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Menace Ruine - "Alight in Ashes" (CD)

Menace Ruine - "Alight in Ashes" CD cover image

"Alight in Ashes" track listing:

1. Set Water To Flames (12:40)
2. Salamandra (5:56)
3. Burnt Offerings (8:10)
4. Arsenikon (Faded In Discord) (12:31)
5. Disease Of Fear (12:14)
6. Cup Of Oblivion (10:47)

Reviewed by on October 26, 2012

"Very few albums released in 2012 will cause the kind of utter confusion and head-scratching delight that 'Alight In Ashes' will."

Menace Ruine is a musical anomaly, not just in metal, but in the broadest definition of music. There are very few descriptive words that could quickly summarize what an experience “Alight In Ashes” comes off as. It’s the noisiest of drone, with the industrial clatter of a loopy Ministry and female vocals from a ‘60s acid rock band. Tough to crack, and unwavering in its burgeoning density, “Alight In Ashes” will be appreciated by very few listeners, but they will wave their support towards it as a creative renaissance.

Personally, that reaction isn’t the one that was felt towards “Alight In Ashes.” This album is so unappealing on the surface that the common move will be to turn it off a few minutes into “Set Water To Flames,” and never pick it up again. The brash guitar tones screaming out of the speakers don’t switch up, floating in a jagged, static purgatory. Coupled with the track extending to the breaking point at 12 minutes, and Menace Ruine is almost joyfully testing us with how willing we are to dig our heels into something so abstract.

After a few weeks of repeated listens, the album gets close to being uncovered. Things begin to click here and there, like the fog momentarily clearing out of an empty highway. Sometimes, it’s for a whole song, and then it disappears into utter confusion again. The psychedelic quirks of “Salamandra” bristle through hazy keyboards that droll away for six minutes. The instrumental “Burnt Offerings” becomes less trite, the numbing guitar riffs replaced by a hypnotic veil that almost justifies its brutal length.

The torturous running time of most of these songs, especially in the second half, is the steepest obstacle to get through on “Alight In Ashes.” Menace Ruine has been known to be open to songs going 10-15 minutes in previous albums, but this album is the first with so many of them bunched together. It emphasizes the drone/industrial portion of their sound, which is what makes them so adventurous, but it also is what makes the album so difficult to process. No matter how wonderful one thinks the album is, there is bound to be at least slight hesitation as the album nears its final 20 or so minutes.

Drone isn’t meant to be easy to ascertain; however, the best kind of drone gets you sucked in and glued to the very finish. Menace Ruine gets that down to an extent, though usually that isn’t enough to give it absolute praise. The duo are big fans of fading out and jump starting a song, as they do three different times on “Cup Of Oblivion.” The constant threat of false finishes becomes a distraction, a few-second pause in the music that sucks the potential from the procession of pain the early part of the track marches on.

“Alight In Ashes” can’t be accused of being ordinary by the usual standards of metal. Menace Ruine lurches and drags the tunes out, unconcerned with getting to the point and heading for the home stretch. It’s safe to say that this album isn’t a Billboard chart contender, or one that will have a wide fan base coming to greet it. “Alight In Ashes” will get an opinion out of someone, whether they fall in love with it or shower it with disdain. Very few albums released in 2012 will cause the kind of utter confusion and head-scratching delight that “Alight In Ashes” will.

Highs: Entrancing female vocals, a unique listening experience, interesting ideas on hand

Lows: The excessive lengths will divide people, a sound that is hard to get into, will test the patience of even the most ardent listener

Bottom line: A polarizing album that will either cause sheer delight or confusion, depending on one's patience and tolerance for the unusual.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)