For those familiar with the previous recordings of the California death metal band Ruin, it will come as no surprise that their new album Spread Plague Death is ruinous — ruthlessly unapologetically ruinous, in multiple ways. It’s titanically crushing, subhuman in its savagery, grotesquely filthy in its sound, and unrelenting in its devotion to building a macabre atmosphere of mutilating depravity and horror. It also happens to be perversely contagious and neck-wrecking as well as sadistically grotesque.
The band’s success in creating such tremendously obliterating destructiveness coupled with so many blood-congealing terrors, and doing so over the course of more than 44 minutes without overpowering a listener’s endurance isn’t a matter of happenstance but of calculation. It’s a testament to the band’s songcraft and an attention to detail that might not be expected, given how steadfastly brutal, morbid, and maniacal their strategies are.
You’ll have a chance to discover this for yourselves, assuming you’re not faint of heart, because we have a full stream of the album for you, just a few days away from its August 27 release by Nameless Grave Records and other allied labels.
Attentive visitors might remember that we’ve already published an assessment of this album, courtesy of Wil Cifer, who concluded his vivid review with the pronouncement that “when it comes to heavy as fuck death metal, this is one of the most satisfying albums I have heard this year”. But we’ll offer some additional reactions here, as a prelude to the full stream.
The arsenal of sonic weapons that Ruin bring to bear quickly become evident over the course of the album’s first trio of tracks. By running that opening gauntlet you’ll be subjected to the brutish stomp of gruesomely distorted, massively-heavy riffs and skull-popping snare work as well as queasy, quivering leads whose squealing spasms tell you immediately that madness awaits. You’ll further experience galloping rampages augmented by frenzied fretwork, cavernous growls, and ghastly screams (the latter of which usually presage seizures of racing, freaked-out mayhem across the span of the album), in addition to the drag of pestilential, doom-stricken chords.
You’ll also discover that Ruin make effective use of introductory passages, which they persist in doing for each track. These intros range from creepy vocal samples to haunting symphonics, from scratchy old musical recordings to dreamlike shimmering synths and weird, warbling ambient tones — plus screams… of course screams. A demented-sounding choral chant begins the opening track, and the sounds of an old-time revival choir — which seems to be heckled by demons — brings the album to a close.
photo by Carmen Canchola
These intro passages, and some outros that provide the transition into subsequent songs, are part of what keeps you locked in to what the band are doing as they move from track to track, and they add brick upon brick to the edifice of monstrosity that the band are building. But Ruin’s use of melody and rhythmic dynamism are equally important factors in achieving those effects.
“Repulsive Universe Inside Nightmares” is a prime example of the songwriting dynamism. Launched by a collage of horrifying ambience and crazed voices, it explodes into maniacally hammering drums and viciously slashing and churning riffage, but also slows into a lurch, inflicting massive hammer blows and filthy gutturals, and it accelerates in spurts of ferocious mayhem and punk-like cavorting.
The ghastly one-two punch of “At One With the Earth and Worms” and “Ornaments of Flesh” near the middle of the album are other good examples. The former provides another dose of cataclysmic pounding, but also hammers and gallops. It creates mangling cacophonies that sound like a junkyard car-compactor working in overdrive, but anguished tremolo’d melodies surface, along with macabre cackling and terrifying shrieks — and it concludes with eerie astral ambience and pinging piano keys that flow into “Ornaments of Flesh”, which becomes apocalyptically destructive, while retaining the unearthly atmosphere generated by the transition between the two tracks (it also becomes cruel, dismal, and despairing in its mood).
The piercing guitar harmony that emerges in “Quietus (Slit Throat)” is yet another example of Ruin’s enhanced use of melody on this new album. It seems to capture a feeling of mutilation-born anguish in the midst of ugly, heaving and growling, riffage backed by a steady, head-moving back-beat.
More could be said, but let’s instead close now, and leave you with the words of Ruin’s founding vocalist Mihail Jason Satan: “After years purifying our sound across two studio albums and countless splits, Spread Plague Death emerges finally from the sewage to represent RUIN at our worst! This is our heaviest album, but also our fastest, slowest, most brutal, and most ‘melodic’ – all the filth that makes up our sound refined to its most grotesque. Today we’re excited to RUIN your day with this full stream of the album we worked so hard on.”
Spread Plague Death will see release via Nameless Grave Records this Friday on vinyl and digital, on cassette through Nero One Records and Death Metal Cult, and on CD through Goat Throne Records. You can find preorders for all formats via the link below.
The album was recorded at Trench Studios by John Haddad and The Church Of Sacrifice by Carsten LaRoque, with mixing handled by LaRoque at The Church Of Sacrifice as well as at the Ascension Falls Blk/Str Cabin at Apache Junction/Helican Gate. Spread Plague Death was mastered by Dan Randall at Mammoth Sound Mastering, and completed with original paintings by Janine Wunsch and photography by Carmen Canchola/CSGF and The Death Metal Cult.