Undercurrent by RuinsRelease date: October 28, 2016
Label: Listenable Records
Ruins has been around since the late-nineties, debuting with the little-known EP, Atom and Time, and unleashing their breakthrough full-length album, Cauldron, in 2008, before moving on to release more full-length albums. Flying under the radar, hence always underrated, Ruins has returned this 2016 with their latest release entitled, Undercurrent. And, like a magic carpet ride back to the beginnings of black metal, Undercurrent takes you back to second wave black metal heavily influenced by punk and thrash.
Bands either create something expansive or they almost exclusively pay tribute to a style of music that’s been done before. Evolutionary in songwriting and style, but retentive of the best elements second wave black metal has to offer, Ruins utilizes elements of prototype black metal while adding disparate touches to their approach. And, while sure, they visit the mid-tempo headbang-friendly sections often, and they also feature smaller amounts of ambient music, the way they do so never grates on the listener by sounding tired and overdone. Instead, Ruins uses catchy thrashing riffs that don’t immediately hint at thrash, while the punk-influenced sections don’t immediately scream punk either. They cleverly blend everything in so the familiar elements aren’t conspicuous.
The Australian band is signed to Listenable Records and its members have been active with other acts like Psycroptic, and The Amenta. The guitars chug and tremolo riff to uptempo morphing rhythms when replete of blastbeats. Dave Haley’s drumming is as entertaining as it is on tech death band Psycroptic, but perhaps to a lesser degree, and guitarist Joe Haley may not have as many fingers as it takes to play Psycroptic’s technically advanced riffs while handling guitar duties for Ruins, but he deftly accomplishes the difficult transition playing quality black metal regardless of the disparity in style with his other band.
Moved to create quality recordings, the members of Ruins display fine musicianship on Undercurrent, and show no signs of complacency in spite of Undercurrent being their fifth full-length album thus far. Perhaps not as exhilarating an experience as some older records during the band’s humble beginnings, Ruins still plays with vigor and the music does not hint at any decline for the band. For die-hard fans of Ruins, the four years it took to release Undercurrent has been long enough, and the latest offering, Undercurrent, is approvingly entertaining.
Ruins sounds somewhat like fellow black metal practitioners Craft. And it is also fair to note that the band doesn’t simply blast and stop nor blast end to end. Ruins matches the songwriting with the capable musicianship, and they do not experiment with disparate instruments in order to merely claim credit for doing so. That makes Ruins a no-nonsense act, predictably good, and reliable for production values that do not denigrate the performances on tap here. After all, if bedroom black metal has not survived fans’ widespread revulsion for necro-for-necro’s sake production used by one man bands that suffer a lack of proficiency as musicians, why should bands hide the capable performances the way Ruins clearly makes use of here. The album could have been trimmed down to five or six strong entries, but there is also nary a song on Undercurrent that dips terribly qualitatively.
I’m also happy to share with fans that Ruins doesn’t belong to the pseudo-Satanic spectrum of prototype black metal. Satanic purists would argue that black metal as a genre evolved from Satanic devotion, but I’ve always refuted the notion that Satanism or Satanic ideology is prerequisite to good black metal. It all comes down to the music.
Sadly overlooked by some fans in favor of bands with more hype and marketability, Ruins does not rely on publicity to achieve its impetus – create good black metal. The choice is simple: listen to their album, and if you like it, support the band. If not, choose wisely. For me, Ruins makes the grade. Undercurrent is a worthwhile listen.