we have someone who is taking a stand and creating sounds that get into the mind. It is a witches’ brew of odd scents and movements that fuse together quite well. I will come to look at minimalism and creating something grand with very little but I am trying to categorise Satanic Ritual Abuse. It seems to be an Alternative sound but there are electronic glitches and machine-made drama; a blend of harder edges and softer middles. Maybe it is Electronic or Art-Noise but it seems to go against the conventional and commercial. I am not sure whether the creator has an idea regarding genre but it is interesting trying to define this music. Maybe that is the best thing about it. One is not instantly reminded of someone else and the music stands aside. I think it has a touch of those darker innovators like Aphex Twin but there is more accessibility and warmth to be found in Satanic Ritual Abuse. To me, the music does not really need categorisation or any sense of defining. Experience it without labels and you are free to swim in the details, depths and textures. It is more a soundscape and, as the songwriter says, a mix of teen angst and ecclesiastical grandeur. There is colour and consideration but there is also explosion and anger. It is almost like the manifestation of the human psyche. Perhaps it is the contrast of emotions and how we can go from calmed and nice to rather heated. In any case; this is a style of music that I am interested in and have not really had a lot of in 2018. Before I explore the music more, a few considerations regarding Satanic Ritual Abuse and 2019.
PHOTO CREDIT: Georgie Scott
It is hard for an artist who deals in sound more than image to get a lot of photos online. I have been reprimanded and blasted a few times this year for mentioning photos and lack of them but it is something I have to bring up. Even though I like the sounds being put out by Satanic Ritual Abuse, I was a bit sceptical regarding images. You can see there are a few out in the review – and the man might want to retain mystery and a sense of intrigue – but music is a visual medium and image is as important as sound. Some might contest that but I would say, because of social media and competition, people cannot afford to overlook photos. Again, given the nature of the music, it is not like we have a Pop artist who can take shoots and is not reserved about getting images out there. It does not need to be shots of the man’s face or something forced but I feel like there need to be a few more photos. As much as anything, it will bring more people in and catch the eye. It boils down to the nature of the images and what will be in there. Maybe it would not be studio shoots and Josh reclining all seductively and a few shots of a laptop or studio are not quite enough. He could have a concept whereby there is a stylisation or effect added to photos that would look professional but not necessarily be the usual, glossy photoshoots. That might aggrieve him but there needs to be this consideration among musicians regarding their images because, more than anything, music is visual and the aesthetics are as potent as the sound. All the positives and important highlights go to the music but those peripheral aspects need to be taken to heart. It is never a criticism and, if I was not interested in the music, I would not even raise the issue of snaps.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ellie Rawlinson
I do feel like artists feel that the photographic side of music is not vital and it is all about sound. The music rules and will remain but the way people are attracted is through images; journalists will be more invested if they have a spread of shots and can make a great piece. In as much as anything it shows that the artist is invested in their music and, even if they have little cash, they can still afford a selection of images. I shall move onto the music and a lot of positives but I am thinking about social media too. There are social media links at the bottom of this review but they are for Memorials of Distinction: the record label Satanic Ritual Abuse is under and a popular label at that. It is good one can access the music of Satanic Ritual Abuse through these channels but, as we head into 2019, I would urge the songwriter to get together a concurrent and accompanying social media spread. Another reason why I am going after artists and turning so many away is because of the lack of social media presence. Many either do not have a Twitter account or their portfolio is so limited and light of support. It is understandable if the numbers are light in the early stages but I wonder whether artists are doing enough to keep their social media lines fresh, appealing and funded. Maybe Josh does have social media links for his music but I would say you the essential options are Twitter, Facebook; SoundCloud, Spotify and Instagram. I am a bit remiss when it comes to Instagram but I would urge him to set all of those up and run it alongside the label. Keeping these channels updated and getting a lot of people in not only appeals to journalists and new followers but it means you can get your music to radio stations, the press and other avenues.
PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Brydges
Music is as much about business and success as it is creating a quality product and making sure you are original. The best way to promote the product and get out into the world is exploiting social media and being as active as possible. If Satanic Ritual Abuse combines some new shots with these social media sites; bringing them together with the music then I think he can be one of the most promising artists of 2019. I understand how he wants to project some mystique and a lo-fi outlook regarding images and that side of things but, if he wants to get the great music to the masses, a few compromises need to be made. He is a new act and not overloaded with cash but I see great promise in what he is putting out. I and many others would love to see the sounds succeed and go as far as possible. Satanic Ritual Abuse already has a Spotify account and one can access the E.P., Hurting, there right now. These are all things he can take to mind but I feel like there is that promise – one wants it to be fulfilled and the world to share the music. Let’s get back to the music itself and a few points that spring to mind. Satanic Ritual Abuse mixes that sense of angst with something grand and epic. The recordings on his E.P. are culled and primed from 2009 (when he was sixteen) to 2014. It is, in a way, a historical journal from the stages of adolescence to adulthood. In an era when we are so fixated with quick turnaround and instant satisfaction; it is gratifying to see someone produce material that has that lineage and history. In many ways, Hurting is like a greatest hits collection or an anthology. You get a literal sense of growth, maturation and revelation happening. Seeing this composer grow and change as you listen to the songs is quite potent!
