Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes - Modern Ruin (Cover Artwork)

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes

Modern Ruin (2017)

International Death Cult

As a performer, Frank Carter has never been one to mince words. Every song, every lyric, every cheeky bit of stage banter, gets us one step closer to understanding the man behind the microphone. And nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Modern Ruin,’ the title track from Carter’s second full-length album with partners-in-crime The Rattlesnakes. In a press release, Carter described ‘Modern Ruin’ as the “only hardcore song on the whole record, but it’s the defining hardcore song of a generation, I hope.” In the track’s final moments, as the tempo slowly creeps ahead of itself towards a full-throttle finale, Carter’s voice oscillates between a desperate serenade and a foul shriek, as he takes inventory of the oblivion that awaits us all. Mornings and afternoons; evenings and night times; bricks and mortar; glass and metal; blood and muscle; skin and bone; wood and rope; emptiness and hope; all of these take form in Carter’s sermon, right before the closing lines are delivered: “And all the veins and the cells and the molecules/And all the atoms divided that made up you/And all the vast potential you hold inside/All the infinite darkness and all of the light.

It’s a safe bet to assume that Frank Carter may have some inner demons lurking about (don’t we all?), and on Modern Ruin, he exorcises them more vigorously than ever before.

What becomes immediately apparent when listening to Modern Ruin, is that the follow-up album from Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes is not just Blossom 2.0. Nor is the group’s latest effort conveniently aligned with Carter’s previous sonic output, such as Orchestra of Wolves or Grey Britain from Brit-punks Gallows, or another Anthems from his time as a wandering troubadour in the rock/folk project Pure Love, collaborating with Jim Carroll of The Suicide File/The Hope Conspiracy fame. Speaking of Modern Ruin in an interview late last year, Carter said: “We’ve changed the whole thing… We wanted it to have a lot more depth, a lot more layers… We really put everything we had into trying to push ourselves, to find not a new sound, but a natural evolution of Rattlesnakes and myself as an artist.” It’s clear that Carter isn’t interested in rehashing the past, or cashing in on nostalgia. With The Rattlesnakes fixed firmly on their future, the results are in and Modern Ruin is proof enough of their progression.

In contrast to the bombastic fusillade of ‘Juggernaut’, which ripped open The Rattlesnakes debut album Blossom, Modern Ruin immediately lulls the listener into a calm stupor with the sombre ‘Bluebelle,’ a short acoustic track which features Carter crooning softly about ageing, lies and sudden death. It’s a track that soothes rather than sears, yet one can’t help but feel a strange and menacing undercurrent bubbling beneath it. From here arrives the bulk of the band’s already pre-released singles: the mesmerising, punk-rock of ‘Lullaby,’ with soaring vocals and some hearty riffs courtesy of guitarist Dean Richardson; bassist Tom Barclay’s thrumming bass tone, alongside piercing screams and a huge chorus on ‘Snake Eyes’; and the majestic summer anthem ‘Wild Flowers,’ which pairs Carter’s lyrical references to “cocaine” and “milk” against blissful and tight power chords.

Of the newer songs, many become instant standouts. With some of the most infectious, rock’n’roll melodies of recent years, The Rattlesnakes clearly have their eyes set not just on sweaty basements, but on sold-out stadiums. ‘Vampires’ practically spills out of the speakers with a grungey chorus and huge, ‘woah-oh’ bridge sections, all combined with Carter’s misanthropic lyricism and impressive fills from new drummer Gareth Grover. Reading between the lines, the track appears to function as a call-out to rockstar culture and the notion of fame, which makes sense given the roller-coaster ride Carter’s been on since returning to the stage in 2015. Lyrics like “I feel like I’m breaking under the heaviest weight/And I don’t belong here/But here is where I wait,” serve as a welcome counterpoint to the vitriol and venom of Blossom’s more aggressive moments, showing that while Carter may be truly happy in the limelight, he’s very much conscious of the pressure that inevitably follows newfound success—especially as a loving husband and father. This heightened sense of introspection and self-doubt carries through to the fiery ‘God Is My Friend,’ as Carter cryptically questions himself over a fuzzy lead riff: “Am I toxic?/Do I poison what I love?/Am I dangerous to trust?/Explosive to the touch?” Propelled along by a meteoric chorus, the track gets thick and heavy in the bridge, as Carter seems to address God directly, before confidently proclaiming: “I’m coming for you.

Elsewhere on Modern Ruin, The Rattlesnakes aren’t afraid to loosen up and explore new musical territories. ‘Jackals’ hits like a diminutive wrecking ball, with cracking snare hits, frantic hi-hat and blistering riffs clocking in at just 55 seconds. It’s a burst of snotty punk that could easily fit The Sex Pistols or The Clash, and when Carter snarls “And if they make it to the shore, don’t hesitate/Just kill ‘em all/Burn them all like sickened cattle/And leave nothing for the jackals,” you know he means business. Tracks like ‘Acid Veins’ and ‘Real Life’ slow things down enough for simmering, blues riffs and hypnotic refrains, echoing Carter’s more anthemic moments in Pure Love, albeit with a vastly improved and self-assured vocal range.

Closer ‘Neon Rust’ ties back nicely to the angelic hints of opener ‘Bluebelle,’ but it’s ‘Thunder’ that steals the show towards the album’s end. After his vitriolic take-down of suicide bombers in ‘Paradise,’ Carter gets downright political for the first time since his bleak (and eerily prophetic) forecast in Grey Britain, offering a personal and pained vision of Europe’s refugee crisis, Britain’s ‘Brexit’-based political instability, and the grand sweep of radical, religious fervour: “I’ve seen a man on fire burning in the street/I’ve seen a woman buried to her neck, stoned for disbelief/I’ve seen a man thrown from a tower, because he loved another man/I’ve seen a child soldier martyred by another child’s hand.” Carter then brings the track home with another dose of cold, hard truth: “You say they’re nothing but a number/But when they speak it sounds like thunder.” This is yet another example of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes proving once again, that punk rock is (and always has been) a multi-faceted beast.

It’s hard to summarise an album like Modern Ruin. While not as explosive as Blossom, it’s a record that burns bright with anger, frustration and self-loathing. It’s darker and more dynamic than its predecessor, yet also has some of the best hooks and rock’n’roll melodies the band has ever written. Carter’s voice has improved by leaps and bounds, showing no sign of wear and tear, while the performances from his brothers in The Rattlesnakes are top notch, providing the perfect vehicle for Carter’s charisma and earnest lyricism. During ‘Acid Veins,’ which closes out Side-A of the album, Carter screams, “Give me a Modern Ruin, I can be king of,” and during an interview he declared that “This is just where the fun begins now, you know? We’re just getting started.” So, if anything, Modern Ruin suggests that all those people patiently waiting for doom and gloom to arrive in 2017, may need to look a little closer to home. The end times are already here friends, and we just live in them. Yet rest assured, that however the end is written, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes will always be kings of the rubble.