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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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Review of the Day

radian, "juxtaposition"
Thrill Jockey
Radian's third full-length album is an unexpected (and excellent) surprise, appearing only months after the releases of Ballroom by Trapist (Martin Brandlmayr with Martin Siewert and Joe Williamson) and Die Instabilität der Symmetrie (the collaboration of Brandlmayr and Siewert with Werner Dafeldecker and Stefan Németh) and mere months before Jealousy and Diamond, the Kranky debut of the band Autistic Daughters (Brandlmayr and Dafeldecker with Dean Roberts). Juxtaposition is a seemingly appropriate name for the album as the recordings were completed in a process which is nearly backwards to what would seem most logical: beginning with the synths and electronics (in Vienna) and completed with the recording of live drums and bass guitar (by John McEntire in Chicago). Unsurprisingly with two drummers (Brandlmayer and McEntire) having so much influence on the album, it's a very rhythmically charged record. "Shift" opens the album with an aggressive tune of driving percussion over chopped up electronics. Even here on the first track, the brushes of cymbals and thud of the real bass guitar combined with the forward melodic motion are sounds I've wanted to hear come out of this scene for years. These are the elements that make the perfect use of the last ten years of laptopery. Sure, those Mego and Raster-Noton acts had good sound patches but the picture was always incomplete without good composition and variety. Juxtaposition is more of a pop record than the other releases in this blossoming scene, as it's comprised of nine approximately five-minute songs instead of four-five 10-20 minute long pieces like some of the aforementioned records. The instrumentation remains a consistent well-balanced interplay between the three musical elements (drums, bass guitar, and electronics) while the variants from song to song are of tempo and structure. While the sounds themselves aren't completely natural, it's not an alien pop concept to have an upbeat tune (like "Transistor") followed by the downbeat song ("Helix") and a subsequent droning bit ("Ontario") before launching into another upbeat jam ("Tester"). I'm now even more eager to hear the upcoming Autistic Daughters release and am increasingly anxious to see some of these people live but whether or not this blossoming scene has caught on well enough to bring them over is yet to be seen. 

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