A Wilhelm Scream, Ruiner

A Wilhelm Scream, Ruiner

An unfortunate number of bands like A Wilhelm Scream leave me cold. I hate to say it, but it’s gotten so that most of the folks out there who sound like these Northeastern boys (and apparent diehard Red Sox fans) all just bleed into one another — they combine the speed and heavy guitars of the hardcore world with sweet pop melodies and indie-rock songwriting conventions, and while that’s generally a damn cool thing (at least, to me), it’s pretty hard to be innovative and stay interesting if you’re doing the same thing thirty other bands are doing. What was innovation becomes generic fast when everybody’s climbing on the bandwagon.

To their credit, with Ruiner A Wilhelm Scream sprint out ahead of the pack, charting their own unique musical course and worming their way into my head in a major way; by about halfway through the album (right around “In Vino Veritas II”), I’m won over. By the second time through, I can’t stop singing along. The band does a fine job of differentiating themselves from the herd, although they do it partly in an unorthodox way, by incorporating elements of prog-rock into the mix. Opener “The King Is Dead” starts with noodly, subtle, complex guitars worthy of a Geddy Lee falsetto…right before, naturally, the ferocious hardcore guitars and alternately yelled/sung vocals come crashing in. Along similar lines, “The Soft Shell” is reminiscent of both No Knife’s sharp-edged sci-fi rock and the updated prog of the horribly underrated aMINIATURE, and “Mercy Day For Mr. Vengeance” jumps time signatures deftly, switching directions and varying tempos like indie heroes Jawbox, all while managing to somehow hold things together.

Even when they play it straight, the band doesn’t miss a trick. Songs like “Killing It” and “The Kids Can Eat A Bag of Dicks” bring to mind Braid’s best moments (on the latter, melded with Snapcase-style metalcore), while “Congratulations” is an angry, Jawbreaker-like blast. “In Vino Veritas II” is reminiscent of Jawbreaker, too, albeit in a different way — it’s simultaneously gorgeous and thunderously depressive, like Blake Schwarzenbach’s bleakest elegies on Dear You. I haven’t heard a melancholy song with guitars this overwhelming and powerful since Dinosaur Jr.’s Where You Been. Then there’s “Me Vs. Morrissey In The Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match),” which is wonderfully fast and crazed, pumping with adrenaline (and no, I have no clue what the song titles here have to do with the songs themselves), and “God Loves A Liar,” a beautiful pop song that’s been thoroughly soaked in bile and then blasted with cosmic radiation ’til it looks/sounds nothing like its former self.

The best part of the disc, though, has nothing to do with the music itself — it’s all about the energy. From start to finish, Ruiner is frantic and frenzied, like a car blazing down the freeway at 90 MPH with the windows down, dodging cars on all sides and seemingly always right on the verge of slamming into a barricade. The songs are nicely short, just quick little bursts of rock that charge in, say their piece, and get the hell out; the album moves so fast, in fact, that I find myself hitting the “Rewind” button every few songs, because I keep missing these intricate little passages buried deep within. I’ll get to the next song, and it’ll hit me: “Hey, hold on a second — did I just hear what I think I heard?” Before I know it, it’s over…and I feel like I need to go back and listen again.

Another time through, and I’ve got my conclusion: Ruiner is bitter as all hell, melodic yet wild-eyed and dangerous, brutally smart, and hard-edged enough to draw blood at all the right places. If this is the new face of rock, hey, I’m all for it.

(Nitro Records -- 7071 Warner Ave., Suite F-736, Huntington Beach, CA. 92647; http://www.nitrorecords.com/; A Wilhelm Scream -- http://www.awilhelmscream.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 1st, 2005. Filed under Reviews.

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