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Menace Ruine, "Cult of Ruins"

cover imageBy all accounts this is a metal album.  From the dark, lo-fi black-and-white artwork, gore-ified fonts and titles, I expected some form of death or black metal, and I was pretty much right on target.  Now, knowing the label that put this out, I assumed it couldn't be just any generic metal album, because Alien8 is known for leaning towards the experimental.

 

Alien8 Recordings

The opener, "Process of Bestialization," cemented that hypothesis of mine rather quickly.  Sure, the demonic vocals and drum machine blasts raised fingers up in Ronnie James Dio devil horn fashion, but the accompanying controlled feedback that reached a point of near ambience was a different demon entirely, and was definitely conventional riffing or head banging in nature. 

For those who like their metal either black or deathy or a combination of both, tracks like "They Who Enter Caves" will fit the bill. It is hard to tell if the track is being led by a processed guitar or a synth but the pace and mood of overall track, coupled with the vocals and drums, is unabashedly metallic in nature.   However, the underlying ambience that is a bit more apparent during the ending shows more debt to dark ambient than the rest of the track leads on.  Similarly, the 12-minute "Bonded by Wyrd" adds some prog rock elements into the metal sludge with its rapid guitar arpeggios and restrained vocals and massive drum break down during the second half.

Other tracks show the metal vestiges even less, the sustained "kvlt" produced guitar roar of "Dove Instinct" have more in common with label mates Nadja or some overamped release from the heyday of the Cold Meat Industries label than it does to any traditional metal band.  Even though "Sky as a Reversed Abyss" is more blatant in its use of guitar and other forms of traditional instrumentation, the lugubrious pace and barely structured guitar put it more in the family tree of early Swans or other like minded industrial-tinged sludgesters. 

It wasn't entirely wrong to immediately assume this is a headbanger's type album (there is definitely a black metal edge to this entire album), the sound is actually much more varied than expected from the genre, and incorporates a significant amount of other stylistic elements that will catch the ears of those who aren't adherent metal heads (such as I).  Although this mysterious band (as of this writing there isn't even an entry on discogs.com for them, and they've got everything!) seems to be relatively new on the scene, they are already showing a wide enough array of talents to make them worth keeping an eye on. 

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Deerhunter

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Review of the Day

Cristina, "Sleep It Off"

Ze
For her 1984 follow-up, Cristina enlisted the production genius of Don Was, who brings to Cristina's vocals a musical backdrop every bit as bizarre and infectious as his own Ze Records project Was (Not Was). Forgoing the extended disco excursions of her debut, Cristina and Was instead created ten radio-ready pop songs, trying to outdo Madonna at her own game, perhaps. Along with originals penned by the singer herself in conjunction with Was, Doug Fieger (of The Kinks) and Robert Palmer (!), Cristina also performs distinctive covers of songs by Van Morrison, Prince and obscure country singer John Conlee. The album features excellent guest contributions from contorted punk saxophonist James Chance and jazz legend Marcus Belgrave. With all this star power, I partially expected Sleep It Off to sound like smooth, competent 1980s new wave pop. Well, it doesn't sound like that at all, but what it does sound like is harder to nail down. Producer Was adds stacks of keyboards and synthesizers, wacky loops and sound effects, creating a densely populated architecture of sound that at times threatens to steal the show from Cristina's vocals. Perhaps in order to cement the Brecht comparison, Cristina and collaborator Ben Brierly perform a gothic-y cover of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil's classic ode to purchased love "Ballad of Immoral Earnings." With some of the tracks recalling the sophisticated disco of her early singles, and some taking utterly bizarre tangents into electro-Country ("She Can't Say That Anymore") and cheesy 1980s pop balladry ("The Lie of Love"), the overall effect of Sleep It Off is pure eclecticism. As such, it never becomes boring, although it does lack a certain focus, which probably explains the public's indifference to the album at the time of its release. The lack of any obvious single normal enough for radio airplay probably also contributed. "Don't Mutilate My Mink" gleefully rips off the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK," for one of the album's funniest, most confrontational tracks. Bonus tracks include horrible session outtakes, a bizarre Christmas song, and a really nifty cover of Prince's classic "When You Were Mine." Sleep It Off is an interesting mess, one I don't think I'll be returning to any time soon, but that I am nonetheless glad has received the deluxe reissue treatment from Ze.

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