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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

Murcof, "Utopia"
Leaf
This gap-filler disc from Murcof is Leaf's way to buy time and keep the name fresh before the release of the next proper Murcof album, but it's no less inspired, all the same. Beginning with a 10 minute epic of film score orchestration and minimal techno thump, Utopia establishes early on that Murcof is dealing with a larger scope and a more developed tone than many of his contemporaries. Jan Jelenik's clicky, jazz-spliced remix of "Maiz" is the perfect groovy counterpoint to the album's creeping, moody opener. Sutekh gives "Memoria" a tweaked techno workout with plenty of glitches and squiggles that pop out over the monotone bassline and piano chord. "Utano" blends dark cello and brass timbres with twinkling electronic percussion for a while, then drops out the techno trappings for a more experimental approach to the cinematic loops and swells that other artists tend to leave in the background. It's refreshing for someone working with beats not to make the beats the primary focus for a change, and Murcof is able to bend and arrange sounds with a composer's rather than dj's ear. The remaining remixes are mostly placid and unremarkable; not an affront to the source material but certainly not as clever as they'd like to be or as necessary. "Una," the second to last of the un-remixed tracks takes symphonic and operatic fragments and glues them to a stuttering dsp-laden beat that is just short of club-friendly, but not so overblown as to draw unneccessary attention to itself. The "Colleen Mix" of "Muim" could easily figure in a Chris Nolen film as its all backwards pianos and heavy string passages that conjure up the grimy noir of "Memento" and the slick isolation of "Insomnia" equally. The remixes are all solid, sometimes taking an ambient detour that's welcome amidst the electrobeats, but Murcof's originals clearly stand out as the best tracks here. If nothing else, Utopia performs its role by making a case for watching for the forthcoming album and possibly for picking up the back catalog. 

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