Though grayed and wizened by bitter years of scathing aural abuse, my tastes never developed the way I expected. Gush over Dodecahedron; pre-order the new Ahab; “Pain of Salvation for AotY!”; I’ll be in the back row, drawing dicks on the cover of my Extreme Metal Starter Pack. Voice of Ruin is right there with me. Swapping out three band members since 2014’s raunchy Morning Wood, the boys from Switzerland are back to enroll me in Melodic Thrash 101. I’m so teed up to like the Lamb of God-meets-melodeath of Purge and Purify, how could this go wrong?
…I think I jinxed myself. The groovy, meathead riffs of “Disgust” come delivered thicker than a porterhouse by guitar tones forever stuck in a twilight zone between death and thrash. Half-growl vocals so one-dimensional that they make Chris Barnes look like Rob Halford accompany an aimless stampede of vitriol that shows no weakness and feels no pity for the poor reviewer caught in its wake. It sucks, but fortunately, it’s also a complete outlier. Having digested the whole album, it’s easier to view the opener as the base of the album, a stock for Voice of Ruin to season appropriately. When left untreated, as in “Disgust,” the music is saltless and bland. But as “Horns” takes off, it’s clear there’s something extra in the stew. The band leans into heavy Lamb of God worship, bolstered by melodies plucked both from The Black Dahlia Murder and the Finnish Metallinen Starter Pakki. The album consistently turns to this comfortable stance. It may be basic, but it sits light-years ahead of “Disgust” and improves with each trip to the spice rack.
“Blood of Religions” taps out a delicious mainstay riff before launching into convincing thrash steeped in Sylosis riffage. The Lamb of God influences remain close at hand, but Purge and Purify becomes worthwhile only when tweaking that simple recipe. Copy-catting Lamb of God is like covering Freddie Mercury: nothing quite compares to the real deal. Without that Virginian je ne sais quoi, fist-pumping charisma becomes a simplistic mix of sound and fury. “Disgust” is the worst case scenario, but “Animal Kingdom” and “Time for Revenge” also leap into that circle pit. The southern fare of the former does little to stand out, as does “Ashes of the Wake” homage “I Confess.” That particular direction peaks with “All Hail the King” and the venom and chugs of “Snakes in My Head,” but they are the only two in that vein that stands next to the divergent melothrash highlights of closer “Piracy.” Melodicism does not guarantee success however. The pseudo-eponymous “Voices from the Ruins” leans into that Sylosis bent once more, but to lesser success.
On a technical level, the guitar work is the single largest redeeming quality. Axe duo Nicolas Haerri and Darryl Ducret cut solid, re-spinnable riffs easily enough, but they alone cannot strip Purge and Purify of its by-the-book taste. Love him and/or hate him, Jens Bogren’s master is loud (surprise, surprise), but I find more fault in Romesh Dodangoda’s busy mix. They over-amplify Dario Biner’s battering drums into the riffs and relegate Edwin Bertschi’s warm bass timbres to near non-existence. Vocalist Randy Schaller commands a lot of space, not unexpected given his position but unwarranted given his execution. Despite some classic D. Randall Blythe deliveries, his ceaseless vocals provide neither the dynamics nor the legibility required to be anything other than stifling.
Despite all this, Voice of Ruin toppled my expectations of a reverse-lock jinx. Purge and Purify could be better, but it could be a lot worse. The band aren’t here to write a masterpiece in five acts; they’re here to beat chests and drop bodies, a feat they at least partially accomplish. The blend of sounds I adore, however basic, is an added bonus. If Voice or Ruin can sort out their secondary issues, I suspect I’ll be back for Melodic Thrash 201.