Ruined Soul is a one-man project firmly based in the Gothenburg scene. Johnny Johansson apparently missed the scene because of his age, but having learned from the best (and right in his backyard, as it were) he has produced a record that wouldn’t have been out of place in 1999, released alongside Colony by In Flames or Projector by Dark Tranquillity. With a whole slough of big named guests from the Swedish scene and one Andy La Roque as the prodcer, it’s hard to imagine how a record like this could go wrong. Right? .. Right!?
Even Angry Metal Guys feel a little guilt when they’re about to pan a DIY kid who missed out on the scene. The fundamental problems are probably already obvious from the introductory paragraph, but this is not the fault of Johnny Johansson himself, but instead his parents who birthed him a few years too late. The Gothenburg sound has been getting tired for years and as stated earlier this year with my review of Arise‘s new record, while this record still holds some appeal it’s hard to imagine ever really getting into it because the sound is something that I’ve heard so many times before. It’s Gothenburg thrash. It’s literally just a rehash of Colony and Slaughter of the Soul with a little bit more black metal thrown in. Not even copping the tricks of the ultimate At The Gates ripoff artists The Black Dahlia Murder and adding more blast beats, this stuff is straight out of the book of Swedish death metal, as it were.
But we all loved this sound at one time! It’s not like there aren’t things going on here that are good, because there are. It’s obvious that Johansson has thrash metal running in his veins, and he’s written some fantastic riffs and great melodies that are definitely reminiscent of the greats. It’s hard to listen to this album without nodding your head along with the mid-paced riffing and humming the guitar melodies. So, this record would still be pretty salvagable were it not for probably its greatest weakness: some of the most trite and ESL lyrics I’ve heard on a release for a long time. I recently made fun of Unleashed for their cheesy lyrics, but this takes it to a different level. While Unleashed is screaming about being Viking death metal, with the subtlety of a warhammer, Ruined Soul‘s lyrics just meander into the painfully cliche and cheesy territory.
Now normally I ignore lyrics if I don’t get a booklet, but there are things on here that I can’t help but hear because of the way it’s mixed and the way its screamed. Lyrics like “You are my only friend / my only friend until the end” from “Rewind” just make me cringe. The opening lyrics to the song “Rivers of Blood” are worthy of Joey DeMaio as well “The world isn’t what it used to be / It’s something in the air tonight / I’m standing in the eye of the storm / [inaudible] is heading this way” works out to about 3 cliche’s in just one verse. Not to mention the acts of closing one’s eyes until the bleed (I’m not actually sure how one even goes about doing that) and other just ridiculously cheeseball approaches, it’s just hard to take this record seriously. Like many musicians Johnny Johansson is probably a guitarist and musician first, lyricist second. But this is what producers should be for: where the hell was the person saying to him “Dude, that’s fucking cheesy as hell.” Nowhere, and so we get stuck with choruses like the one from the track “Bleeding”: “I hear your voice and words, my ears are bleeding / I see your razor eyes, my eyes are bleeding / I feel your touch, my skin is bleeding / I breathe your air, internal bleeding!”
There are really cool moments, hell, even the chorus from the cheesy “Bleeding” song actually has really great guitar melodies and a good feel. But for a band to really pull this off and make it convincing and worth the time of listeners and something that is going to pull in new listeners, they have to be amazing. Instead, despite the production, the guest musicians and the time and energy put into this album, we’re left with something that would’ve probably been pretty good if not for the lyrics (though, honestly, I liked Children of Bodom and their lyrics were just as retarded) in 1999. And that’s just not enough for this Angry Metal Guy anymore.