I was thinking Wilde had read my mind.
That society’s been rendered blind.
All the pageantry of art enshrined with no meaning
Gothic art rock is alive and well in New York City. After years of dazzling audiences in the local music scene with their unique, rich sound, The Ritualists present their stunning new album, Baroque and Bleeding, which is now being released on vinyl.
At once intellectual and passionate, the collection of ten songs draws heavily from acid rock, 90s Britpop, and electronica while offering a lyrical dissection of the current state of rock music. There are elements of Pulp, White Lies and Suede in their sound – partly because they enlisted the production of none other than Ed Buller (Psychedelic Furs).
Painted People, their last album, released in 2020, was a concept revolving around “celebration in finding your kin.” Baroque and Bleeding deals more with the “exploration of the importance of being earnest and the pitfalls of being ornate, in an atmosphere that seems to embrace the vapid, safe and mediocre.” It’s a love letter, in a sense, to the reclamation of self and the empowerment of one’s own fate.
Dryden’s powerful vocals quaver through the backing music, pouring his entire soul into his emotive vocals. Their lyrics are clever, educated, but never pretentious: the band deftly tackles love, loss, mythology, the occult, polytheism, and spirituality in their lush sound. Dryden describes himself as “anachronistic,” straddling the flowery lyric style of 19th-century Romantics, psychedelic and glam elements of the late 60s and 70s, and the passionate vocal lamentations of early Simple Minds, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Ziggy-era Bowie.
If Painted People was about finding one’s soul group, Baroque and Bleeding is about navigating those strange new waters. Duran Duran’s influence comes through in “Queen of Dolls”, as Dryden muses, “I cannot decide when I lost my pride, hubris converged with decline.” Lyrics like these are weighty, introspective, and thoughtful – the kind of music one listens to at a crossroads in their life. “Forbidden Love” is a glam-goth love song to the shadow, succumbing to a bad idea.
Dryden explained that in the past, attempting to follow in the lofty footsteps of legends like Bowie, Bolan, and LeBon often left him feeling lonely…until he met those who shared his vision and passion in the underground scene of the Lower East Side. As a testament to that awakening, the mysterious title song is beautifully illustrated in this lush video directed by Nicole Fernandez. A woman finds her authentic self in the cloak of nightlife darkness as the Ritualists perform live….becoming, in effect, their namesake.
The album opens with the sultry, florid, and pensive art-rock groove of the title track, whose narrative is expertly crooned by Dryden over shivers of gothic guitars.
Watch the glorious video for “Baroque and Bleeding” below:
The title track is followed by the aforementioned “Queen of Dolls,” whose psychedelic reverie gives way to “Forbidden Love,” which seemingly conjures the charm of Suede.
“Everybody is on the Radio” continues the vibe of the work of Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler, yet whirling in opulence like the lamentations of a rock god flâneur like Bowie.
“Dead Eyes” drips like honey with its effortless acoustic serenade of Folk, Psychedelia, and Gam, transporting the listener to a dreamlike version of the 70s.
“Of Anonymity” is bombastic with its cavernous production, sonorous vocal wails, marching rhythm section, and its unrelenting hailstorm of spiraling guitars.
‘Monsters” is a silky rock fantasy that glides and sways through its comforting narrative and cosmic orchestrations.
“The Illusion of Poverty” evokes some of the swagger of the post-punk revival, and “Pretty Star” is a pulsing transmission of fiery love that shimmers around the silhouettes of satellites.
The album closers with the quavering synth and bass of the mysterious “Mothman,” a song with its reverb and phase effect-laden production that feels like a cocoon-like thread has been pulled on the veil that lies between our dimension and another.
Baroque and Bleeding is out now via 484 Music. Listen below:
Order Baroque and Bleeding on vinyl here.
The Ritualists live:
- 9/7 Washington D.C. at Pie Shop
- 9/8 Knoxville, TN at Preservation Pub
- 9/9 Atlanta, GA at Sabbath Brewing (Bless This Mess Fest)
- 9/10 Chattanooga, TN at Cherry St. Tavern
- 9/24 Brooklyn, NY at TV Eye
Follow The Ritualists: