Space God Ritual has broadened the scope of their proggy theater doom style with every album they’ve released since their 2010 formation. It’s safe to say that the Portland group’s fifth full-length, The Unknown Wants You Dead is their most ambitious yet, featuring more tracks than any previous efforts and totaling to a near hour runtime. The production also shows considerable polish and the arrangements are spruced up with an array of (often literal) bells and whistles.
At its core, The Unknown Wants You Dead! doesn’t stray from the musicians’ well-established tropes and dynamic. The guitars set a beefy foundation reminiscent of Trouble while the vocals recall a flamboyant mix of Papa Emeritus and Hell’s David Bower, sounding more confident than ever in delivering a ghoulish storytelling tenor. One can also find extensive keyboard and synth effects that give credence to the lurking Lovecraftian atmosphere. It’s pretty cheesy stuff but it’s quite effective in context.
It also helps that the songwriting is good at servicing the aesthetic at hand. “Cultes Des Ghouls” is easily the strongest track, pairing a creepy inherited occult narrative with a subterranean bass trod and the album’s most striking tempo change. “The Golden City” closes the album out with a similar template and “The Mansion in the Mists” also makes for a highlight thanks to its emphasis on tinkling pianos, symphonic swells, and borderline polka beats. These spectacles may be the album’s most noteworthy talking points but there’s something to be said for the enjoyably straightforward doom groove on “Into the Curio.”
As with Space God Ritual’s previous works, The Unknown Wants You Dead! is an enjoyable work of Halloween doom. While the theatrical bent may be too goofy for some, the group shows true commitment to their craft. The songwriting carries the weird tales well, the production has never been tighter, and the musicians have never sounded this confident. If you’ve not encountered Space God Ritual before, consider this a recommended entry point. I imagine they’d make a killing on a gig with Acid Witch.
“Into the Curio”
“Ancient Hymns to Tyrant Gods”
“Culte Des Ghouls”
“The Mansion in the Mists”
“The Golden City”