VOLT RITUAL – Return To Jupiter EP

Volt Ritual’s self titled album was released in the summer of 2022. Being a wholly DIY release, it didn’t get the full bells and whistles in terms of promotion, but for those who stumbled across it on Bandcamp, it was a record that struck a chord almost immediately. Its seven songs drew heavily from the past, with huge musical debts owed to Black Sabbath, Fu Manchu and Kyuss, but Volt Ritual clearly understood the value in “recycling with love”, and against a lot of competition – let’s face it, the stream of new stoner and doom albums is never ending – it became one of the scene’s best records.

A follow up felt like a long time coming, but the four songs that make up their 2024 EP ‘Return To Jupiter’ give fans of the debut exactly what they hoped for – and with the injection of a little more deep psych to make the heaviness a little more varied, in some ways, those fans get something even better.

Despite the tongue in cheek title, there’s nothing flippant or throwaway about this EP’s opening number ‘Heavy Metal Is Good For You’. In fact, it shares some of Volt Ritual’s finest riffs. Kicking off with a distorted and almost sludgy stoner/doom groove, Mateusz Węgrzynkiewicz’s guitars have plenty of weight when giving the nod to early Kyuss and Electric Wizard fare, and when opting for full doom later in the track – where, naturally, more of a Sabbath-ish twist is employed – Volt Ritual continue to take their heavier sounds very seriously. This isn’t a stoner metal by numbers affair, though. You’ll find one of the weightiest riffs joined by a bouncing, almost folk like melody, and another lifted considerably by some thoughtful bluesy tones from the lead guitar, whilst Michał Zgajewski’s bass indulges in a weird warbling bottom end noise. If that isn’t varied enough, these brilliant six minutes also find time for a couple of other-worldly space rock interludes and a few samples of space themed newsreels, giving a very full account of this band’s talents.

With more warbling bass and echoing guitar, the intro to ‘Ghostpolis’ ventures deeper into the psychedelic but it isn’t long before distorted, monolithic guitar riffs rise, giving the feeling that the Polish band have still been hammering those early Sabbath records during their listening downtime. With an even heavier chorus riff leaning towards classic doom augmented by a cleaner lead with an almost bluesy tone, the band shares a core sound here that could easily slot between the scene’s heavier bands of the 90s. The more obvious elements are balanced by Volt’s own twists, of course, and with the help of occasional dips into swampy, desert rock riffs lending a more melodic flourish and a heavily distorted vocal intent on crushing everything at the other end of the scale, it becomes another workout that obviously pulls all of their influences together seamlessly. ‘Gwiazdolot’, meanwhile, offers a welcome injection of speed. It’s unexpected to hear Volt Ritual open the track with a less than subtle nod to Joy Division, with the aid of a more gothic style and a muscular Peter Hook-ish bass, but the few bars of the colder sounding style suit them well. Once the expected buzzing guitar riffs appear and Tomek Łabaj’s drums latch onto more of a speed driven approach, the number takes on a fantastic Fu Manchu inspired energy, but comes loaded with even more distortion. Every element is spot on for the style, and once deep psych guitar notes begin to weave through the density during the instrumental part, you get the feeling that the groove could go on forever. The music here is so solid, that even a Polish lyric doesn’t ever detract from the track’s sheer power. Even if you don’t speak the language, the enthusiastic vocal seems to speak for itself.

Used as a brilliant climax for an already enjoyable EP, the title track stretches to almost eight minutes, but there’s barely a second wasted. This longer jam opens with heavily phased guitar notes, moves through a mid tempo passage of classic sounding stoner doom underscored by a weighty bass sound, and eventually arrives at a Monster Magnet-ish verse, where heavy space rock vibes and classic stoner meet. The vocal sounds half buried, but that doesn’t really matter. The riff is almost everything, here; Volt Ritual’s commitment to the slower and moodier is absolutely unwavering when approached in this way, but it doesn’t take over entirely. By the time a semi-bluesy solo rears up, they show a great understanding of how a great melody is needed for contrast. Having more than immersed their audience in a timeless sounding swamp of sound, the track eventually switches gears for something a little faster. The instrumental groove allows plenty of space for Zgajewski’s bass to add a superb lead sound worthy of a 1971 Geezer Butler, before adding a few bars of even heavier doom, and finally closing with something more of a deep psych persuasion. It’s as if Volt Ritual have thrown everything at this track – summoned every one of their current influences – to create a heavy, stoner imbibed melting pot of noise, and it’s brilliant.

For fans of the style, the debut record was a must-hear affair, and the bulk of this EP will appeal to pretty much everyone who loved that disc. In many ways, though, the more complex ‘Return To Jupiter’ is a big step forward. It still has that heaviness, but with more deep psych vibes – often supplied by complex bass runs – the band sound just a little more otherworldly, in the best possible way. These four songs capture them a little closer in their “quest to find the ultimate riff” and, by association, a step closer to being one of the doom/stoner scene’s finest cult acts.

January 2024