Ruin Lust – Choir of Babel Review

The few times I’ve run reconnaissance to the front lines of war metal—sometimes called bestial black metal—it hasn’t exactly inspired me to take up arms. On paper, the bastard child of grindcore and raw black metal sounds like fun, but the unrelenting frenetic assault often turns tedious for this reviewer. I don’t mind dense music, but I like it smart, and that’s not really war metal’s MO. “Then why are you reviewing a war metal album?” the insolent reader may ask. I’ll tell you, though you deserve no such courtesy1. Firstly, Choir of Babel, the third full-length from New York’s Ruin Lust, arrives courtesy of 20 Buck Spin, a quality label that isn’t exactly known for cranking out Archgoat wannabes. Secondly, Ruin Lust features Mike Rekevics on vocals and drums and Owen Rundquist on bass. My high regard for Rekevics’ other bands Yellow Eyes and Vanum can be observed here, and Rundquist is part of Anicon, which is my current favorite black metal group this side of the Atlantic. So does Ruin Lust continue each of their respective hitting streaks?

True to its subgenre, Ruin Lust doesn’t sound much like Rekevics and Rundquist’s other bands. It’s nominally black metal, but the boundaries between that, death metal, and grind get good and shredded in the onslaught. The title track kicks things off with a fairly standard death metal stomp until the blistering riffs and rapid-fire drums take over. A few seconds later, a screeching guitar solo springs out of nowhere, adding a sense of randomness to the already chaotic sound. There’s an overabundance of bass in the album production, and when he isn’t shouting rants, Rekevics’ vocals eschew the usual reedy rasps of black metal for a husky death roar. There are times on Choir of Babel when the low vocals blend with a positively infernal guitar tone to create a sound like a blast furnace with its door open, greedily sucking oxygen from the space around it.

For playing a style so dependent on constant tumult, Ruin Lust is remarkably able to keep composition and riff cycles legible. One way they do this is by planting their feet squarely on the careening merry-go-round-o-death and leaning hard in the direction opposite the spin with lurching death metal grooves. This is most prominent on “The Choir of Babel” and “Worm,” one of the album highlights. In fact, the riffs on “Worm” evolve from scorching blasts into an almost death-doom march, all while maintaining a unique character.2 This dip into slower territory is no fluke, as the nearly nine-minute finale “Rite of Binding” folds an absolutely demented doom track inside frenetic blackened death metal fringes. For much of the song’s second half, drums fall away completely and a sickly slow churning guitar groove underpins the sucking furnace vocals to create a brilliant counterpoint to Choir of Babel’s more chaotic moments.

Some of these slower moments wouldn’t stand out on, say, a death-doom album, but they work because of contrast. They are relief in the storm, and maybe ironically, some of the most raging moments on Choir of Babel are the weakest. Tedium is not just a product of sparseness. Density can produce it too, and when all the moving parts layer up and distortion sits atop distortion sits atop machine gun drums, the songs can turn mushy. No matter how many times I listen to “Prison of Sentient Horror,” my attention flags after the central guitar solo as riffs lose either cohesion or memorability. The same happens on parts of “Bestial Magnetism.” Thankfully, Ruin Lust have the good sense to keep Choir of Babel at a concise five songs over 29 minutes. This restraint keeps the album in “exhilarating ride” rather than “slog” territory.

Even if things can go a bit cacophony salad on Choir of Babel, it’s easy to hear the quality of the musicians involved in Ruin Lust. They keep things coherent and throw in enough meaty riffs to make this more than just an exercise in violent musical flailing. I wouldn’t say I’m ready to declare my undying allegiance to war metal after this, but it’s a solid album with live-wire energy and just enough smarts to ensure I’ll come back to it when the dark mood takes me.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Releases Worldwide: March 13th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Am I doing this right, Muppet?
  2. Did you expect anything less? – Dr. Wvrm
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