Well, here’s a bit of a pleasant surprise! I’ve dipped in and out of the career of American metallers Kill Ritual all the way back to the time of their debut album, 2012’s The Serpentine Ritual, but for whatever reason there’s been something about them that has stopped me getting fully involved with the band’s music. They’ve always just come across to me as being one of the pack – but that looks set to change with the release of this storming new album, The Opaque and The Divine.

Why? Well, they’ve got a new vocalist, of whom more later, but I have to say that on this new album – their fifth full length – everything just seems to gel in a far more convincing style musically than it has ever done before.

I’m sure some of that is because of new singer Brian “Chalice” Betterton; his is a name not familiar to me, and a quick dash around the internet to find out more didn’t really leave me any the wiser. Suffice to say his vocal performance – an energising mix of Todd La Torre and Ripper Owens – adds a real sheen of class to everything it touches.

Of course, its all well and good having a great singer, but if he’s got no songs to sing then he might as well be barking away like a dog in distress. Luckily the rest of the band are able to help out here, with tracks like the utterly stupendous King of Fools and the not-quite-as-good-but-still-pretty-great Praise the Dead being absolute top drawer metal rockers as good as you’ll find anywhere else all year. This isn’t a coming of age – these guys are too advanced for that – but it’s certainly an affirmation that all the hard work over the past years in laying the foundations has been worth it.

Steven D. Rice puts himself on the metal map with a consistently impressive stint on lead guitar, whilst the rhythm section of drummer Seamus Gleason and bass-playing compadre David Alusik make sure that the base over which Rice and Betterton shine is never less than rock solid. The unit as a whole is tight and compact, assured and effective.

Put simply this is a great album, easily the best of the band’s career to date, and well worth the praise it’s going to find itself receiving over the next few months. An unmitigated success!

The Opaque and the Divine is out now.