Rings of Saturn
Lugal Ki En
Unique Leader Records
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Utterly ridiculous but strangely alluring as well
Prior to receiving the promo for Rings of Saturn’s third full-length release, Lugal Ki En, I was only vaguely aware of the band’s existence and that they somehow fit into the technical side of the death metal equation. Being that tech death is pretty low on my list of priorities at the best of times, I can’t say that I was exactly champing at the bit to check this album out and, unsurprisingly, what I found inside was the epitome of everything I despise about tech death and deathcore.
The strange thing is though, as much as I really, really, want to hate Lugal Ki En, I find myself unable to do so. I mean, look, in so many ways this is one of the dumbest albums I’ve heard in a very long time but it is also not only impressive from a purely technical perspective, it is also surprisingly melodic and includes actual fucking songs instead of endless wankery (though there is still plenty of that). It’s also (admittedly jokingly) referred to as aliencore, which is ridiculous, though, really, it's just as stupid as singing about Satan or elves, so whatever.
I think what has kept me interested the most about Lugal Ki En is its complex rhythmic base more than anything else. In this sense Rings of Saturn share much more in common with a band like Ion Dissonance than they do, say, Beneath the Massacre or other completely over the top technically oriented bands. This isn’t to say that technicality doesn’t play a massive role here as well because, while it isn’t my thing in the slightest, the musicianship on display is jaw-droppingly good but, in a roundabout kind of way, it almost plays a secondary role or, at the very least, a dual role with the percussion.
The other element that, for better or worse, sets Rings of Saturn apart from many of their contemporaries is the kitchen sink approach of their song-writing. At any given moment on Lugal Ki En there’s something bizarre and unexpected going on with harpsichords, strings, or strange little guitar effects being just three of the many examples I could’ve used. And while this kind of schizophrenic, almost completely unhinged form of song-writing is often a terrible idea that should usually be avoided at all costs, strangely, within the context of Lugal Ki En, it lends the material an urgency and drive as well as a kind of dizzying effect that manages to keep things interesting - even if you are rarely able to pinpoint exactly what’s going on. It’s the unpredictability that has ultimately saved Rings of Saturn from turning in the kind of technically impressive, musically nonsensical album that is so often the end result for bands of this ilk.
To be perfectly frank, I was expecting to walk away from this album feeling smug from having my prejudices and preconceived notions vindicated. The truth is though that I’m actually kind of impressed with what Rings of Saturn have done from a technical and compositional perspective. None of this means that I can really see myself tuning into Lugal Ki En once I complete this review but that’s more of a reflection of my personal tastes than an intentional slight on Rings of Saturn themselves. I can see this being the dividing line for a lot of people, too - those who are on board with the ultra-technical and rather strange deathcore that Rings of Saturn play and those who aren’t and likely never will be. While I clearly fall in with the latter group, I can totally appreciate why the former will probably fawn all over this.
More from Rings of Saturn
- Ultu Ulla [review]