Ritual Torture says playing death metal doesn’t mean they want people to die. “We’re not about violence,” says guitarist Jesse Jensen. But Ritual Torture’s lyrics can get gory and morbid. “Humanity has always been obsessed with death,” says bassist-singer Steve Pearce. “Christians are preoccupied with the cross, which is a piece of torture equipment.…”
He says there is a brotherhood among local death-metal bands, such as Infinitum Obscure, Inhuman Sacrifice, and Condemned. For starters, they all appreciate aggressive riffs, intricate guitar work, and guttural vocals. “Whereas hip-hop advocates rape and killing people, we like to get together and drink and hang out and watch horror movies,” says Jensen. “We promote unity and brotherhood.”
He says some venues have a built-in prejudice against death metal.
“People outside the metal scene just don’t like metalheads. Bars are afraid to have death metal. They are afraid that the fans will tear the place apart. If anything, death metal is less violent than punk. Hensley’s [in Carlsbad] specifically won’t play death-metal bands, but they are okay with punk. But, punks can be less respectful than metalheads.”
While drummer Rick Carter says people should not be concerned with death-metal band violence, he tells me about a dangerous metal subgenre emerging. “Hate-edge is an offshoot of straight-edge. If you go on tour and you don’t follow the straight-edge lifestyle, they’ll kick your ass. In other words, if you smoke, drink, or have sex.”
Death metal is not to be confused with the much more popular strain of metal known as metalcore, spearheaded by bands like San Diego’s As I Lay Dying.
“I went to [Vista] high school with one of the guitar players of As I Lay Dying,” says Pearce. “He had short hair then. He used to make fun of me for having long hair and listening to heavy metal. Now he has become all that but even more so. To death-metal people, As I Lay Dying is a fucking joke. It’s MTV bubblegum crap.”
“Metalcore bands today are what the hair-metal bands were in the ’80s,” says Jensen. “Hair-metal bands came out of thrash metal, but they found a market and a way to make a fashion statement. Now glam-metal bands want to be in our genre, but they are too pussy to play death metal.”
Ritual Torture’s Rise of the Fallen is available on cassette. “A label in Sweden called Blood Harvest Records put it out,” says Pearce. “They heard about us from our friends in this L.A. band Unholy Lust. People want to see the old-school formats like vinyl and cassettes. You can get it online for $4.50.”
Ritual Torture plays February 8 at Radio Room.