Lately, more and more bands are falling victim to something which is ranked near the very top of "things bands don't want to hear," right next to the term "sellout:" the sophomore slump. Yes, the dreaded fact that your favorite band's second album is chock full of monotony or a desperate-to-make-money change in sound is one of the most disappointing and depressing things that could happen to a band that released a rather stellar debut album. It seems as if bands in all genres are having a hard time capitalizing on the success of their first album as of late: Motion City Soundtrack, As I Lay Dying, and the All-American Rejects are prime examples. However (and each year we see an example of this), there is a saving grace, a band which completely goes against the norm to just deliver. This year, it's A Wilhelm Scream and their excellent second full-length, Ruiner.
Remember when Strung Out tried to play metallic and technical punk rock, but ultimately failed? Imagine if Strung Out had succeeded at the genre crossover, and you'd have a good idea of how A Wilhelm Scream sounds. The band's sound and talent comes at you from all directions; the vocals, guitars, bass, and drumming are all in a league of their own as far as the punk rock genre is concerned. It's hard to pick out an aspect of A Wilhelm Scream's sound that towers above the others, since everything is pretty much top-notch. However, upon listening to the album straight through, one will notice that what saves an otherwise less-than-stellar song from complete disaster are the vocal harmonies and deliveries: Songs like "In Vino Veritas II" and "Mercy Day For Mister Vengeance" deliver a bit less in the musical department than the more amazing songs on Ruiner, but you cannot help but want to listen to them if only to hear how well lead vocalist Nuno Pereira and backup vocalists Trevor Reilly and Curtiss Lopez sound together. The harmonization between the three voices is impeccable, and will draw you in and make you want to listen over and over again. Ruiner is, hands down, one of the most vocally sound albums I've heard in a long while.
That's not to downplay the musicianship, though. Ruiner is technical as hell, and the band can start and stop and switch tempos on a dime. Many of the tracks found on the album are speedy, rapid-fire songs, but as a change of pace, A Wilhelm Scream slowed the tempo a bit, creating darker sounding songs. Unfortunately, they aren't pulled off nearly as well as the more intense tunes, which leaves the listener wondering "why change at all?" In the grand scheme of things, it's simply a minor misstep, as brilliant songs such as "The King Is Dead" (one of the best opening songs I have ever heard) and "Me Vs. Morrisey In The Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match)" make up the majority of Ruiner. The kicker, however, is that each song has its own identity: For example, "Congratulations" is a one minute thirty second blast of aggressive pop-punk, "Cancer Dream" boasts a seriously metal lead riff, and "When I Was Alive: Walden III" ends on a spectacular three-part harmony and "whoa-oa." There's something about each song that makes it worth listening to, which makes for an extremely high replayability value.
This album is a breath of fresh air for the music scene, and is every bit as good as the band's debut, Mute Print. Though it may not be the most amazing record ever released, in the time that I've spent with Ruiner, it has surely become one of my favorites.
- "The King Is Dead"
- "Killing It"
- "Me Vs. Morrisey in the Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match)"
- "The Kids Can Eat A Bag Of Dicks"
- "Less Bright Eyes, More Deicide"