REVIEW: Within the Ruins – Phenomena [2014]


Artist: Within the Ruins

Album: Phenomena


There are some events—occurrences, even—that take place with no feasible explanation. While the more benevolent of these instances are deemed “miracles” or “divine intervention,” the more sinister are deemed as unexplainable scientific blunders, or worse—satanic will. The question then arises; to which category does Within the Ruins’ latest full-length release Phenomena belong? On one hand, Phenomena is the very definition of miraculous—a marvel of jaw-dropping technicality and brilliant, intricate songwriting. However, the other hand is one of stark contrast, as Within the Ruins bring to the table ton after ton of dark, backbreaking heaviness that can be best personified by The Great Misanthropy himself. The question remains: where does that leave Within the Ruins? The answer is complicated—as the band’s latest release is every syllable the Phenomena it claims to be.

The first thing that strikes the listener upon embarking on the journey that is Phenomena is a more mature and intricate Within the Ruins than has been seen on Invade or Elite. “Gods Amongst Men” is an archetypical example of this. Previously, Within the Ruins were able to effortlessly pile riff upon riff, losing the listener in a labyrinth of unending technicality, their tactic has changed, emphasizing a newfound penchant for song structure and dynamic. “Gods Amongst Men” brilliantly weaves together the hypertechnical riffs and immaculate guitar tone long-time fans of the Massachusetts masters of shred are expecting, but frame it in an epic, entrancing journey through catchy and crushing moments alike. “Eternal Shore” is similar—as is “Ronin”—using catchy choruses to highlight marvelous riffs and accentuate exceptional percussion, yet allowing each of these elements to function in tandem with one another, rather than being forced to constantly attempt to one-up the other in an attempt to capture the listener’s attention. Even where the magnificent, yet visceral vocals of Tim Goergan are absent as a guiding hand, Within the Ruins do not falter, crafting immense soundscapes of lush, vivid fretwork and pummeling, bone-breaking percussion on “Ataxia III” and “Enigma.” The take away message is that Within the Ruins have matured as a band, learning to how work and weave together to create great—yet gruesome—tapestries of technicality and tormenting heaviness alike.

Just as Within the Ruins have grown and diversified as a whole band, each member has (somehow) become even more talented than their individual efforts on Elite. While every track is flawless evidence of this, none highlight this more than “Ataxia III” or “Gods Among Men.” The former is home to simply perfect fretwork, as guitarist Joe Cocchi crafts towering, spiraling riffs that seem to loop around and inside the listener’s head for eons, getting lodged there and simply refusing to come unstuck. While Cocchi weaves his web of devious fretwork, Kevin McGuill lays down a salvo of skin-shredding percussion that provides constant energy to drive the track like a wrought iron nail into the listener’s temple. Whether he is setting the pace with machine-gunned blast beats, or keeping pace with galloping, booming kick drum, McGuill and Cocchi create a perfect dynamic duo that behaves almost conversationally, taking turns in the spotlight of the listener’s attention. Not to be outdone, “Enigma” sees added bass presence, allowing Andrew Tate to slough off the other instruments and truly shine, captivating the listener with a tone so flawless, it is only matched by the magnitude of the musicianship behind it.

Within the Ruins transcend divine intervention and satanic meddling alike, however, when these two elements come together. As brilliant songwriting and bold instrumentation come together, track after track of pure magic is made. Again, the listener’s attention is turned to “Gods Among Men” or “Eternal Shore,” both of which show Goergan letting loose with a salvo of intense, catchy lyrics and throat-shredding vocals atop a canvas of flawless instrumentation. “Calling Card” follows suit, creating a colorful, intense climax fitting to the wondrous nature of the release. Every track finds some way to leap out at the listener and grab them by the ears, pulling and pushing, ripping their flesh—and sanity—to shreds as it mutilates what conceptions the listener might have had before beginning Phenomena. As it stands, this album is one that tops not only Within the Ruins’ previous releases, but the releases of technical deathcore outfits across the globe.

One part blinding, mesmerizing brilliance and one part looming, relentless heaviness, Phenomena is neither divine nor evil—it simply is exactly what it claims to be. Within the Ruins invoke pure awe and wonder, weaving together moment after moment of pure perfection in a loom of luscious, lovely songwriting. The only real mystery behind the majesty of Phenomena is this: how will Within the Ruins ever top it?



For Fans Of: Sentenced to Dissection, The Raven Autarchy, Mycelia, Delusions of Grandeur

By: Connor Welsh