There is experimentation and a lot of little samples. You have a sparseness and atmosphere but there are bigger moments. Another change I am making next year is going after cheerier music that has a smile and sense of energy. Whilst one cannot easily describe Satanic Ritual Abuse’s music as upbeat and cheery; there is an energy and fascination in there that gets the blood working and provokes images. The lyrics themes look at the pains of love and isolation; paranoia and other concerns. That sounds heavy and a bit bleak but the music creates space, a sense of redemption and a chance for change. Perhaps this is as un-Christmas-like one can get regarding music but, in many ways, this is an end for me. I am, as I say, taking in happier and more high-spirited music next year and artists with a bigger following. The reason I wanted to focus on Satanic Ritual Abuse is because I see that promise and can think of very few other artists like him. It is amazing listening to the various layers unravel and stepping inside this strange world. I was engrossed by the E.P. and have selected the sort-of-title-track because it seems to embody all the aspects and definition of the work. It is a deep and enriching song but one that provokes quite a lot of emotion. I have talked about artists like Aphex Twin and, as I am not that versed in the lo-fi end of the spectrum and have been denied that pleasure a bit; I am struggling to compare the sounds with anyone else. Maybe that is the best thing one can say. You can hear the sense of discovery and endeavour; a young man who is making sense of his tribulations through music and being as bare and honest as one can be. One is brought into the mind of Josh Cohen throughout and, at every stage, you get a new side to a complex young man.
PHOTO CREDIT: Georgie Scott
Recorded and created between Brighton and London; Hurting is an album that warrants a lot of focus and I am sure will be on many people’s minds in 2019. I will look at the title song from the album very soon but wanted to finish up looking at the nature of the music and why more people should be invested. Consider the way the music was created and how it differs from the mainstream. There are a lot of D.I.Y. artists around right now but not many of them are making music that seems more like a score and soundtrack than conventional music. One of the issues I have had with music this year is that lack of boldness that takes risks and steps into new territory. Perhaps my horizon has been narrow and I have played it safe but one listens to Satanic Ritual Abuse and you get something very different and gripping. I am fascinated by technology and seeing what can be created from such a humble foundation. I can imagine Satanic Ritual Abuse working away on a laptop and experimenting to get the best sound possible. There are lyrics in the songs but the main focus and pull is the sound itself. You are attracted to the compositional elements and the sense of mood created. Switching between nervous energy to anger and through to something lighter; it is a refreshing and varied bouquet that filters into the brain and infuses the imagination. It can be hard marketing music like this to the mainstream because it is so different to what is already there. I feel the scene needs to be more open and embrace these artists who take chances and go away from the conventional. Perhaps these sort of radical changes are years away but I do hope the scene takes greater note of artists like Satanic Ritual Abuse because we need to see the music get out to the wider population. Look back at a time when artists like Aphex Twin, The Prodigy and Orbital ruled and the effect they had. Their music is a little different to what we have here but not a million miles away. People got behind it and we saw something inspiring come into the mainstream. I miss those days and feel there is something lacking.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ellie Rawlinson
It is hard to describe the sound and sensation one gets listening to the opening of Hurting (Adjective/Verb). It is very lo-fi and you can hear percussive clatter and some softer strings. It is a melting of the classical and elegant and something more industrial and raw. Whilst not full-blown Electronic territory and as edgy as artists on the odder end of the spectrum; you get this rather strange feeling and are bonding with sounds that take you into different worlds. I was attracted by the lo-fi production and how the music leaps from your left to right ears (if you are wearing headphones). You are almost placed in the song and hear all these little details fizz and unite with alacrity. When the hero comes to the microphone, the vocal has a sense of drone and there is this very focused and deeper sound. It juxtaposes the mood of the composition and offers some instant gravity. One has floated, dreamed and imagined before and, with the vocal, you are levelled and planted more. There is a sample in there that sounds familiar – I can’t recall it for the life of me! It is melodic, sensuous and immediate and it balances against the original notes which are more jarring and darker. There is hiss and a sense of electronic wash; you have vocals that are in the mix but less audible and decipherable than the composition. That is a deliberate mood as it places the hero underneath this wave of sound, emotional disconnect and strain. It is a heavy listen and one that should not be taken lightly. I would never warn people from listening to music but, if you are not familiar with the sort of music Satanic Ritual Abuse is throwing out, then it might take a while to rotate your dish! It is not overly-Christmas-like (my fault regarding timing and being busy!) but Hurting (Adjective/Verb) is a busy and intoxicating song that makes you want to come back.
PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Cohen
You listen to the song and, as I said, it is more about sonic mood and composition than the vocal. One can decipher the odd word here and there but it is not a case of interpreting the lyrics and trying to piece together this story. The track is more like part of a concept and story of a man growing from adolescence to adulthood. I am not sure whether the tracks are sequential in that respect and we are hearing something written around 2010 (this song is in the middle of the album so might have been written around that time). It is interesting to sit Hurting (Adjective/Verb) against other tracks on the record and compare. The lo-fi charm of the electronics and drone fuses with that sample and more accessible sound to create the clash of two worlds. Percussion continues to clash and roll whilst the hero croons and offers up words. He is being driven crazy and intense by someone and it is clear some sort of romantic dislocation has come to play. That sample – I shall ask him what it is! – is lifted and it seems almost like a cover version...albeit, one that you will not often hear! The twanging strings and metallic percussion do not seem like easy bedfellows on paper but they work really well. There are so many different aspects and elements that are unified to create this deep, strange and oddly understandable soundscape. It might not be to everyone’s liking but you cannot deny the innovation and production quality. I love how all these rather disparate elements form and how they sound when mixed. You go into the track not knowing what to expect and what will come. You need a clear mind before you do step in but there is this feeling you get that is hard to describe. It is an unusual listen but one that stays in the mind. I am a fan of the more experimental side of music and think more people should check out Satanic Ritual Abuse. The fact it is so different to everything out that means it will take time to resonate but is a much more rewarding listening experience than you’d be used to. Investigate the Hurting album as a whole and it is interesting hearing how Hurting (Adjective/Verb) sits alongside all the other tracks. If this is my last review of 2018 – I might fit another one in – it is a good one and has introduced me to someone I might not have otherwise discovered! Make sure you have a listen and discover something unique and truly special.
PHOTO CREDIT: Georgie Scott
I have talked about some alterations and steps Satanic Ritual Abuse can consider next year but the fact its creator runs Memorials of Distinction means there is that popular platform promoting the music. Josh Cohen founded the label and has other acts under the wings – including Viewfinder and Tree House. Maybe he will get another set of social media sites but I think a few more snaps to accompany the music would be a wise investment. Whatever he has planned going forward, I am excited to see what happens and how far he can go. The Hurting L.P. is the result of years of hard work and there has been some delay. Personal things have hindered true progress but now the album is out, we can see what has been happening and get a real sense of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Maybe I will come around to the name – might take a while! – but one cannot argue with the music and the quality available! It is a wonderful thing to discover an artist that is very different and kindles some excitement. I have lacked a certain bite and curiosity the past few months and it is something I am going to remedy next year. I am going to end things by looking at where Satanic Ritual Abuse and Memorials of Distinction can head next year. I feel the label is one of the more popular around and is building a lot of steam. The social media following is impressive and the artists being represented are putting out great work. I think they can go further and there are some underground artists that would be a perfect fit. I am not sure how they recruit new signings – whether it is word of mouth or they listen to demos on streaming sites etc. – but I know a few other acts that would be a nice fit for the label.
There is a great deal of respect for Memorials of Distinction and that is down to its founder, Josh Cohen. He has put his everything into the label and his musical project, Satanic Ritual Abuse. I feel he could tour quite extensively next year and progress from the comfort of home and studio and get his music around the world. I am not sure what he has in mind regarding gigs and how it translates to the stage but I would love to see it brought to life at a gig. Maybe there are technical difficulties making the music resonate the same way from the stage but Hurting is a great album that warrants a lot of affection. I will wrap things up here and go about my merry way. Before I do that; I wanted to advise not only Satanic Ritual Abuse to get that music as far as possible – I know Cohen is doing as much as he can to get it to the masses – but people in general to be more open and aware of the selection we have in modern music. Still we focus on the mainstream or what is being recommended by radio stations. It is hard to get a good handle on the best out there – given the vast array of sounds – but we are missing out on so much. I am not saying we need a revolution but there are so many great artists being overlooked because they do not conform with what is deemed ‘popular’ and ‘trending’. It is hard to change things radically and have said this a lot recently. I do think we need to consider music as a spectrum and ocean rather than something very narrow; stop following trends and be more open to unexpected and unusual sounds. I have been looking for someone like Satanic Ritual Abuse and it is great to see this rare and ambitious composer/songwriter who can go a long way. As I start to wrap things up for 2018; I am thinking about next year and what I want from music. I am keen to up my game regarding the popularity of artists featured and need to think about moving to the next level. I also want to be more daring regarding sound and the type of thing I produce. It is good, therefore, to review Satanic Ritual Abuse, and someone who is very different to anything I have covered this year. Best of luck to him because, after only one review, I have been compelled by this rare talent who, I feel, can go a long way...
PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Brydges
IN a short space of time.
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