Newcastle Metal Band Rituals Discuss Their Soaring 2023, Winning Kerrang!’s The Deal Competition, Their First Download Festival Performance, Signing with Marshall Records, Touring Ireland for the First Time, and Their Humble Beginnings

The Newcastle metal band Rituals’ story begins in 2018, when a Trivium, While She Sleeps and Alter Bridge-loving metalhead and his friend were bored. “It was just me and Ewan [Lee, their guitarist] in college, [and we] just wanted to play riffs, really,” the band’s vocalist Lewis MacRae tells Post-Burnout of their humble beginnings. “We wanted to play in a band and do things. Like, we just wanted to play a couple of gigs and muck about. We didn’t really take anything seriously, did we?”

“Well, I think we had a similar interest in music, and we were both very bored,” adds Ewan. “I mean, that’s what it came down to! So, perfect timing. And, over time, we started taking it a little bit more seriously, until 2020.” “Yeah, when lockdown kind of hit in,” says Lewis. “We just put some songs out. But the original formation of the band, there was no real, like, grand motivator, like, ‘Oh, we need to be in a band!’ It was just kind of like, ‘Oh, we’ll just do it, ‘cause it will be fun.’ [Laughs] And then it developed into the biggest stress of our lives! [All laugh]”

The beginning of the band also served as an education in metal for Lewis. “You weren’t really…you liked Slipknot, but you weren’t really into ‘metal,’ as such,” Ewan says to Lewis, regarding their early days. Lewis responds, “Yeah, I was kind of discovering metal at that time, so I was, like, finding out about music. Ewan was just going, ‘Have you heard of these? Have you heard of these?’ and I was like, ‘No! But I love them!’ I was just, like, going through, like, obsession phases. So, like, Ewan introduced me to Limp Bizkit, and I pretty much listened to the Chocolate Starfish album front to back so many times that I think I started to go insane, and I thought all the guitars were going out of tune on the album because I listened to it that much!” “I remember that!” laughs Ewan.

As the band grew, they immediately started self-releasing singles and EPs, which showcased their brutal but melodic sound, and began growing an organic fanbase. In 2022, Kerrang! Radio announced the return of their The Deal competition, with the prize for that year being a record deal with Marshall Records and a performance slot at the UK’s largest metal festival, Download. By March 2023, it was announced that Rituals had won the competition by popular vote; thereby, in one victory, setting the next stage of their career for them.

“We said when we started the band, when we were 18, that we wouldn’t go to Download unless we could play together,” says Lewis. “Which I know is a ridiculously ambitious thing to do, but we did it!” The guys feel that their experience at the festival really showcased their growth and popularity to them. “There’s no greater way to measure how well the band’s doing, I suppose, than to play a show in front of 8,500 people and be able to see hundreds of people all singing along [to] songs that have been created in a bedroom in Newcastle to being brought to a stage at Download Festival,” says Lewis. “I think that’s a testament to the support we have. To be able to be on stage, and to have that reception…I mean, being the first band on the Avalanche Stage on Saturday. Everyone’s hungover, everyone’s tired, thirty degrees…” “I would’ve stayed in bed!” interjects Ewan. “I wouldn’t have been up by then,” continues Lewis, “but the whole tent was completely packed, like front-to-back; there was no room in it, and it goes to show the support that not only we’re getting, but the metal scene’s getting at the moment.”

As a recently-signed act on Marshall Records – a label with an artist roster as varied as Nova Twins, Therapy?, D_Drive, Laurence Jones, and Kid Bookie, to name but just a few – we asked how they feel they fit at the label. “We feel completely at home with the whole thing,” Lewis responds. “We know that we are a very heavy band, compared to a lot of the artists that they house, but we’ve never felt like that’s been an issue. They just seem stoked on what we’re doing, and they seem to really like working alongside us and we love working alongside them. We were all very wary about working with an actual label, because we never have done before, but the whole process has just been like…I think one of the easiest things about the entire year so far has been working with Marshall, just because they’re so good, and working with all the different people on the team there. You just feel like it’s people who’ve got your complete best interest at heart, and it’s just an extension of the band. So, it really is…it’s class.”

The cover to I Found Myself in the Dark
Courtesy of Marshall Records

With a label backing them which they feel really understand them and what they were going for, Rituals spent no time whatsoever in releasing their first project with Marshall. At the beginning of August, the band dropped their latest EP, I Found Myself in the Dark. “It’s probably the most we’ve had one consistent sound between more than one song,” laughs Ewan when discussing the EP. “Because it was intended as three singles, each song was very different. Whereas this one, I think, there’s a similar sound, but it’s kind of pushed in different directions per song, which is something I think we’re all really happy with, and I think that’s something we’re going to continue to do.”

Originally intended as three separate singles before their record deal, it was Marshall who suggested that the band release the three songs as a single EP. Lewis explains, “At the time, the songs actually did sound a little bit more varied to each other, and I think off the back of it becoming an EP and us listening through all three of them together and then working with everyone we work with, I think that’s where, like, this more cohesive sound for the EP has come from, really. But everything we ever do, we start off with a plan [Raises his index finger on his left hand to the centre of his face] and, by the time we do it, we’re over here [Extends his right arm far away from the index finger], and the plan’s over here [The index finger] [All laugh] So, like, no matter what we plan on doing from day one, it’s never going to be what we end up doing; I think so many things change on the way.”

Beginning this Thursday, the band will embark on a three-day co-headlining tour of Ireland, with the Belfast hardcore band Archives. This will mark not only the band’s first time in Ireland but their first time playing international shows.  “We’ve never played in a different country before, never travelled that far for a show, so I think we just want to do it now,” says Lewis. “It’s going to be sick. It’s going to be nice to be able to travel to a different place. I’m looking forward to buying a pint in euros! I’m looking forward to spending euros. That will be good, to play a gig, and be like, ‘Oh, that will be €6,’ which is probably really cheap. It’s going to be, like, €10 a pint!” “I’m looking forward to getting a ferry to a gig!” adds bassist Dom James. “Aye, getting a ferry,” says Lewis. “That’s something in itself, isn’t it?” says Ewan. “It’s going to sink!” responds Lewis. “Knowing our luck!” laughs Ewan.

Rituals’ latest EP, I Found Myself in the Dark, is out now and available to stream. You can keep up to date with the band on their website, which has all their social media links, too.

See the band on their co-headlining Irish tour with Archives this week, where they’ll be performing at:

August 24th – Cork – Fred Zeppelins [Buy tickets here]

August 25th – Dublin – BelloBar [Buy tickets here]

August 26th – Belfast – Voodoo [Buy tickets here]

For a more extensive interview with Rituals – where we go into further depth about the topics discussed in this article, as well as the band’s future plans, the difference between being an unsigned band to being one on a label, which festivals they would love to play, and more – tune into today’s episode of POSTBURNOUT.COM Interviews… at 17:00 (IST) on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Amazon Music.

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