Ritus Ex Silenti
darkTunes Music Group

German quartet TOAL make music that could loosely be called darkwave, although their music certainly shows the influence of numerous other genres that have made their way through the international dark music club scene over the last twenty years or so. The debut album Ritus Ex Silenti features largely synthetic compositions with an eye towards club appeal, all anchored by the powerful voice of Luzi Lacole. It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but is executed with a reasonable amount of personality and skill.

TOAL’s tendency on most songs is to go big from an arrangement standpoint, which actually acts as an interesting contrast to their style of songwriting which is relatively straightforward. Cuts like “Magic” and “Ritual” are at their core galloping electro club numbers, but are loaded with layers of synthetic instrumentation, breakdowns, builds and epic movie-trailer rises. Neither track is especially memorable in terms of melody, but there’s so much going on in the mix that the songs take on a certain grandeur. The album’s best track “Unreal World” is almost entirely build, eventually plateauing with an outsized uplifting chorus that justifies the effort to get there. Subtle it’s not, but it’s also done with enough commitment to justify its broadness.

The main attraction across Ritus Ex Silenti is most definitely Lacole’s vocals though, and she’s given the spotlight across the vast majority of the album. When she needs to soar she does (as on the aforementioned “Unreal World” or the charmingly chintzy “Love”), although she proves adept at playing things back, holding in her full power on “Trapped Heart” for a more icy European feel. There are occasional production choices that do her a disservice – opener “The Witch” drenches her in reverb so thick she becomes lost in it, where “Time for a Change” leaves her strangely dry next to syrupy synth strings – but by and large the focus on her pays dividends in terms of charm.

The closest comparison to the sound of TOAL might be contemporary Kirlian Camera, a similarity that is almost conspicuous at points. That kind of majesty isn’t easy to come by, and while the album is shy on individually memorable tunes you could do much worse. TOAL are nothing if not technically capable, and a few more hummable songs would put them well over the top.

Buy it.