They are unquestionably one of the best known and celebrated bands to emerge from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, but TYGERS OF PAN TANG have never quite punched with the same power as some of their more successful contemporaries from that time. Not that they haven't released some great records over the years, of course, and few would dispute the significance of 1980 debut "Wild Cat" in the grand heavy metal scheme of things. However, TYGERS were always a more traditional and straightforward proposition than their more prominent peers, with none of IRON MAIDEN's progressive tendencies, RAVEN's chaotic intensity, VENOM's darkness or even SAXON's anthemic intuition. Instead, as "Ritual" proves once again, the Whitley Bay crew are a classic hard rock band, perennially armed with founding guitarist Robb Weir's unerring knack for penning memorable tunes.
These songs could arguably have been penned at any point over the last 40 years, and it's only a polished and punchy production that tethers "Ritual" to the present day. Nonetheless, this is an album so full of radio-friendly hooks and classic-sounding riffing that criticizing it for not being edgy enough rather misses the point. Everything from bombastic kickoff "Worlds Apart" and the AOR-tinged "Destiny" crackles with energy and positive vibes, the TYGERS' undeniably slick collective chops delivering every refined melodic payoff and rousing crescendo with maximum confidence. Keeping it simple on the rampaging "Raise Some Hell" and adding some brooding melodrama on "Spoils of War", the Brits are by no means one-dimensional. Vocalist Jacopo Meille brings a vast amount of character and charisma to the party, too. Something as unapologetically commercial as "Love Will Find A Way" — think BON JOVI meets WHITESNAKE, and why the hell not? — could easily have fallen flat, but Meille sells it with gusto. It's followed by "Art of Noise"; a genuinely heavy feast of riffs with shades of '90s QUEENSRŸCHE, it's one of two songs here that suggest that TYGERS OF PAN TANG are still evolving. Epic closer "Sail On" is the other: it's a wonderfully grandiose and swaggering paean to life on high seas, and the most overtly metal thing on the whole record.
Nearly 40 years on from the NWOBHM explosion, the genre's key players are all still out there and making music. "Ritual" won't set the world on fire, but it's a classy, refreshingly unpretentious joy from start to finish anyway.