One of the more challenging obstacles as a dedicated metalhead in these fast-moving modern times is trying to keep up with the ridiculous amount of bands dropping releases all over the place at regular intervals. With the relative ease in which bands are able to record and self-release, on top of the multitude of established artists and independent labels on the scene, I’m pretty much constantly playing catch up and trying to absorb as much quality metal as I can get my grubby hands on. All the while trying in vain to siphon out the bullshit that inevitably pops up in the endless flood of artists emerging. Band reference points are a handy indicator in these overwhelming circumstances, so when the debut album from Ruinous filtered through the promo portal and I discovered the experienced trio shared a past and current membership with Incantation, Goreaphobia, Disma, Funebrarum and Kalopsia I was naturally excited by what these gents were capable of concocting.
Boasting an old school death metal sound flecked with a few modern embellishments, Ruinous deliver no-frills, gimmick-free blasts of gnarled deathly goodness, light on innovation but heavy on grisly charm and flesh ripping hooks. Beyond the expected pungent stench of death wafting through the band’s sound, Ruinous apply plenty of pleasing variables, such as the menacing atmosphere and funereal slow burn of mid-album monster “Procession of Ceaseless Sorrows” or the blasting, thrash-driven death assault of the delightfully deranged “Ravenous Eternal.” Mixing shit up beyond the obvious and incorporating elements of doom, thrash and even a touch of grind helps separate Ruinous from falling into the indistinguishable and badly polluted gene pool of the old school death scene. The grind and thrash infected “Dragmarks” and frantic blasting and streetwise death grooves of ‘Plague Maiden” offer strong examples of old school worship coupled with modern inflections and a killer blending of styles.
Experience counts for a lot in metal and it shows throughout the tightly constructed, rollicking hellride that Ruinous embark on throughout Graves of Ceaseless Death. Loads of riff-driven beefiness are present on nearly every track, while the pure unbridled energy and a strong contingent of headbangable groove sections make for an extremely fun, addictive listen, forming a criss-cross of internal influences, while tipping their caps to Autopsy and old school Swedish death. Generally, the formula works a treat, both catchy and ripping, though never quite achieving outright greatness in the songwriting department. Tacking one or two exceptionally long songs on an album has become a familiar trait on a number of death metal albums I’ve heard recently and Ruinous continue this hit or miss trend with the bloated immensity of “Through Stygian Catacombs” marching on for 11 and a half minutes. Featuring thick rancid melodies, hefty groove and an appealing mix of death and doom, the song doesn’t drag as much as I was expecting and is mostly successful in its ambition. Ironically, it’s the little editing snips that could have made a difference. By no means excessive in length (45 minutes), Graves of Ceaseless Death still feels a bit long in the tooth and some astute shavings to cut the length slightly would’ve sharpened the finished product.
Recently departed Disma drummer Shawn Eldridge sounds as if he’s exorcising demons after his apparently unceremonious exit from the band, impressing with a powerhouse performance behind the kit, full of finesse, nifty rhythmic variations and pile-driving blasts and grooves. Matt Medeiros also produces a praiseworthy display, both with axe and mic. However, it’s his brutal dual vocal combo, switching between deep bellowing growls and shrieky, grind influenced screams, that sets him apart and lends a very effective vocal dynamic on songs like jacked-up closer “Torn Forever from the Light.” Aside from a typically crushed mastering job, the production actually packs plenty of punch, with each instrument easily discernible and providing ample bottom end grunt.
Emerging from the splintered line-up of Funebrarum, Graves of Ceaseless Death finds the members of Ruinous hitting the ground running with an accomplished debut that sounds both refreshing and familiar in the context of old school death. It may sound a little too safe considering the pedigree of the musicians involved, but overall it’s a well executed and enjoyable platter that’s well worth a listen.