Ruin Lust – Choir of Babel (2020)REVIEW

The notion of primitivism in death metal that’d scour away the hairs of complexity grown upon the mold-slicked corpse of the last three decades relies on the arguable notion that the earliest works of (pure) death metal were in fact primitive and naive art. The rawest death bludgeoning and most powerfully ‘dumb’ extreme metal would’ve come from a small pool of influences and often amounted to drug-punched teenaged imitation — It was (almost) never for the sake of any idealism beyond a pushing of boundaries beyond muscular capability. When building derivative folk art up into a bright afterthought through a clever narrative the tired revisionist tends to clip the wings of death (and black metal, too) back to an unreal notion of a stone age, hungering for a time and/or movement that’d barely existed — Having never seen the value of energetic ambition, only suffering the club of the caveman resultant, the sub-genre’s enlightened beginnings are befouled. In truth, desperation for simplicity comes not from the need to attune towards the bestial lords of death as often as it is a search for the sincere and unpretentious, resulting in an emotionally chaotic sort of black/death metal that exists in the moment as a violent action or, as I’d see it, a musical crime of passion. Sure, check all the boxes: Obliterate all mankind, blackened nuclear production, bestial death roars, punkish wallops, and scatterbrained murder riffs aplenty yet none of it will land as more than a gentle fart in the wind if the right sort of energetic frankness isn’t there. You’re going to have to do more than simply ‘lean into it’. Without the right spark of abandon lit within each of their releases I’d just as well stack New York bestial death metal band Ruin Lust onto the flaming pile of ‘mostly death but surely war metal’ bodies accumulated over the last handful of years. Instead their third full-length, ‘Choir of Babel’, has found Ruin Lust in the right fiery mindset, though they can’t help but wriggle out of their box as their knack for infernal havoc clashes with a mightily improved skill set.

There exists very few (vocal, at least) dabblers in the polarizing world of bestial black/death music fandom, either you’ve heard a thousand war metal albums and had the requisite epiphany that it is a non-linear path of nuanced iteration, or you tried two or three bands before ducking out in disgust. The bands that break through into soil-flicking visible hype and make it onto stuffy end of the year lists often get there by way of two common scenarios: As an underground super-group’d side project for musicians breaching the surface momentarily or if the progression of the project has begun to favor black metal or death metal beyond the other, gaining a clear market. Ruin Lust have the luxury of being a bit of column A and a bit of column B in that their ranks feature members of Yellow Eyes, Vorde, and Vanum though the core formation of the band existed prior to those ventures until 2013, ceasing not long after releasing their debut (‘Ruin Lust‘). I’d say they’ve favored death metal riffing quite a bit since reforming in 2019 and releasing their solid second record (‘Sacrifice‘, 2019) shedding a sliver of feral grinding blackness for the sake of bigger pieces and this comes with some semblance of Ascended Dead and/or Of Feather and Bone. They’ve maintained the ability to dive into a blasting, blurry Teitanblood-esque rip when called for but this is a ‘Darkness Impenetrable‘ level of paradigm twist unto death to my ears. ‘Choir of Babel’ is a fine iteration upon the successes of ‘Sacrifice’ last year, bearing a ‘bigger’ sound and additionally violent performances while still presenting an experience that forces the listener ‘in the moment’ for the sake of being almost entirely inaccessible beyond a few big death metal riffs and fine drum performance throughout.

Ruin Lust do fine work to avoid the purulent miasma of ‘true’ war metal music, instead presenting a ‘stream of consciousness’ death metal record with a bestial atmospheric grinder beneath its buzzing riffs, demolishing any peaks and valleys within (minus the upfront wallop of “Worm”) and certainly not adhering to the ‘real thing’ lineage of bestial black metal beyond a wall of noise and several meaningful bouts of atmospheric dread (“Rite of Binding”) along the way. From my perspective it is entirely fresh and inspired in terms of performance and sound design, excellent guitar tone and drum presence abounds, yet the songwriting appears conflicted between the capture of live-wire energy and thoughtful progression from one idea to the next. “Prison of Sentient Horror” is a fine example of this sway between ideas that do not tie together seamlessly yet each is presented through a powerful performance. This dynamic works well enough on a casual listen but whenever I’d take a closer ear to ‘Choir of Babel’ the intent of the full listen didn’t appear much deeper than a slide from point A to point B. Perfectly fine work for the sub-genre in question though I’d figured it’d be a bit more of a defining moment getting there.

Anyhow, why have I been rambling on about this record without really taking a chunk out of it yet? It never truly took a chunk out of me beyond a few satisfying riffs. There are however two moments on the record that offer world class, ass-slapping devastation few should miss, starting with the imploding death metal hammer that is “Worm”, a death metal track recalling those big Titan-sized guitar nukes on the most recent Antichrist Siege Machine record. Reaching beyond the well-known Archgoat methodology inevitably ends up sounding brilliant on any bestial death/war metal record and I’d say they’ve done it here in a few cases. “Rite of Binding” was equally impactful and probably the most unexpected and refreshing track of the lot if only for its doubling down upon the greater atmospheric intent hinted at across the full listen, providing a gutsy Grave Upheaval sort of moment as the song sprawls unto the end. Those are the heavy hitters for my taste and no doubt the second half of the opener/title track is amazing, the divebombs in the middle of “Prison of Sentient Horror” are inspired, and the very satisfying drum work on “Bestial Magnetism” are likewise world class but at least half the time I’d found myself feeling like Ruin Lust had pushed everything out so hard it all read as a steady, unsurprising listening experience. Of course if you loved ‘Sacrifice’ this record will be a flirtatious cousin to prior successes and established fans won’t be surprised but will be delighted by this enthused follow-up. A powerful record upon introduction that’d recede in my memory despite many, many spins of its half-hour length. A moderately high recommendation.

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Artist Ruin Lust
Type Full-length
Released March 13, 2020
BUY & LISTEN on 20 Buck Spin’s Bandcamp! Ruin Lust on Metal-Archives
Genre Black/Death Metal,
War Metal

Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0

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