(Wil Cifer reviews the new third album by the California death metal band Ruin, which will see release on August 27th on 12” vinyl by Nameless Grave Records, on cassette through Nero One Records and Death Metal Cult, and on CD through Goat Throne Records.)
Death metal should be the sonic equivalent of the kind of aggression that possessed Charles Manson’s hippie love slaves when they carved the baby from Sharon Tate’s womb. That is the same vibe I hear when listening to this album. There is not a bunch of pulp horror posturing but real violence from the hateful heart.
This cult of deviants is back with a nastier and grimmer offering, which is impressive, as I really loved Human Annihilation. These miscreants deliver the kind of dense heaviness they are known for, but this time around the songwriting has more attention to detail and the playing is more musical with actual guitar melodies wallowing in the murk.
photo by Carmen Canchola
It takes a few songs for them to accelerate into the jackhammering pace that death metal is known for. All too often heaviness seems to sacrifice a willingness to care about songwriting, yet here we are with the most dismally gurgled vocals and the songs still have me engaged. There is a groove in the weighty trudge of the mammoth riffs. Sure, “Catatonic Vomit” has a great fucking riff, but also explains my rule of cool riffs alone does not a good song make, as they weave it into other even heavier dynamics until it climaxes into chaos.
They continue to weave the album together with samples between songs. Fans of more straight-forward aggressive death metal should be appeased with songs like “At One With Earth and Worms”, though I prefer the album’s creepier moments over those when they just go for the throat since the latter are when they come closest to sounding like one of the countless death metal bands who place brutality at the top of their to-do list.
They get back into this creepier place with “Ornaments of Flesh” but the raw, jagged density of guitar creates a less ambient wall of sound, coupled with the speedy churn of drums under it. When the momentum of their savagery begins to steamroll songwriting, they rein back in with interesting twists and turns. By the time I was at “Slow Degradation” I found myself having to go back to give songs repeat listens in order to fully pay attention to what was going on song-wise, since the guitars hit your ears in such a domineering way upon pressing play. They do slow into a more deliberate chug before putting the foot to the gas. The moments of acceleration work since they have already established moods for contrast, so it never feels like your ears are being pounded the same way twice.
“Quietus (Slit Throat)” takes the more blasting approach at the onset before settling into the grimy dirge that is the focus of what we might call the verse. The songs seldom venture over the five-minute mark. This keeps the beating very contained. Just when I am ready to write the sonic sadism off as an act of barbarism they come in with a riff that is infectious and pulls me back into it. The deliberate tone to “Awaken Rotting Decay” proves a much more punishing chug than some of the faster offerings, though even in this song they pick things up, but after the more dirge-like tone it is easier to digest.
The dominating bass tone gives more drive to “Choking on Burning Blood”. For what they are going for, the production is much better than expected as there are layers of guitar heaped into a wall, yet the needed melodies cut through. It is a more musical effort than the previous album. Sure the guitar solos owe a great deal to Slayer with all the dive-bombing, and really Incantation is the only other influence that shines out of their sound. The vocals are pretty much just a texture, yet you do not realize how important they are until the band throw an instrumental at you.
When it comes to heavy as fuck death metal, this is one of the most satisfying albums I have heard this year.