An overt personification in passionate divulgence of regrettable instinctive drive and well-indulged malignancy, the tragic horror felt by a mind devolved away from its natural primitive state becomes one possible consideration when presented with the progressive black-metallic wiles of Detroit, Michigan-based quartet Fell Ruin‘s incensed-yet-defeatist second full-length album. ‘Cast in the Oil the Dressed Wrought‘ is a complex narrative presented in lengthy yet easily grasped avant-garde phrases, a modern “progressive” extreme metal album from a severely serotonin-scoured yet gifted mind palace. In this case we do not receive the ‘bigger picture’ in parable but a fast and frightening self-poisoning which takes the mind quickly and thrills a bit by way of residual hallucinations.
Approaching the discography of Fell Ruin in earnest introduction there’ll be one minor point to make up front and, sure, it might seem odd to face check a sub-genre tag but it’d presented a brief and unnecessary roadblock when diving in. That is to say that they’ve never been a “black/doom” metal band even if we deploy the most liberal definition of avant-doom metal adjacency they’re just… not really bringing more than a sludge-esque “vibe” in that regard. What you should hear in their sound is some manner of technical death metal structuring, mathcore/deathgrind adjacent rhythmic technique, and all of this processed into a vaguely progressive definition of post-modernist blackened death/post-metal with an increasingly strong sense of atmosphere. Not a negative thing, a unique sound overall in fact, but not a primary or secondary doom metal relevant experience in my book.
Within the greater continuum of surreal modern black metal adjacent music Fell Ruin stood out immediately beyond forming in 2014 yet they’d not made the case with their actual songs (for my own taste, of course) to start. Think one part ‘Lowgazers‘-era Plebian Grandstand, the curious sonic temperament of Mastery‘s ‘Valis‘, and a pinging drum sound that should speak to both Converge-core and early 2000’s brutal deathgrind heads alike. From their first mLP (‘Devices‘, 2015) this mold was generally set and their work beyond that point has iterated upon this noisome, blackened post-core dynamic consistently with different approaches to sound design. Each of Fell Ruin‘s full-lengths bring new combinations of these erratic yet easily related forms in effective combination and at this point I’d have to concede that their debut LP (‘To the Concrete Drifts‘, 2017) has thus far been their greatest point of excess yet most stifled release, muting their math-metallic drum sound and sludging out the separation of instruments for the sake of unified spectacle. ‘Cast in Oil the Dressed Wrought‘ re-rights the ship, emphasizing all of the notable idiosyncrasies found on ‘Devices‘ to an even bigger degree and leaning into gushier, floatier atmospheric side of the band which’d always been their strength.
Opener/title track “Cast in Oil the Dressed Wrought” is a fairly typical opener per Fell Ruin‘s discography, a long and involved piece which showcases their progressive-aggressive side while featuring every aspect of their sound in evolution. This means the dry-pinging bone snap of the drums chucks in first amidst some dissonant tracers, already blurring chords and swerves out quicker than their previous release. I figure most any listener attuned to this sort of music will find the dip into pinched wailing in the second minute of the song in opposition to my “ain’t doom” tirade earlier but it is a minor wave as the song quickly presses on into its jagged and fleet-fingered verses. This is the band at their best, a machine meant to grind its gears in obscene ways and create unusual rhythms within their own flurries of action. The bass guitar tone eventually warms into prominence leading up to the ringing break ~4:02 minute in, perhaps the most effective moment on the entire album both as a contained point of rest and in excellent juxtaposition with their sparking mad energy otherwise. I’ve emphasized this first track because it is such a substantial tone set for the full listen that it nearly overtakes the ~35 minute rub of the album outright. Per my own experience, much of the first listen had me waiting for another moment like that to pop off and… not for long at all as the equally strong “Stain the Field” presented a similar dynamic in different measure.
As I see it, the brilliancy to be found within the four main pieces here is in Fell Ruin‘s very simply achieved reconnection of the oft loose connections made within the frantic intervals of prior recordings, whereas this second full-length uses slippery, psychedelic dread often framed by easier flowing bass guitar work to secure readable sense within surrealistic forms. The right ratio for a substantial enough listen seems to be roughly forty percent scramble-core fury and sixty percent meandering drool. The tension created is mildly challenging to start but the greater concoction’s flitting between nihilistic reactivity and meditative resignation is far more profound when given (more) room to mull beyond grinding intensity.
The nearly ten minute finale of “Sightless Amongst the Weavers” ensures we’re in an entirely different place and that the musical language of this album has changed in tone without losing the effective dynamic that’d been presented up front. “The Burning Spire” had flung some of the sharper black metallic riffs on the album and I’d hoped more of that’d show up on the closer but they’ve instead focused on the progressive death metal side of things as they press into the final 3-4 minutes of the record, to be fair it ends up being a much more effective peaking moment because of this turn and I am glad they cut things off right there even if it meant a somewhat disappointing slow fade into static/noise. While the full listen is engaging, entertaining to no end it only manages to be a spectacle outside of the strong flow state created. This primarily affects the long-term value of the record wherein after fifteen or so listens I’m not sure I’d return for more than a few points of great interest, a bassline here and a riff there. That said the action of the full listen is easy to pick up and a unique experience overall. A moderately high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Cast in the Oil the Dressed Wrought|
|RELEASE DATE:||November 11th, 2022|
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