In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
If there’s a common theme to this edition of Second Circle beyond “Here are two albums that fell through the cracks” I’ll leave it you to figure it out. On the one hand we have Pink Muscles, a noise/punk collective with a serious bent toward out there horror and angular riffing; on the other we have Ruin, a grimy old school death outfit whose names may be hidden but wear their influences on their sleeves. So get your hip waders and your aluminum foil hats, folks. Shit’s about to get weird…
Hailing from Seattle, Pink Muscles works that dissonant, angular noise riffing for all it’s worth on debut album The Signal. Taking influences from a variety of sources, including film soundtracks and avant-garde jazz (“Teenage Rainbows”), The Signal is a concept album describing a story of inter-dimensional monsters invading the Earth, and revels in a schlocky humor that addresses magic tampons, male pregnancy, and other otherworldly oddities. That’s all well and good, but stuff like that can get tired if the music can’t back it up, and fortunately Pink Muscles’s brand of spastic whiplash musical turns makes for a raging listen.
Songs like “I Wrote This Song With My Father’s Guitar,” “Star Grove” and the aforementioned “Teenage Rainbows” are embedded with the experimental slice and dice nature of early hardcore and punk: you don’t need a microscope to see the DNA of bands like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and Suicide. But there’s nothing retro in the mosh stomp and noise that pushes everything to the front. Pink Muscles wants to get in your face, rip your nose off and then dance gleefully away and The Signal sounds like they can do it.
There’s something to be said for bands who incorporate a dozen different styles into their music, but there’s a special place in the Second Circle for bands who stick to one thing and lay on that thing for all it’s worth. For Ruin, it’s the early American death metal of bands like Autopsy and Obituary. Drown in Blood sounds like it could have come out in 1991 when the band (who remain anonymous) supposedly originated: opening track “Crawling Through the Vomit” sounds like it was actually unearthed after being buried in a mountain of vomit for a quarter of a century.
And if that crusty, bottom of the depths of hell lo-fi death belch appeals to you, you’re in luck because Drown in Blood never deviates from that formula. The riffs are thick and syrupy, particularly on “Sewer” and “Spread Plague Hell.” There’s a fair amount of dirge-like doom as well with “Rancid Death” which slows to a filthy crawl before picking back up again. If there’s a complaint it’s in the stylistic choice to open each song with anywhere from 30 seconds to a full minute of feedback, film and news samples and chanting. It doesn’t really add much except for some frustration for the filth to kick off. But if primitive riffing and vocals that sound like they’re coming from a musty crypt appeal to you, Ruin has you covered.
Drown in Blood is available now from Memento Mori. For more information on Ruin, good luck ’cause they ain’t talking.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope the soundtrack is heavy. Be seeing you.