Life in Ruin

The crushing metal of Human Moral Deception
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  October 21, 2009



Recently, Bull Moose wondered "aloud" (via Facebook) about the future of metal. Among entreaties to just feel the music and listen to what you like and just not overthink things, man, was a succinct answer: "Ruin."

It's true. This four-piece is shaping up to be the biggest heavy band locally since Dead Season broke through, though they are considerably less accessible to the masses and it's hard to believe they have a song that any commercial radio station would play outside of a specialized show.

While many heavy bands save a track or two on a CD for a ballad or acoustic number that might allow entry into a fanbase that might be turned off by their heaviest stuff, Ruin are having none of that. Their debut full-length, Human Moral Deception, is punishing from beginning to end, with songs increasing in length and complexity as they go. The album's 42 minutes are taken up by just seven songs and the opener, "Betrayed," is the shortest at 5:02.

However, where a lot of complex and intricate metal delves into the fantastical, like a Gojira or Opeth, there's nothing prog about Ruin. They're too angry and disgusted to opine about dragons or elves and dwarves. Nor do they offer up any of those operatic or throaty vocals, like Meshuggah's Jens Kidman or Brent Hinds of Mastodon, who released the excellent Crack the Sky earlier this year (on Reprise Records, for that matter, which definitely has label founder Frank Sinatra rolling over in his grave -- he thought the Beatles were too loud). Lead singer Richard Carey never moves away from his high-pitched, gravelly scream. He's a pterodactyl.

Couple that with their emphasis of rhythm and low-end impact over melody and there's definitely not anything with which you can sing along. However, the tunes are consistently conducive of head-bobbing, and these guys would be great for the pit: There are lots of cool-down periods mid-song for the strolling around the circle part, then slow-building crescendos that get people amped, finishing in rapid-fire riffs and screaming that should feature lots of crashing into one another and general mayhem.

It's part of their creativity in general as songwriters. Guitar chords like Morse code open "The Same," beginning a slow build that would finish in something fairly catchy, in a Primus sort of way, if it not for the brutality of Carey's delivery. He does pull off the seemingly impossible task of distortedly screaming on key. His lyrics -- "unchanged/The same/Unlocked/Contained" -- are like banners flying overhead.

Wish they didn't fade this song out at the finish, though.

"Never" finishes more wittily, glass breaking alongside Carey's final emotive yelp. Here, as elsewhere, drummer Craig Carey shows a surprisingly light hand on the cymbals, and his bass drums fuel a mid-song transition. There are times when the snare can sound a little hollow, but in large part producer Jack Murray does well to get the drums up front.

Similarly, the guitar solos, as in "Limbs that Reach," are often mixed to the middle, appropriately taking what melody is here and making it almost subliminal. For a song that emphasizes "our faults of human shortcomings," Ken Vought's guitar acts like a snake of tunefulness that winds its way through a tall grass of menace. Later, they get very tribal in the mid-section, almost the way a jam band might tackle it, before part two moves into three-piece arcs from a fuzzily digitized guitar.

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