Sometimes you come across something that’s so surprising, so out of left field, that you can’t really find a good concise way of describing it.
Ladies and gentlemen, Menace Ruine’s Alight in Ashes. Yet another amazing release from Profound Lore Records this year. I don’t know how they find these bands, but for the love of all that’s unholy, I’m glad they do. This is an album that makes me feel somewhat ashamed that I’ve been unfamiliar with this band all this time. This is stuff I should have known about years ago.
It’s spare in its simplicity, yet somehow manages to encompass numerous influences. The clear, mournful, full-throated vocals of singer Geneviève are hauntingly reminiscent of classic ‘60s vocalists in a psychedelic/folk-based vein like Nico or Grace Slick (and, lord help me, but I can’t help it…it was the first thing that sprang to mind, and I can’t rid myself of the thought…maybe the female version of Placebo’s Brian Molko???). The music itself (performed by Geneviève and guitarist S. de la Moth) finds parallels within the drone/doom (except with more drive and movement) and atmospheric black metal movements (but with the meatiness of doom), but without being easily labeled as either. The percussion is almost industrial in tone, but muted and hushed rather than the in-your-face aggression of, say, Ministry or Godflesh.
“Salamandra” is perhaps the most accessible track on the album, conforming the most to typical song structure. It’s hypnotic and compelling, pulling the listener into an enveloping soundscape that’s almost claustrophobic, while the vocals seem almost hopeful and comforting.
It’s almost soothing. It’s amost peaceful. Almost.
It’s also laden with a creeping dread. A descending sorrow.
The arrangements on Alight in Ashes are, as I mentioned above, spare, but the instrumentation is overloaded to the point of warping beyond what you expect, sonically speaking. It’s harsh and quieting. It’s noisy yet subtle. It’s the binding of opposites. It’s a ritual.
Man, it’s something completely other than else.
Out today(!) on Profound Lore Records.