Ahead of release, California death metal band Rings of Saturn are streaming their third full length album via YouTube, Lugal Ki En. Which translates in Ancient Sumerian Cuneiform to “King of the Earthlings, Lord of the Cosmic World,” according to guitarist and founding member Lucas Mann. The album does not sound much different from their last effort, Dingr, in most cases. However, this time around, there have been multiple claims surfacing of “unrealistic editing” — that is, the band, and mostly guitarist Lucas Mann have been accused of altering their parts in the studio if they cannot be played, such as speeding up tracks, over-triggering drums, and so forth.
Whether these claims are true or not is basically pointless. The most important aspects of this album are its writing and how it sounds, not whether it can be repeated live. Overall, it is at best a fun listen, but nothing about it is truly unique. The guitar work is fast, as are the drums, and the vocals are brutal. Fans of death metal band Thy Art is Murder or Suicide Silence (the last track on Lugal En Ki is a cover of Suicide Silence’s “No Pity for a Coward”) will enjoy the rhythm while Jeff Loomis fans may enjoy the style of leads that the band pulls: extremely fast runs with no holding back. Overall, Lugal Ki En is a semi-solid effort, but it’s nothing more than a rehashing of many other deathcore albums. It’s part of the modern trend, aside from a few unique moments.
Looking at the musical aspects alone, we see an album that is composed of the same thing every other deathcore band pulls: low, cutting triplets, with the same note played over and over. Guitar leads possibly reach a level of annoying. Guitarists Lucas Mann and Joel Omans have actually gone beyond the call of duty to play as many possible notes within one measure without giving any regard to what they are actually playing.
The two exceptions to this rule are the third track, “Lalassu Xul,” which features dissonance, unique chord changes, and new ideas on the face of deathcore. Rather than swarming the listener with “breakdowns” the band has elected to write a strange song which features multiple changes, acoustic guitars, and quite the ambiance. If more songs on the album contained this level of experimentation, Lugal Ki En would be more than just a shallow idea, and certainly listenable more than just three or four times.
Also fitting this profile, we see the eleventh track, “The Heavens Have Fallen”. The instrumental features the same level of experimentation and includes heavy use of piano, samples, and keeps the listener the whole way through.
Unfortunately, these are the high points of the album. Aside from the fact that Rings of Saturn’s lineup has changed twice almost every album, if not more, the current musicians display a lack of interest in their work. Most of it is simply mediocre. For more reference, we’ll look at the vocals of the album. Vocalist Ian Bearer sounds just like many other deathcore vocalists, especially Mitch Lucker (deceased vocalist of Suicide Silence). Further, his words are unintelligible and those which can be understood, or read from a lyric booklet, are written weakly and display a general lack of character. The vocals amount to sludge and the lyrics amount to cartoon violence.
Rings of Saturn would be wise to think about keeping the same lineup for more than one album, and try putting some effort in. If Rings of Saturn were trying to make a joke, they hit the nail on the head. If not, they’ve made another mediocre album with just enough catchy riffs to slide by with a C minus. Regardless, we give this one a failing grade.
Key Tracks: Lalassu Xul, Godless Times, Senseless Massacre
The album can be ordered on iTunes and the band’s official merch store.