A psychedelic rock journey
Ritual Divination is the fourth studio album from Here Lies Man, an ambitious afrobeat and fuzz rock Los Angeles group. The group has stuck with their style of creating a soundtrack for a non-existent movie, this time imagining a 15-track score for an hour-long film. They convey a wide range of emotions through a almost purely instrumental album, and create a psychedelic journey for all those willing to watch this “film” alongside the band.
Here Lies Man was created in 2016 by two founding members of afrobeat band Antibalas, Marcos Garcia and Geoff Mann, who envisioned a heavy rock band with mixes of their own afrobeat and jazz influences. The band is widely known to have mimicked Black Sabbath’s heavy metal structure, particularly in their extensive use of heavy guitars. They showcase that bold stylistic commitment once again on Ritual Divination.
The album kicks off with “In These Dreams,” which appears to have a bit more of a rhythmic influence—it’s a track that quickly captures the listener and tightly straps them in for a deeply enjoyable ride. Lyrics like “No dreams better than this one” seem to be an invitation into the front-to-back journey on this project. The groovy rhythm of the heavy guitars also lovingly swaddles one in this transcendent voyage.
The journey quickly elevates to even more energetic and fast tempos on tracks like, “I Told You (You Shall Die),” “Can’t Kill It” and “Night Comes.” All these tracks incorporate immense and heavy guitar solos, creating further enthusiasm for the band’s expedition through this pseudo-film score. Other tracks such as “I Wander” and “You Would Not See From Heaven” are molded with blues and jazz traits, elements of more traditional rock. These tracks take people on a wild journey, exemplifying great interplay between technically impressive guitar riffs and smashing drums.
“Come Inside” and “Disappointed” are filled with suspense created from distortions and long rhythmic drum beats that intensify the peculiar voyage through the cinematic universe of this project. These tracks (and the majority of the album, for that matter) are undergirded by eerie beds of sound that provoke uneasiness; this unnerving sound reinforces the band’s commitment to the feeling of a vast and potential-filled journey.
Unfortunately, the length of this “journey” eventually becomes an issue. At 15 tracks, Here Lies Man are certainly at their most long-winded, and all 15 tracks tend to remain in a fairly similar instrumental lane. The absence of lyrics on most tracks and the distortion of what few vocals are included in the album does fit into the goal of the album, but it creates an awkward blur between tracks. What keeps this album alive though is the way that the group can pack so many transitions and emotional ups and downs into each track—the album feels like an adventure movie, with scenes jumping from one location and conflict to the next.
Here Lies Man was successful. Ritual Divination definitely feels like a journey worth taking. The band have also managed to prove their determination once again, further blurring the lines between genres like jazz, afrobeat and hard rock. Here Lies Man are making music that no one else can make, and their next project is likely to trend in the same exciting creative direction.