Artist: Within the Ruins
Everyone has their “go-to” bands. You know what I mean–bands who are always the very first on your list to go to depending on certain moods. Whether you’re speeding down the highway and need something deep and bass-drop heavy to rattle your rear view mirror or you need something fast and pissed because you lost your job, certain albums are just made for certain moods. As far as I’m concerned, Within the Ruins was always the first on my list of insanely technical and insanely catchy technical deathcore bands to fill my craving. Their third full-length studio album, Elite is no different: still unbelievably technical, remarkably catchy and ruthlessly heavy, Within the Ruins are still the band they were on Creature and Invade. However, this time around, something about the Massachusetts-based quartet is different. Where flashy, yet samey riffs once reigned as king, the band finds themselves on more mature ground: balancing feeling and thought with technicality and brutality, Elite is a masterpiece the likes of which most deathcore acts could only dream of crafting.
Let me get one thing straight before continuing: Within the Ruins have not “gone soft,” and they almost certainly have not “sold out” or “dumbed down.” The same skin-peeling, flesh-lacerating riffs and blast beats that were rampant on their previous releases are there: you just have to look for them. Tracks like the lead single, “Feeding Frenzy” doesn’t just assault the listener with show-offy musical proficiency, rather, the listener has to go on a hunt. Nearly all of Elite uses a similar rhetoric. While the drums are still pounding away at what feels like thousands of beats per minute, the guitar is keeping up, and the bass is right there with them, laden with insanely plucked and slapped riffs and fills. The only tracks in which Within the Ruins wage a full-on instrumental war on the listener are the instrumental tracks–”Ataxia II” (which, as a fan of Invade’s “Ataxia,” I was enormously astounded by) and “Dreamland,” the latter of which features simply stunning musicianship dubbed overtop of thematic, climactic audio sampling. This isn’t to say that other tracks are lacking in any way–rather, other tracks balance rampant shredding riffs with bone-breaking heaviness and deeper, complex and more thought-out songwriting.
While Elite isn’t battering the listener over the head with polyrhythmic, insane drumming or furiously-fretted guitar and bass work, they’re hard at work bashing the listener’s skull in with near-unending levels of heaviness. Whether it’s the hate-filled lyrics of “I, Blaspheme” or the relentless, chug-laden pounding of “New Holy War,” there is something about every track Within the Ruins have crafted on Elite which will have the listener’s head banging. Even the instrumental tracks (and intro) feature technically-infused and prodigally written breakdowns in time signatures that must look more like mathematical equations than music. “Absolute Hell” is another track which viciously kicks the chair out from underneath the listener’s feet and snaps their neck with a ruthless, visceral combination of technical and heavy–the very same kind of heavy that the listener would have expected from the band’s past releases. If you were concerned that Within the Ruins might have lost their edge, then give that track a spin and be worried no longer–they still have it, and certainly aren’t afraid to use it.
What Within the Ruins have gained on Elite is a more complicated and intensely written song structure that shows copious maturation beyond their past releases. Previously, it seems as if the band had strictly adhered to a “when in doubt, shred” mindset, using their eight-string grooving, crushing technicality as a crutch. Elite is a gamechanger in that regard: now each track is a little less persistently aggressive and a little more emotive. Tracks like the album’s self-titled heavyweight, “Elite,” showcase this brilliantly. While there are plenty of opportunities where the band could have just thrown in a complex, chimeric riff, they chose instead to craft a stunning, intricate structure of dynamism and sound, letting vocals and drums play against bass and guitar to create a labyrinth-like dynamic for the listener to get completely lost and entangled in. To put it simply, each track where the band could have pulled a quick jab to the listener’s chin or slap to their face–they didn’t. Rather, they saved their energy and delivered haymakers, piledrivers and eviscerating kicks to the gut which knock the listener completely off of their feet.
Granted, there are times on Elite where the listener might feel almost claustrophobic or like they’ve already heard this riff or this fill–or perhaps samey. But at those same moments, the listener also stops and realizes–that’s okay, because no other deathcore band sounds quite like this. Emotive, yet technical. Heavy, yet ethereal. Very few deathcore bands can pull off even one of those combinations, let alone both. However, leave it to Within the Ruins, and their new juggernaut of unstoppable fury, technicality, heaviness and impact to convince you otherwise, as Elite is a true gem which should not go unnoticed.
For Fans Of: In The Midst Of Lions, Rings of Saturn, Knives Exchanging Hands
By: Connor Welsh