Ruiner - Hell Is Empty (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Hell Is Empty (2009)

Bridge Nine

Ruiner initially made their mark playing emotional and honest hardcore that played at punk pacing but threw in enough tempo changes, dynamic guitars and general aggression to keep them firmly entrenched in the hardcore scene. Over the years it seems like the band has maybe transcended scenes a little and made headways with the more punk-oriented crowds (repeat appearances at The Fest either helping the case or being a result of), yet it hasn't really been a reflection of their musical evolution. Their first full-length, 2007's Prepare to Be Let Down delivered a mostly straightforward, no-frills interpretation of their style, save for a handful of slightly more elaborate arrangements. Hell Is Empty seems like the natural reaction to that as almost every song plays to more politely progressive qualities while retaining signature elements that have remained throughout the band's discography.

This isn't before, however, the free-wheeling 45 seconds of opener "I'm Out" rolls through. Frontman Rob Sullivan mixes some poetic ambition into declaratory apathy ("Those heavy thoughts I let linger when the sun goes down / ... / You can hate me if you want. / I have nothing more to give. / I have nothing more to say") over a fast tempo before a change is implemented. The bass-heavy rumbling and husky chanting make up a smoky section early on in "Dead Weight" before Sullivan biographically maps out the embittered social details of his upbringing inside a moderately up-tempo pacing.

All this, however, seems a little enveloped by J. Robbins' production. The ash-flecked spectacles he garnished Modern Life Is War's farewell effort with were appropriate and tasteful on Midnight in America, but it often seems like a bombardment on Hell Is Empty. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the self-and-scene-deprecating "Two Words," when a backup vocal addition doesn't punch through as it quite should, and the restrained, mostly guitar-less "Part One," which feels oddly hollow. "Convenient Gods" has a near-post-rock element that's dying to get out but doesn't remotely get there, which is a pity, as it's got a slow burn and gesture that could be so much more grandiose than it is.

While Ruiner's songwriting seems tight, refined and more ambitious than ever, the production is undercooked -- or, perhaps, overcooked to the point where it reverts back to the initial stage (that being "raw"). As long as they can replicate the grueling crassness of "Meat" or the deliberate muster of "Two Words" live, however, the purpose should still be pleasurable.

Hell Is Empty