*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #14 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Fell Ruin released their 2017 debut through I, Voidhanger Records and made a small dent in the avant-garde metal scene thanks to an angular mix of doom and dissonant black metal. As with any band of their ilk, few people knew what to make of their unpredictable bursts of murderous aggression and discordant puzzle pieces, and they do nothing on their sophomore effort to make things any more transparent. Indeed, the structures on Cast in Oil the Dressed Wrought are as baffling as the absence of grammar in the album’s title. This is a strange record for the strange times we live in.
The first thing that’s apparent with Fell Ruin’s second LP is the scaling back of the doom metal element in favour of a more prominent death metal attack. Of course, the band dwell in progressive metal circles and navigate through avant-garde landscapes, which means they set the mood with the type of minimalist keyboard sequence that could play in the background to Laurence Olivier’s solemn narration of The World at War during the liberation of Belsen. The vicious pincer assault of the title track follows and paints a plundered wasteland of resource competition in a world you dare not imagine with too much gusto. Listen how August Krueger’s drum snares replicate the hollow thud of the early 90s Helmet and Fudge Tunnel sound while the guitars lay on the dissonant coatings of distortion. Vocalist and lyricist, Brian Sheehan, presents the guts of his words like a crazed spree killer in the grip of stage two psychosis. These eight minutes are full of twists and turns that change tempos and timbres at will. Hark how the delicate keyboard notes dance around the pain of the melodies either side of a mid-tempo slime of Morbid Angel and a miserable serenade of My Dying Bride proportions.
How to describe the unique concoction of death and black metal in the context of Fell Ruin’s musical approach is easier by association. Imagine a Venn diagram with three circles containing Ulcerate, Schammasch and Akercocke in each one. Fell Ruin represent the intersection where all three overlap. ‘Stain the Field’ mixes unsteady death metal grooves with hissing guitars and incorporates spoken word passages in its sinister grip. The complexity of this arrangement is easy to overlook in the spontaneity of its presentation. Riffs appear from surprise places, bass notes bubble underneath the surface, drum shifts change tempo like hiking boots tossed down the stairs in a moment of uncaring folly. Fell Ruin find their calm in the chaos. They relish it. ‘The Burning Spire’ relitigates the darkest moments of ‘Stain the Field’ with an orgasmic violence beloved of London avant-garde metal kings, Voices. The songs go where they please, and none of the musicians seem fazed by this collective will of the mind to search for ever more daring and depraved pastures.
It clocks in at a lightweight thirty-three minutes, but Cast in Oil the Dressed Wrought is heavyweight in its conception. Closing track, ‘Sightless Amongst the Weavers’, builds from a macabre sense of melody, with a sinister glow to the guitar-picking and a grisly blood-craving of the vocal lines that are as insatiable as a Hollywood depiction of Dracula. The aching reverse pitch bend of the bottom string will unbalance you and draw spit at the sides of your mouth. Doom metal seldom reaches these supreme moments of audio paranoia.
Fell Ruin admit their lyrics are cryptic, and you might even call them unintelligible constructs that bend the rules of grammar and punctuation. But the music on display here is the language, and the words are just another layer of phonation in this deep well of creative imagination. They smear their blood-red canvass in dead flesh and drape it with trinkets of human bones, like scavengers in a victorious raiding party that play by no rules but their own.
Fell Ruin might be unorthodox, but they understand that their primary aim is to devastate you with a vicious onslaught of extreme metal. The sinister devices you discover in the gaps are what makes it so intriguing.
Release Date: 11/11/2022
Record Label: Death Psalm (CD) / Tartarus Records (Digital)
Standout tracks: Cast in Oil the Dressed Wrought; Stain the Field; Sightless Amongst the Weavers
Suggested Further Listening: Schammasch – Contradiction (2014), Akercocke – Choronzon (2003), Red Rot – Mal De Vivre (2022)