A Song to Ruin, by Million Dead
Suggested by Rob Wagner
There’s a certain amount of pre-judgment when it comes to my reviews. It’s an unfortunate necessity of the format, the three-a-day grind pushing me towards formulating fast opinions for regurgitation at speed, to be yeeted into the Internet’s cavernous maw. So I may pre-judge an album on the artist’s name, or on the suggester’s previous picks (if any). When it’s time to pay the metaphorical piper, it’s rare that I step to the counter without at least my wallet in hand.
Happily, I can report than any pre-judgment is quickly overshadowed by the actual music… but here again is a pit trap. Like the best Love At First Sight stories, I’ll often snap-rate an album based on the first song. While it likely won’t stick at that number, it’s certainly something that will taint my overall opinion. And by songs three or four, I’m considering review themes, opening hooks, anecdotal openings and more, so an album that starts off on a club foot has a Artax slog to drag itself up from the Swamps of Sadness.
A Song to Ruin starts by putting a bullet in that stupid horse’s head. It’s so damn awful I nearly switched it off in disgust and had a pace around my living room to calm myself.
The sound be your bag, but my bag is hewn from a distinctly different hessian weave. From the fuzzy guitar to the loose and blurred hi-hat, to the tiresome guttural scream, it felt as if someone had taken the time to read my previous two-hundred-and-sixty-two reviews, compiled an exhaustive list of all the things that royally piss me off, then written a song that included every single point. Seriously, all it missed was a five-minute ambient bongo solo with someone whispering “Snoop Dogg” over and over on top of it.
This opening song, Pornography for Cowards, is a riotous cacophony which doesn’t deflate on multiple listens. While the rest of the album is similar in theme and function, I’m thankful that it represents Peak Toss on what could be a grower rather than a shower. Subsequent songs tone down each of the more jarring elements, never returning to the aural assault of the first but never quite rinsing the bad taste out of my mouth. Even my favourite track, the almost mainstream I Am The Party, doesn’t shake the inexplicable sense of unstoppable frenetic horror.
There’s something wrong with each element of this album. The drums are too damn fast and flapping, exemplified on Charlie + the Propaganda Myth Machine. The guitars jangle a little too much, and the vocals are a single step from unhinged a full eighty percent of the time. Even the slower numbers, like relentless, peacock their musicality with a trilling sneer.
Despite these misgivings, it’s only fair to say that A Song to Ruin does improve as it ages through each track. Not in a graceful way, like a fine wine or ripening brie, but in a desperate way, like a nightclub lothario lowering his standards as the smoke machine fades and the early hours loom. A Song to Ruin is 4/10 album that I’ll gladly purge from my head as soon as I finish this sentence.