My Ruin have overcome obstacles that would finish lesser bands. After submitting the superb Ghosts and Good Stories to Tiefdruck Musik in July 2010, Mick and Tairrie Murphy found themselves locked in conflict with label owner and founder Daniel Heerdmann regarding promises the label had not honoured. Tours were cancelled, releases were delayed and the confused and angry Murphys were forced to cut their ties with Tiefdruck and promote themselves like an unsigned act. Many bands would have folded under such a blow to confidence and reputation but My Ruin retreated to Soundtrack Black Studio, run by producer friend Joel Stooksbury, with material written in the fallout.
A Southern Revelation is the result of 3 weeks holed up in snowy Tennessee, inspired by betrayal and brought to life by friends. This is My Ruin‘s most direct album to date; the band have dubbed it their “slaying of the beast” and the sense of catharsis within it is as subtle as a breezeblock in the face. Musically, it’s a natural progression from Ghosts And Good Stories – it does take its foot a fraction off the pedal compared to the wrecking-ball heaviness of its predecessor – but Mick Murphy’s Southern rock roots take centre stage this time, surrounding the listener with snaking riffs and powerful percussion. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he also takes credit for co-production alongside Stooksbury, ensuring that what you hear is crystal clear but still retains his warm, Sabbathian tones.
Opener ‘Tennessee Elegy’ is a three-and-a-half minute requiem that showcases the sound My Ruin have spent 11 years building: concrete riffs, searing solos and one of the most distinctive vocals in modern metal. It speaks of the circumstances under which A Southern Revelation was recorded and bids farewell to its poisonous influences, Tairrie shrieking, “My fingers freeze but my language vents”. The caustic ‘Walk of Shame’ decries the wannabe rockers that descend on Los Angeles with a deceptive whisky-fuelled bounce and then a monolithic stoner-doom climax while the almost bluesy ‘The Seventh Sacrament’ prowls in to insist that this, the seventh My Ruin full-length, is the one to liberate them from the faceless platitudes of the rock industry. The skewed lament of ‘Vultures’ continues the theme of the sterility of modern music by pitting the accessibility and ease of digital with the integrity of analogue, before mapping the artistic conflict against the personal.
My Ruin have always kept the art of the big chorus in heavy music very much alive. ‘Deconsecrated’ crosses the strut of Appetite… era Guns N Roses with the staccato thrash of early 90s Metallica, and its barnstorming chorus and self-referencing “I am darkness, a blasphemous girl” climax are just made for crowds to scream out. ‘Highly Explosive’ trucks along calmly before bursting into a big, bold sung chorus that the likes of latter-day Hole or even The Distillers would proudly lend their names to. Its faintly poppy overtones do set the song slightly apart from the others – for better or worse depending on how you feel about your metal being a little danceable – but it’s as close to accessible as the album gets so don’t fret; you won’t be seeing the band splashed across the cover of the NME in this lifetime!
There’s a strong air of – dare I say it – sleaze rock in this album, inciting the listener to stand with legs spread wide (or at least with one foot on a chair, crate or the dog) and a rebellious fist in the air. ‘Middle Finger’ turns the 80s rock vibe on its head, sounding like someone’s taken one of those big-haired vixens from the background of a Poison video, shot her up with a big dose of present-day feminism and and put her behind the mic while a gaggle of men gyrate on car bonnets instead. That is, of course, until the song takes a darker turn and its true target is revealed (“D is for Daniel/The great pretender”) and an open-throated malediction wraps it up in no uncertain terms. Continuing the sleaze theme, a cover of Van Halen‘s ‘Mean Street’ closes the album. I’ve always felt that the covers My Ruin are so fond of playing seem out of sync with the albums they reside on but this time they’ve got it pegged, from the perfect tapped-string intro to the spoken-word middle eight. It sits so much easier with the rest of the album and is easily the best cover they’ve recorded since A Prayer Under Pressure Of Violent Anguish‘s stunning version of Nick Cave‘s ‘Do You Love Me?’.
There might be a little less outward aggression in the music, but this time the devil is in the delivery. The acerbic ‘Reckoning’ may stomp out like a warped ‘War Pigs’ wrapped in barbed wire with a hell-bent march of a chorus – but it spits contempt rather than ire, Tairrie snarling a battlescarred verse rather than shrieking into her addressee’s face. ‘Middle Finger’ contains some of her most explicitly angry lyrics to date, her honey-and-broken-glass voice a sinister purr as she assures her subject, “I’d like to take you by your hand and bash your skull in with a bat”. And her reproachful roar at the doom-heavy climax of ‘Walk Of Shame’ sounds like LA itself howling its derision at the desperate and the conceited. Her performance is furious, contemptuous and even a little crestfallen in places; it showcases Tairrie’s full vocal range from whisper to scream but the band’s experience over the past year seems to have intensified it. Indeed, watch the ‘Making Of…’ video on YouTube and see for yourself how she doesn’t just wander into the vocal booth thinking “fuck it, the producer can beef this up”. She immerses herself in the music and rubs salt into every raw wound.
Oh, just one more thing – A Southern Revelation is a free download, the band’s own thank-you to a fiercely loyal fanbase and a middle finger to their former label, and you’ll be able to download it from December 7th. As a critic as well as a fan, I strongly recommend that you do.