*2020 Metal Album of the Year Contender*
There’s a lot of metal that comes out every year that’s good, that’s solid. A lot of textbook metal that comes out that is just great, by the book metal… then you have a band like Within the Ruins.
This is next level stuff. These guys are elevating the game. It’s rare I hear a record that makes me wince like this one did – “HOLY FUCKING SHIT THESE GUYS ARE MURDERING IT!!!!” – was my unvarnished reaction after the first listen.
Within the Ruins takes Meshuggah’s “Djent” start / stop, off kilter style and adds elements of classic metal and video game aesthetics. There are literally points in this record where the guitarist is making sounds I heard in Ninja Gaiden while playing 8-Bit Nintendo 30 years ago. The intensity, speed and accuracy of the band as a whole is on par with the best.
Since getting my screener of this album it has been on non-stop repeat and so far. Without a doubt, I would rank it as one of my favorite metal records of 2020.
Let’s jump right into a track by track breakdown.
The first track Domination seems to be making a nod to one of the greatest extreme metal bands of all time – Pantera. There is obvious Pantera influence in WTR and as a long time fan, those similarities are not lost on me. The song is by no means a copy of Pantera’s… it sounds absolutely nothing like the song Domination from the Cowboys from Hell album. It just fucking destroys.
Track 2 Deliverance is one of my favorites on the album. The very videogame-esque riff on the chorus takes me back to my childhood playing 8-bit Nintendo games in the basement. There’s a breakdown at one point that sounds like Strider or Bionic Commando… one of those classic military themed 8-bit games. Overall though, this is just an all out brutal track. It comes fast out of the gate and then breaks down into this incredibly heavy, stomping groove before vocalist Steve Tinnon shouts: “AND THE ONLY WAY OUT – IS IN A BODYBAG.” – br00tal. A veteran metalhead has to wonder if the title isn’t a nod to C.O.C.’s classic 90’s album of the same name.
Black Heart is the title track and boy does it shred. It opens with this ambient tapping riff that almost sounds Van Halen-esque but has a really driving groove underneath it. Once the song kicks in it’s all over the fucking place. It erratically veers back and forth between ambient guitar note flurries and zig zagging metal grooves. There’s a noise that WTR’s guitarist makes that sounds like it’s sampled directly from Ninja Gaiden… it also kind of sounds like an old ray gun. When you hear it you’ll totally understand… holy f**k this song is just bursting with intensity. There is one small section where it breaks into melodic vocal harmonies for just a few seconds and then it dives straight back into the zig zagging brutality. It’s just incredibly chaotic and yet intricately constructed at the same time. “YOU ARE FUCKING NOTHING!!!” Tinnon gutterally shouts at the song’s peak.
Open Wounds begins with a very Iron Maiden style riff before exploding with force and speed. This opening riff ends up being the hook of the song and the band takes off on these bludgeoning thrash tangients before returning to the epic opening melody. The solo break in this is track literally MIND BENDING. The way they break up the mind bending segments of the solo into a Meshuggah like groove at the end of the track is downright brilliant. Another barn burner… actually, fuck a barn burner this song is a goddamn BARN NUKER.
On the track Eighty Sixed the band finally seems to take it’s foot off the gas just a little. This one starts with more of a slow and powerful groove than the prior tracks. It’s also an instrumental track where the band showcases a lot of their riffing abilities. At one point they even play some legitimate video game melodies. Super Mario Bros. pops up as well as what sounds like a nod to the theme song for the cartoon Inspector Gadget. The song works almost as kind of an intermission and probably gives the vocalist a well needed rest when the band is playing live shows.
Devil in Me comes back strong with the raw brutality. The song also adds a lot more melody than previous tracks. Buried amidst the hardcore riffing is hook of sorts. It floats gently over the type of intricate yet brutal riffing you would expect. The way the track quickly closes out sounds almost like a genie being sucked back into a bottle.
Hollow is another flame thrower of a song that just starts out hard fast and hot and never lets up. The title may also be another veiled Pantera reference but rest assured that the only similarity here is the title. This Hollow closes out with a speed riff that sounds almost like it was copped from the game Tetris. It may also be a traditional Russian folk song and I’m just an ignorant American who knows nothing about Russian culture… Either way it shreds.
Outsider has some really intense sentiment. “I COULD NEVER BE ONE OF YOU!!!” Tinnon shouts “I AM THE PARIAH”. I’m sure a lot of metal kids can relate to feeling like an outcast or an outsider at some point in their life, so this lyric lands. The song also breaks into a melodic chorus for only the 2nd time on the album. In this track the melody works to make the heavy parts sound that much more intense and brutal. The band uses vocal melody very sparingly throughout the record.
RCKLSS is probably the slowest and most stoic song on the album. A tight metal swing with a guitar solo that would make Jerry Cantrell proud. The atmospheric choir-like sounds that hover behind the music make it sound ethereal and mysterious.
Finally, Ataxia V – any fan of this band knows that every album has an episode from the Ataxia saga and this album is no different. The track sounds like it could be a real life progressive, heavy metal version of Mega Man 2 stage music.
I can’t say enough good things about this record. I listen to a TON of metal and when a record stands out this much to me it’s really exciting. This band is pushing the boundaries and truly adding something new to the genre. If you love hardcore metal and have been waiting for that record… that new heavy… spine tingling sound that makes you want to jump up out of your chair and thrash everything in your house… this is it.
Black Heart by Within the Ruins hits the streaming services and shelves everywhere just in time for the holidaze – November 27th, 2020
In the name of all that is heavy… listen to this fucking record when it comes out. You will thank me later.
(Pre-Order / Order HERE)