My Ruin have always been a strange beast – one of those bands who pops up sporadically in mainstream metal media every time a tour or album rolls around, but who never seems to set the world afire. That said, their large fan base is nothing short of devoted, so despite the absence of any media fanfare (save for the band’s own tireless self-promotion), any new release is keenly anticipated. This, their 6th full-length, is no exception.
Arguably the true creative hub of the band, singer Tairrie B Murphy and Mick Murphy have eschewed their previous ‘revolving door’ approach to band members, multi-instrumentalist Mick providing the crushing yet atmospheric background for his infamous wife’s vocal and lyrical onslaughts. Opening track ‘Diggin’ For Ghosts’ is classic My Ruin; a strident slide and a thunderous chord introducing a sinister and slow-burning groove that was made for heads to nod to. Before long, that voice snakes through the riff like tendrils of smoke between old stonework; Tairrie’s venomous whisper splintering into a husky croon, restrained until the inevitable climax where she unleashes her familiar raw-throated scream for the first time. It’s an instant standout that demonstrates a welcome return to the My Ruin of old; dark and aggressive, with no frills and no pretence.
The next couple of tracks fly by in a blur of hardcore-drenched aggression not heard since 2000’s A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish, opening new and gargantuan cans of whup-ass on the listener almost relentlessly. ‘Eyes Black’ stamps into the fray positively spitting with punk rock attitude, but it also breaks new ground for the band, with Tairrie’s lyrics reaching outside her own experience and into that of someone else as she narrates the life of a woman forced to live behind a literal and metaphorical veil. It’s an approach she has rarely taken since the days of Manhole, which she used as a platform for her pro-choice, anti-domestic violence views, and it certainly goes to show that the years have not mellowed her, her sternum-rattling roar underpinning a thunderous groove of a chorus.
This is not to say that Ghosts and Good Stories is a perfect album. In comparison to 2008’s highly disappointing Throat Full of Heart, it’s a huge improvement from a band with a hit-or-miss output, but it still has its share of flaws. Apart from the incendiary ‘Eyes Black’, Tairrie is still settled in her lyrical comfort zones of religion, relationships and perceptions of beauty. This alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and her writing has undeniably matured, but the petulant “I’m the individual while you’re all bimbo clones” tirade of ‘Money Shot’ drags out an axe that should have been ground to dust long ago. Also, My Ruin would benefit immensely from a second guitar – simply adding a rhythm track in the studio would bolster their sound considerably, as Mick’s stoner-scented and occasionally furious solos sound slightly isolated backed only by bass and drums. Finally, continuing the band’s inexplicable habit of including dodgy covers on their albums, a dreary rendition of The Rollins Band’s ‘Turned Out’ almost grinds things to an embarrassing halt.
However, issues as small as these can easily be resolved for the future, and they certainly don’t have too negative an impact on this album. The likes of ‘Malediction’ and the deliciously doomy ‘La Ciudad’ are enough to regain the listener’s interest until the reward that is blinding finale ‘Deathknell’, a brooding and battle-scarred epic wrenched from the gut, despondent riffing and grim church bells an ominous foundation for Tairrie’s guttural crie du coeur.