by John Wenz
The mid-'90s were a beautiful time. Sure, I was like, 10, and listening to my sister's Hootie and the Blowfish CD, but to a lot of people, it was a time of noisy bands. Some of the bricks and mortar may have been laid by the bands at the harsher ends of the grunge spectrum — Tad and Screaming Trees come to mind — but the true innovators were Shellac and Jesus Lizard, who paved the driveway in broken glass and shoved some butter knives in electric sockets to see what would happen.
And blessed be them, thus came forth the noise! From all corners! But it seemed to be a mostly Midwest manifestation. That makes sense — this is the land where hardcore spewed from Touch 'n' Go Records, an East Lansing-born Chicago transplant which released The Meatmen, Negative Approach and the Necros, then moving on to early inhabitors of noise like Scratch Acid, before settling in with Steve Albini's original scorched earth policy, Big Black, as well as Butthole Surfers and the afore-mentioned Jesus Lizard.
And it was the influence of the Lizard — and maybe a reference to one of Tad's early singles — that led to the quick rise and blink-and-you'll-miss-it fall of Ritual Device, Omaha's own bile droolers of full-on noise.
Ritual Device were a lot of things to a lot of people — as Lazy-i's Tim McMahan pointed out, they were once Nebraska's next big thing before becoming a bizarre punchline. But around the release of Henge — their only full length — the band was immensely popular. The album was produced by Jesus Lizard's David Wm. Sims, was a purely Midwest noise punk gem that landed the band critical lauds and a spot on the 1993 Lollapolooza tour. They also found time to be on the 1994 inaugural bill for the infamous Cog Factory, alongside Sideshow and Mousetrap. So, you know, only three of the most important acts to come out of Eastern Nebraska.
By 1995, the band was broken up — sort of. Lead singer Tim Moss had gone out east, and the remaining three members — guitarist Mike Saklar, bassist Randy Cotton and drummer Eric Ebers — became Ravine, while Moss went on to Men of Porn.
But for their two or three years of existence, Ritual Device were able to hold up Nebraska's end of the noise rock spectrum — and make sure to lay a groundwork for Omaha's more heavy bands to come.
John Wenz is back. No, really. Except he's now a Nebraska ex-pat. But despite his No Coast Traitor status, you can still reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can forgive him, that is.
Note: This story was edited to correct the name of lead singer Tim Moss. We regret the error.