The Porcelain Throne: Ruins
Do you have trouble getting into black metal? I sure did during my teens, to the point where I pretty much gave up. “Why bother? It’s obviously just not your thing”. Well, these days I think it would be quite feasible to make the argument that black metal is the prevailing sub-genre in terms of the sheer quantity of releases and expansion into new sonic territories. Thus, if you can’t find something to enjoy within its ever broadening boundaries you’re essentially short-changing yourself on some of the most interesting metal output of recent times. Today, I’m going to take you on a short trek through the discography of the band that I attribute to helping naturalise the genre’s often confronting sound to my ears, Tasmania’s Ruins.
My first encounter with Ruins was through one of my favourite death metal bands, Psycroptic. This happened at a live show I attended where Ruins happened to be one of the supporting bands. There was a very good reason they were on the bill that night, for aiding the main contributor to the band (Alex Pope) on drums was the furious human cephalopod, Dave Haley. Being the shallow bastard that I was during that time, I found myself immediately interested. Was this merely a Tasmanian helping out a fellow Tasmanian in need? After some looking around, I discovered that this was not just a one-off occurrence and that Dave and his brother Joe were not only live members of Ruins, but also performed on the albums with Alex, along with handling some of the engineering roles. If there was to be one chance for me to gain a foothold on the sheer escarpment of black metal that already stood towering before me, this was to be it.
A close friend and I found a copy of what was at the time, their most respected album, 2008’s Cauldron. While we both enjoyed listening to it, the disc fell by the wayside in the wake of the hundreds of other albums we were digging into around the time. However, when I remembered enjoying it and asking for its whereabouts several months later, it had disappeared into the
back seat of someone’s car eternal void. Anyway, enough of my meagre attempts to regale you with tales of lost CD woe, let’s get down to the important part here, the band.
Hailing from Australia’s isolated, Antarctic-windswept isle of Tasmania, Ruins are predominantly the brainchild of Alex Pope, who handles vocals, guitars, lyrics, and bass on pretty much all of their releases. While their sound is firmly entrenched in the black metal genre, there is a degree of refinement to the compositions that echo the sentiments of modern death metal. This may be the feature of their sound that simultaneously allows new listeners in and could potentially dissuade some sticklers for genre purity. At the very least, I want you to give Cauldron a try (it’s the blue-ish purple looking one, dipshit).
Atom and Time  & Spun Forth as Dark Nets 
Ruins’ first outing was a 20 minute EP consisting of 4 tracks released back in 2004. As is typically the case with debuts, this offering displays the band in their most unrefined manner. Personally, I wouldn’t say that this is the best introduction to their sound as it does not prove to provide an indicative representation of how cohesive their music would eventually become. Sure, many of the elements that would later accrete to form their general sound are present, but they appear to struggle against one another in parts, as opposed to merging into a more unified conglomerate. However, for those that prefer a dirtier aesthetic, Atom and Time offers a slightly more primitive production value relative to Ruins’ later albums. The riffs are still fucking great though.
Cauldron  & Front the Final Foes 
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re only going to check one album, I think you’d do well to make it 2008’s Cauldron. The intro to track 6 “Upon These Skeletons (Bury the Dead)” in particular really gets me going. The first two and a half minutes portend to an uprising of apocalyptic proportions, by 1:50 the battle has started and if you’re not swept up by the wake of its chaotic miasma, you were already dead. Alex’s higher register chord voicings over the prevailing riffage appear and disappear like spectral admonitions of an evil ancient. Cauldron is also perhaps their most texturally diverse work, reaching a solid balance between the furious aggression and the barren quiet of post-war desolation. The production is full and accommodates all aspects of the band’s sound quite equitably.
Clearly on a surge of inspiration, Ruins were back just one year later with 2009’s Front The Final Foes. Stylistically, this album is slightly different in that its tracks can be digested individually without losing much of their overall impact. Whether or not that means it is inherently more accessible than the others is debatable, but it definitely has quite a few distinctly memorable tracks, specifically for me “The Sum Of Your Loss”, album closer “With These Winged Words”, and in particular the titular track “Front The Final Foes”. Many fans laud this as the band’s strongest material, and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with that. The tumultuous riffing, more intelligible vocals, a smattering of more mid-paced headbang inducing passages, and an adoption of slightly more common song structures gives the album an engaging but no less demonic character. In correspondence with this shift toward more orthodox song-crafting came the band’s sharpest production aesthetic to date. Every instrument on the album sounds crisp, although when juxtaposed with its immediate neighbours it does sound a little treble-heavy to my ears. Front The Final Foes may be the album most likely to convert those who find their taste firmly embedded in the contemporary death metal sound.
Place of No Pity 
This brings us to Ruins’ fifth release, Place of No Pity. Apart from being an apt description of the Australian landscape, it also serves as quite an adequate descriptor for this perditious nine track descent into hell-fire. Unlike its predecessors, Place of No Pity features the inimitable Joe Haley accompanying Alex on guitar. While his brother Dave has performed drums throughout the band’s career, Joe had only previously played live with the band and had not officially been credited with any compositional role. His addition here really seems to have helped solidify the overall sound as a more concerted affair. In short, Ruins sound more organic and focused. The album features some of the material from the band’s first EP which has clearly been carefully honed over the 8 years since. The results resonating more profoundly, this greater impact is surely derived from the application of nuance that only experience can bring.
When I began writing this piece earlier this year, I assumed that Ruins had all but finished, as aside from the odd support slot on some larger metal tours, they had been very quiet. Just as I found some time to wrap this up today, I was sent a link to a new track by a source that shall remain undisclosed. I’ll post the link below, and also let you know that all of Ruins’ entire back catalogue is available on their bandcamp page at 25% off. So you can get all the albums I’ve covered here today for AUD$28, which equates to about US$20, €18, or 7.349 shekels. That’s an awesome riff to coin ratio. Anyway, the new track is called “Shadow Of A Former Self” from the upcoming album Undercurrent. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the October 28th release of this album as I’m interested to hear how they’ve progressed over the last 4 years. Since writing that last paragraph, the band have released another track over the weekend!
For the uninitiated, The Porcelain Throne is a column for guest submissions, specifically about a band you enjoy that doesn’t get much attention, but you think their discography deserves a spotlight. Download The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines and send submissions to email@example.com.