Within certain parts of the extreme metal underground, there are few names held in higher regard than that of Blasphemy. The Canadian band have long held legendary status within the most extreme corners of black and death metal, with their Fallen Angel of Doom and Gods of War records as cornerstones of the manic, chaotic style known as war metal. Part of this regard is almost certainly down to the relative paucity of the group’s recorded material and live shows – by limiting their releases and live appearances, it ensures that every release and every show is treated as a notable event.

This is the case now and was doubly so in 2000 when the guys returned to playing live after a six-year absence. These two releases – the live album Live Ritual: Friday the 13th and rehearsal/demo recording Victory (Son of the Damned) – are from this time, with this being the first (official) repress of Live Ritual for 16 years; whilst Victory (Son of the Damned) has not been available before, and includes a new song from which the record takes its name. The nature of such releases means they are chiefly of interest to die-hard fans – but when it comes to Blasphemy, there are certainly plenty of those.

Live Ritual: Friday the 13th was originally recorded live (duh!) on July 13th, 2001.

Whilst some bands may use a live album as a kind of “greatest hits” record, that’s not the case here (and really, Blasphemy’s style of music is incompatible with the idea of “hits” at all). Instead, Live Ritual is a record that tries to capture the atmosphere of what Blasphemy must be like live, including between-song chatter and crowd noises. The tracks race by in a powerful whirlpool of frantic drumming, whirlwind riffs, and bellowed vocals, with barely restrained solos launching themselves out of the maelstrom like missiles.

As vicious and savage as Blasphemy is on their studio records, the versions of songs presented on Live Ritual make them seem almost tame. This is both the strength and weakness of Live Ritual; the album works superbly as a rush of barely-restrained chaotic energy and bestial devastation, showcasing just how devastating a band Blasphemy is, but as a listening experience, it is uneven and raw. All of which underlines that Live Ritual is a recording not for casual Blasphemy fans, but for those who already own well-worn copies of Fallen Angel of Doom and Gods of War, and delight in hearing familiar songs presented in even more rampaging forms.

Turn it up before streaming Live Ritual: Friday the 13th here.

The same is true of Victory (Son of the Damned). This is very much a demo-quality recording of (mostly) old songs, played live in a rehearsal. As with Live Ritual, the cuts are even more frantic and unrestrained than their studio versions. Though some details are lost due to the raw nature of the recording, the sense of energy and resulting adrenaline rush is undeniable – the version of “Nocturnal Slayer” herein is especially great (especially considering that track’s absence from the setlist of Live Ritual).

What is of note for fans is that members of fellow war metal band Black Witchery were present for this recording as observers, and between-song banter between Blasphemy and guests alike has been captured on the record. And then, of course, there’s the “new” track from which the recording takes its name. “Victory (Son of the Damned)” is played twice, back-to-back, and fits perfectly into the mould of what you would expect from a Blasphemy song that lasts around four minutes. The riffs are frantic and catchy; the drums a rampaging onslaught of cymbals and snare; and the vocals are bellowed commands from the depths of Hell. That it fits in almost seamlessly with Blasphemy’s classic material is perhaps the best possible compliment that can be paid to the song, and is surely all any fan will want from anything new from the band.

Victory (Son of the Damned) drops on July 11th, 2018.

It is only right that two such historic documents for a band as important as Blasphemy are being issued by Nuclear War Now!, a label whose nature is directly linked to Blasphemy. To reiterate, newcomers to Blasphemy are well advised to spend time with the studio albums Fallen Angel of Doom and Gods of War before coming to Live Ritual and Victory (Son of the Damned). But, for those of us who have spent many years worshipping at the bloodstained altar, these two records deserve a place in our collection, serving as demonstrations of just how unrestrained and devastating the band are in a live environment.