Ruin – Spread Plague Death Review

The main problem with death metal is that it’s boring as hell. That may seem rich coming from The Guy Who You Know Exists Only Because of His Profuse Writing About Death Metal, but that’s also why you’re here, isn’t it? You know death metal is boring. If you wanted to listen to boring-ass death metal, you would just do it. Instead, you come here to read articles written by over-educated losers who let you know ahead of time which records manage to make death metal not boring. Spread Plague Death is not one of them.

California’s Ruin would pitch it differently, but this, their third record, is boilerplate death. They’d say it’s grimy, satanic death metal inspired by the greats of the ‘90s – think Autopsy and Entombed. It surely is. Spread Plague Death’s songs are nasty and short and introduced or ended by samples that are nasty and long. Their subject material – supernatural murder, cannibalism, necrophilia – are all straight from the death metal starter kit, ditto the riffs. Uninspired is wrong; the record is inspired, but by recirculated air.

If you fundamentally disagree with the premise that death metal is boring, none of this matters. Ruin know what they’re doing. They know how to dial in a thick, nasty guitar tone. They know how to reflect a creeping doomy riff in a high-register lead (“Outro – Postmortem Dark”). They know how to rip through a blast and tie it up with a nice punk beat (“Catatonic Vomit”). In fact, they’re good enough at death metal that they end up sounding moment-to-moment a lot like the AMG-staff-favorite Phrenelith. They know what the hell they’re about and it’s exactly this: boring-ass death metal. Death metal, no modifiers, sitting stale in the tank for thirty years.

Not being excited about this record is a me problem, because I would bet the band are pretty pumped about it. Ruin’s release schedule since 2015 has been downright prolific, and their presentation is about as committed to all-caps DEATH METAL as they come. But I would hazard a guess that low enthusiasm for the record is also probably a you problem. Because you may be realizing that as good as the ingredients sound, Spread Plague Death is not going to stick with you. You on some level know that just death metal is not what you are searching for when you read reviews of death metal. You want to listen to special death metal – something that Ruin have no intention of making. We’re in it for the score, but Ruin are playing for the love of the game. What’s there to enjoy on Spread Plague Death has to be enjoyed on their terms. In that mindset, I’m pleased by the mid-song turnaround in “Quietus (Slit Throat),” even though it’s damn near identical to the turnaround in “Ornaments of Flesh,” which is pretty familiar after hearing the lead in “Catatonic Vomit,” which is a few steps removed from four other riffs on the record, which are all probably identical to ten riffs on six hundred other records. Sure it’s fun, but, in the words of Beardfish, “Every note has been played before – in this exact order, too.”

Like the spelean second-wave worshippers or the red-eyed Sabbath impersonators, Ruin aren’t so much producing art as reproducing it. Their work is a celebration of death metal but, consciously, not a furthering of it; there is no real Ruin “style,” and I don’t think there is meant to be one. Rather the band are writing and playing death metal for the fun of it and releasing records because they can, and I find that admirable. But there’s not much to probe here from a critical standpoint – if you’ve heard death metal before, you’ve heard this record.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nameless Grave Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: August 27th, 2021

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