Written By: Lokasenna
Hailing from Who-the-hell-knows-where, USA, the generically named Ruin originally formed in 1991, only to have its membership swallowed by time in the slammer and/or sanitarium. Reformed in 2015, they’ve sluiced out a swampy sort of old-school death metal their label promises will be reminiscent of early Abhorrence and Bolt Thrower. Drown in Blood, their first full-length, follows on the heels of a 2015 demo, but, as you may have ascertained, information on this band is otherwise rather scant. As a consequence, I enter into this somewhat blindly, led only by my general preference for less primordial death metal. Will this band find a new fan in spite of this? Is the label pulling comparisons out of their ass?
After what I assume to be a Z grade horror movie sample, opening track “Crawling Through the Vomit” kicks things into gear with some nice riff-work and an energetic solo before the unnamed vocalist gurgles and growls away. There’s not a lot of variety here, folks – this is brusque, primeval death metal all right. Much of the album opts for slow builds, but where the tempo does pick up, things tend to get oddly bouncy, yet it manages to work most of the time. “Torture is Heaven” is a good showcase of this rhythmic variety, as are “Rancid Death,” “Spread Plague Hell,” and title track “Drown in Blood.” The only real structural problem is a possible over-fondness for the slower segments, but this is a very subjective issue, even in this context. If nothing else, the band has very good instincts for juggling rhythms and tempos, with very little of the instrument work overstaying its welcome.
Speaking of things overstaying their welcome, is anyone else tired of death metal sampling horror movies? Hephaestus’s club foot, these meatheads overdo it here. A full six tracks open with one, and the otherwise excellent “Spread Plague Hell” opens with a bafflingly out of place choral segment. The album even closes with a medley of cheesy samples of what sounds to be people being tortured. While a decent idea for this subgenre, it wears thin after a minute or so and feels like padding, given the other samples and the relatively brisk runtime. This isn’t hip hop, guys; knock it off with the sampling. That’s not the only problem, although it’s certainly the largest. In general, the album needs more variety of song length. The only two tracks that don’t clock in around 4 minutes, “Rancid Death” and “Drown in Blood,” feel padded by samples and/or boring instrumental filler. “Drown” also has a small problem with segments of riffing sounding…out of place. The riff itself is excellent, but sounds for all the world like Deathspell Omega wound up on the wrong continent, which is jarring, to say the least.
The swampy vocals work well with the overall sound and structure of each song, but never really stand out as anything other than effective. Conversely, both “Crawling” and “Rancid Death” feature blistering solos that very strongly remind of Abhorrence‘s first demo, while the drumming varies from workmanlike to excellent, particularly standing out on “Sewer.” But what of the riffs? Here’s where things get particularly hit-and-miss, as long stretches of the album leave me cold, especially “Nightmares in a Void.” Despite this, these death-mongers are capable of dredging up some excellent riff-work for the more energetic segments, especially on penultimate track and album standout “Spread Plague Hell.” My gut tells me this is my own tastes talking, however, and if you like your death metal with a slab of doom on the side, perhaps the riffage will better suit you. The production is very marshy, as expected, and shapes the sound of the album appropriately, but it’s undeniably potato-like. If you have less tolerance for low-fi productions, giving this a pass is likely for the best.
In spite of the album’s flaws and the band’s terribly obnoxious attempt to be “mysterious,” I find myself liking Drown in Blood much more than not. It’s perfectly serviceable old-school death metal, and while I doubt I’ll revisit more than a couple songs in the future, the band has potential. Group cohesion, so often an issue with bands early in their careers, is perfunctory at worst, but they have a good ear for riffage at least part of the time, so I wish them luck in the future as they refine their sound.