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Post-Punk

Post Punk without Boundaries: RITUAL HOWLS Virtue Falters – Track by Track Breakdown

Today, Paul Bancell of Ritual Howls has been kind enough to give us a track-by-track breakdown of their new album Virtue Falters. Personally, I got to say that they are one of my favorite Post-Punk bands creating music right NOW! One major reason why is because of the creative space that they come from is free of boundaries and this new album proves that even more! Virtue Falters comes out on May 12th via Felte Records and can be ordered HERE!

Virtue Falters was written, recorded and mixed over two years, roughly 2020-21. Though we were able to work as a group between waves of the pandemic, the majority of the songs were written remotely. A final push of songwriting took place as a group in the summer of 2021 when we were finally able to be together in the studio for a few weeks. Chris played a major role in shaping the sound of the record, spending a lot of time layering dozens of drum samples to find his sounds, in addition to mixing the record with our trusted engineer and friend, Adam Cox, at Hamtramck Sound Studios. 

Paul Bancell OF ritaul Howls
RITUAL HOWLS Virtue Falters

Dark Ceiling In Tennessee

This track went through the most changes of any song on the album. In the summer of 2021, we took some time studying the song structures of other composers we like. We ended up writing a new chorus section and adding the half-time ending. It made the song much more interesting, and we feel it set a good tone for the first track on the album. Lyrically, it speaks of an experience I had living south of Nashville when I was younger. I couldn’t sleep and was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Suddenly, this black, glowing hallucination appeared above me. It began to spread in every direction and consume the room. At first, it was terrifying, but then comforting and beautiful. 

My Trash Mind

The lyrics of this song refer to having troubling thoughts that will not go away. Unpleasant, sick thoughts that therapy is unable to cure. They are there. They will always be there, and you just have to live with them and try to get along. The structure for this song came from a few simple guitar chords. I think I was listening to a lot of The Cramps at the time. I will always be a fan of raw blues, and rock and roll. 

Barely A Shadow

I don’t remember how this song came together. Maybe the guitar lines? Or the overdriven instrumental breaks? I don’t think it was going to make Virtue Falters until Chris came up with some interesting sounds between the verses. The lyrics of this song are basically about doubt and persistent frustration with authenticity. Like a lot of musicians, I am constantly questioning if I’ve ever had an original idea. I know it’s common to draw inspiration from other artists, but a lot of the time it can feel like a cop-out, like an easy veneer of “cool” because trying something new, and being vulnerable, is scary. The song is a conversation with Caravaggio, asking him to help me find an original thought. 

Humiliation

This song has a few themes that show up in a lot of our music: magic, the sacred, romance. I tend to drift into this world when I am daydreaming. I have always been a romantic. Sometimes I find beauty and truth in emotion and romantic ideas. Other times it feels ridiculous for believing in such clichés. I think the lyrics as a whole were plucked from a number of different writings and “frankensteined” together – along with the title that came from a list of things I had been reading about. I believe the music is just two chords, but it’s the way Ben’s bass carries the harmonies that really makes this track. 

Goodnight Reason

The lyrics in Goodnight Reason are meant to express frustration with being rational. Drifting into delusion is a dangerous place for me, so I spend a lot of time making sure my feet are on the ground, and that I am seeing things correctly for what they are. This can get exhausting and feel like inspiration is draining from my life. This song is, in some ways, a wish for desire itself to be okay. I think this was the last song we wrote for Virtue Falters. It came from playing the simple 5-note melody one day at the end of practice. Chris and Ben started experimenting with sounds and the next thing we knew it was a track.

Tomb Room

Like a lot of people, when I was younger, I got into some crazy stuff. I didn’t care to live very long, and so things got out of hand quickly. These days, one of my favorite things to do is to walk in cemeteries. I enjoy reading the names on the tombstones and thinking about the lives that were lived. It brings up so much for me. I feel grateful to be alive, but at the same time jealous of those who have completed their journey. It’s a strange meditation on mortality and faith. Chris found a huge drum sound for this track! I think that’s why we chose it as a single. I also enjoyed playing with the idea of a “round” melody for the outro.

Kneel For Instruction

This track expresses the idea of, literally, being controlled by my vices; my obsessions. I tried to toy with the idea of them being a gambler that is playing me like a game of cards. I am the puppet, and they are controlling my every thought and action. Similar to Dark Ceiling in Tennessee, this track was rewritten a few times. I think we stuck with it because the bass and drums are so strong, and I had worked a bit on the lyrics. I also re-recorded the tremolo guitar a few times because the guitar effects were not sounding the way I wanted. 

Cauterize My Eyes

Similar to the lyrical themes in Humiliation, this track has some musical elements that we have found to be a central part of our sound. I think that’s why we chose it for the last track. The rhythm is uptempo and heavy. The synth melody is great. I use a guitar tuning (DADGAD) I have used on a lot of our work over the years. It gets a really great droning sound for messing around with minor scales on the 4th string. As for the lyrics, I sometimes daydream about what it must feel like to be buried alive. Feeling the dirt hit my back. Hearing the voices above get softer and softer. Feeling the breath leaving my body. It doesn’t feel like a morbid obsession or longing for death, though. I just find the end of the journey as interesting as the beginning. 

TOUR DATES (w/ Chasms supporting)

19/05 London, UK @ Oslo

20/05 Brussels, BE @ Jeugdhius De Schake

22/05 Copenhagen, DK @ Råhuset

23/05 Oslo, NO @ Vaterland

24/05 Jonkoping, SE @ The Hush Hush Club

25/05 Stockholm, SE @ Slatkrykan

26/05 Gothenburg, SE @ Hemlighten

27/05 Malmo, SE @ Plan B

28/05 Hamburg, DE @ MS Stubnitz

29/05 Berlin, DE @ Slaughterhouse

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