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AAA Music | 15 November 2018

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Love Amongst Ruin – Love Amongst Ruin

| On 13, Sep 2010

Just in case you missed the hype, Steve Hewitt of Placebo has started up his own band, Love Amongst Ruin. Given Placebo’s reputation as one of the most exciting recent bands, can Love Amongst Ruin escape from its shadow and stand on its own feet?

Compared to Placebo’s glacial and neurotic techno-rock, Love Amongst Ruin is a much darker affair. Think Modwheelmood vs Nine Inch Nails: the two bands might be reading from the same book, but one is doing so with the lights off. Indeed, with the leaden razorblade guitar riff of album opener ‘So Sad (Fade)’ coupled with its constant drum attack, I am taken immediately to comparisons with ‘Broken’-era NIN, albeit with a much more metallic mindset. However, the chorus proves to be a lighter pop moment with angelic vocals and a pop-punk melodic hook. This mismatch of genres is barely accomplished, but it is thankfully enough to sustain interest for three minutes. Next up is ‘Alone’, an exercise is rhythm countering melody in its bleak texture. The stop-start bass notes punctuate dreamy synths, weighing down the techno-pop melody with darker undertones as once again the tuneful and naïve vocals spill out a tale of desolate heartbreak. The real treat of this song is the main riff played on various instruments and highlighted in the outro as it is played on a clean guitar.

Thankfully, by the time ‘Running’ announces its presence with a savage squall of effects, the band seem to have settled somewhat and are comfortable in their own style, which is something like Queens Of The Stone Age collaborating with Marilyn Manson at his sharpest in its scuzzed-up dark metal. Contrasted with this is the clinical bleakness of ‘Heaven & Hell’, featuring scalpel percussion against fuzzy bass and a simple yet inspired guitar riff. The atmosphere here is between Depeche Mode and Placebo, with deadpan vocals and electronic pop sensibilities over a techno-rock edge and the whole thing then shrouded in a dark mood.

And then, to plunge further into the “ruin” part of the band name comes desolate Joy-Division-via-stadium-rock track ‘Come On Say It’, with a clattering percussive intro that feels like the missing track The Cure wrote one stormy evening in the 1980s. Add in some bleak strings and feedback and the persistent title lyric and you have a true moment of introspective darkness. The restraint shown by the band is admirable – the train in a tunnel squalls periodically teeter on falling into rocking out territory, but instead the band hold it in the realms of a quiet brooding song, creating a tension so tight that by the time 6:51 has elapsed, the song feels about ready to tear itself apart. So to return to the dark NIN/QOTSA melodicism is a relief as the atmospherics break like a rainstorm in ‘Away From Me’, as the vocals hit a higher register and the instruments veer into a tight and tense yet recognisable song structure with swirling stormy riffs and a delicate keyboard solo pushed out by the distorted backdrop.

‘Blood & Earth’ storms right back into the earlier metal territory, cramming distortion and overdrive into every single sound on offer. The sudden fury of this track might surprise some, but it is a smart pacing decision and the riffs are heavy and enjoyable, even if the songwriting feels a bit lacklustre in places. Following this is the stadium-tinged echoing drumkit of the sparsely texured ‘Truth’ which builds up over nearly three minutes before plunging into one last chorus of rapid guitar chords and claustrophobic backing vocals leading to a climactic clash of backing vocals.

Depeche Mode and Joy Division reappear in the dark post-punk sound of ‘Home’, with hooky riffs flickering like black flames around the echoing percussion and catchy, forwards bassline before another stormy pop chorus takes over. Then, just to finish off, there is the piano-led moment that is ‘Love Song’. More so than anywhere else, The Cure’s fingerprints are all over this track. The guitar sound and melody itself seems lifted directly from songs like ‘Plainsong’. Given the potential of the album as a whole, this feels like a bit of a cop-out ending.

I wouldn’t call Love Amongst Ruin a good band. Instead, I would call it several good bands all at once. The material on offer here is of an undeniably high quality and performed by talented musicians. However, it feels more like numerous other bands glued together like a chimera, as opposed to a coherent musical statement. There are flashes of brilliance, but they sound too much like a name-check of influences and not any real statement of their own and this is a disappointment given the high hopes built from the list of influences and the presence of Steve Hewitt. If you’re looking for a slickly produced album of solid quality, you will find one here. However, there needs to be a further exploration of their own ideas before Love Amongst Ruin can truly be called a great act.

Author: Katie H-Halinski