Demo 2011 marks the debut of New York City death metal band Ruin Lust, a newcomer to the heavy metal underground. Just because the band is new, however, doesn’t mean its members play like amateurs. In fact, Ruin Lust is comprised of very experienced musicians: Guitarist Jack Wilson and bassist Seth Kramer were previously members of Mohoram Atta, a former Bay-area crust punk band, and Michael Rekevics was the drummer of Fell Voices, an increasingly popular drone/black metal band. Ruin Lust’s first album, released on cassette by Psychic Violence records, is a profound reorientation of the death metal genre, and a welcome change at that.
“Beg for Light” opens the album with frenzied tremolo-picked guitar riffs, forcefully introducing the band as one tied to the roots of death metal. Indeed, tremolo picking is common to many extreme metal genres, and it employed to some extent by nearly all death metal artists. The muddy production and heavy distortion blend individual pitches beyond recognition; this short track is propelled forward not by melody and harmony, but by the semi-rhythmic wall of sound created by Wilson’s lilting, heavy guitar, Rekevics’s aggressive blast beats (a term used to describe a style of drumming focused on making noise rather than keeping tempo), and the unsettling harsh vocals of all three band members. In less than two minutes, “Beg for Light” comes to an abrupt and anticlimactic conclusion and Demo 2011 races into the self-titled “Ruin Lust,” which furthers the violent aesthetic mission of the opening track.
The third track, “Degradation Rites,” begins with a dreadfully slow bass solo, with Kramer pondering each reverberating note before continuing to the next, reminiscent of the style of heavy metal pioneered by Black Sabbath (now commonly referred to as ‘doom metal’). Of course, it doesn’t take long for Wilson and Rekevics to return to the fray, once again summoning a monolith of bassy, lo-fi noise. While the two previous tracks waste no time bursting your ear drums, “Degradation Rites” is a different beast: it seems influenced by the work of Fell Voices, and more generally, drone metal. The song builds intensity slowly before erupting into simple riffs featuring only a few chords which, when played at high speed, seem to expand and contract – the listener is lost in the whirl of distortion, all sense of time lost.
“Labyrinth of Decay” continues this peculiar temporal hex, presenting a stream of bestial growls over instrumental phrases similar to those in “Degradation Rites” – only the occasional crash cymbal signals the regular passage of time. Eventually the bass and drums drop out, leaving Wilson to hammer away at a mere two chords. As listeners, we are lost in an auditory maze: what feels like an endless track ends in just over five minutes (arguably short by extreme metal standards).
The hypnotic tendencies of “Labyrinth” illustrate just why Ruin Lust is in the business of making death metal: They bring a unique aesthetic that has never been explored in the genre, which tends to be saturated with bands aiming to be as ‘heavy’ or as ‘brutal’ as possible. Ruin Lust’s output could certainly be described as both heavy and brutal, but these qualities seem to be mere byproducts of a larger artistic aim: the incorporation of drone music tendencies into a genre that tends to eschew slow tempos and minimalism – a truly fascinating undertaking.
Demo 2011 closes with what is, in my opinion, the best song of the album. “Violence and Splendor” is a catchy, cleverly composed melting pot of motifs introduced in previous tracks. It begins with a plodding guitar line, pushed ever forward by the piercing kick of Rekevics’s drums. Wilson jumps higher on the fretboard to squeeze out few nasally wails before the blast beats return, accompanying the track’s vocals, which juxtaposed tortured and unsettling shrieks against deeper, more guttural shouts. As the song continues, measure devolves into yet another onslaught of arrhythmic and transfixing riffs, crawling sluggishly forward before the opening lick returns. Yet this time, the tempo is relaxed, and the music moves through a drastic ritardando, finally screeching to a halt on a deep, resonant chord.
Demo 2011 is a refreshing new addition to the canon of death metal, and the beginning of what we can only hope is a long and productive career for Ruin Lust. Never dull, even in its moments of monotony and lethargy, the album blends characteristics of two diametrically opposed genres of extreme meal: ‘drone’ and ‘death,’ forging a supremely unique work of dark art.