It's rare to get a perfectly balanced combination of genres. The norm is to lean a bit off to one side as if in a drunken stupor. Solothus however are as two perfectly halved and ripe fruit, perfectly joined in the middle and then delivered on a plate made of dusty bones. Ritual of the Horned Skull is pretty much what Satan dreamed of before casting himself into paradise and tempting Eve to eat from the forbidden tree. It's a delicious snack that reminds of what some hard-nosed metal can offer. Half of the fruit is the somber bitterness of doom while the other half is moist and sweet death metal. When it comes to demo tapes, and a demo tape is what this is - though I got the promo as a demo cdr to be dubbed to tape by myself later since the awesome Nihilistic Holocaust sent me the J-card - four tracks as strong and as diverse as these offer more than many full lengths. As much as I hate to admit it, I find it way easier to offer a short burst of energetic listening to a twenty-minute tape than a marathon album.
Ritual of the Horned Skull opens with the weakest track though. "A Call to War" feels out of place just a bit thematically but closer examination reveals that it also is a newer song. The remaining three tracks are exhumed from the older 2011 demo with the same title as the release under the microscope here. Hints of the older tracks and their more drawn out doominess still pokes through on this track during the lead sections. "A Call to War" is a bit faster though, and even though I like it less, it's the most appropriate opener for this tape. "Throne of Bones" crawls itself into some top-notch Swedish death metal similar to Mandatory's Where They Bleed EP or doomier versions of Entombed's slow moments from Left Hand Path. Lacking is a production quite as murky but what isn't ruined is the feel of age here. There is nothing obviously modern and there is an unabashed rawness. Deathevokation's debut demotape is another point of reference for overall approach to both "Throne of Bones" as well as the entire album - even if Solothus lacks any depressing acoustic passages. Key though is the equal amounts of Death and Doom here.
A rummage through the occult vibes of "Embrace the Cold," a that climbs into the air like a wisp is still heavy as smog due to a monstrous clunky bass tone and ugly melodies played with some creepy effects. It points out how Solothus use repetition and subtle details to create enjoyably simple yet totally rewarding dirges. The mid-song weaving of notes and melodies here is an impressive example of frolicking guitars that make you want to skip to your own demise... happily. It's not hard to imagine differing visions and places which these songs might appear. Maybe you're the torturer, and this is your theme song as you enter the chamber with your famous tools of pain. It's the cue for enjoying a miserable harrowing experience. "Darkness Gathers Here at Night" retains this vibe as well and the pairing of these two songs is key to the continuity of the tracks. After removing the tongue and eyeballs of the victim, gentle pokes with hot prongs while the bridge plays in the background is enough to make one go insane. Left to wander the world blind and unable to speak, the victims of Solothus stagger around the world humming the happy-go-lucky death hymns of their masochistic wardens.