Repairing the Ruins
CoC interviews In Ruins
by: Adrian Bromley
Few albums this year have impressed me as much as the stunning debut _Four Seasons of Grey_ from Philadelphia black/doom/gothic metal trio In Ruins. While I gave it a modest (7 out of 10) review in Chronicles of Chaos #34, the more I listened to it the more I enjoyed what the band was doing with their music. It has totally grown on me over the past few weeks -- a definite highlight for 1998 and for sure one of the best releases Metal Blade has put out in some time.

In my review I stated: "[...] In Ruins manage to also break away from a stereotypical (and sometimes boring) metal mood and break out, capturing a very solid metal sound, placing high interest in flamboyant guitar riffs and a heart-pounding groove", and also that fans will appreciate the "hard work and sweat" that "has been put into this LP". When talking to lead singer / guitarist / lyricist J. Michael, it isn't hard to see that statement ringing so true. Michael is a real workaholic, determined to work his band to the best of their ability while also nurturing the band's sound and making his music seem so effortless. It's mastery of metal, I tell you, folks, influenced highly by the ways of '80s metal bands like Venom and Celtic Frost, but heavily doom-laden and inspired somewhat by the darkened ways of black metal tendencies. In Ruins offers a bit of everything.

"I like what we are doing because no one out there is really doing what we are," he starts. "Not to say that we are doing anything unique, there just seems to be something different with us. A bit of doom and black metal ideas mixed up with gothic sounds. We're proud of what we have done here and people are letting us know that."

So true. Lately, the band (rounded out by bassist Jason and drummer Sean James) has developed a buzz and people are talking about them. Michael's reaction to the sudden interest with their debut disc? "I am glad it's working that way. I wanted to make a record that was cool in all ways possible. I wanted it to be very intricate and elaborate, but not shoving guitar techniques down your throat. I didn't want to have songs lose the listener."

_Four Seasons of Grey_ truly showcases a band willing to explore multiple styles, yet harnessing them so tightly together that the overall package prospers from such ideas being pushed forth. This record truly stands out from the rest over the last year or so. He agrees as well. "Yeah. We want it like that. We put a lot of work into the structure of the record and all the songs that went along with it. That seems to be the main characteristic of this debut record: structure. This is, after all, our debut disc, and we wanted it to work. I didn't want people listening to our music and walking away not remembering a song. So we made sure some of our work had melody and was memorable. It paid off in the end, I think. This band took a long time to evolve. A lot of the music here is from 1994, when we were the same band, just playing different metal music. It was pretty much the same, but over the years our music writing techniques have shifted and finally fallen into place with this disc. I'm happy with the way things turned out. I have modest expectations of where I want the band to go. I just want to be able to make another record."

He adds: "It took four and a half months to record this album. There were weeks when I would go into the studio for just two hours a day and just do bits and pieces. That is just wasted studio time, if you ask me. I do have my own studio here where I do a lot of the groundwork for the record's material. Layering of guitars and drum tracks and doing keyboard work. Next time I want to make sure we get the recordings done fast."

And new material ideas? "I don't think it will be very far from what we have done here. Like I said, the ideas of what we want to do as a band are here, it's just a matter of getting all of it to work. We just have to get things focused. We need to just work out the glitches in the ideas we have and bring them into worthy material for the effort."

Seeing that In Ruins are relative newcomers to the metal scene, what kind of work ethics has the band focused on to get somewhere in this business? "I think for any band out there coming out right now, you really need to have a unique quality to what you are doing," he explains. "We need bands like that out here right now. A few years back all of these bands were copying one another and it hurt the metal music scene. It made the scene stagnant. It's hard for a kid to part with money for albums when all of the bands out there sound the same."

The topic shifts to the album title and the band name. "The album title represents somewhat of a metaphor for darkness. I wouldn't call us a depressing band. We just wanted to have a darkened element to what we do. As for the album cover [which depicts an old castle alongside a lake during night fall], I did that on the computer. It was a photo of a castle I had taken and I just created the island and lake around it. And about the name of the band? That was just something that came about. We actually changed the name of the band when we were in the studio. We used to be called Black Thorns, but there were like six or seven other bands called Black Thorns out there. So we changed it. As for In Ruins, it was a hard choice. Just try and sit down and come up with a name for a metal band nowadays. Everything cool is taken already. I actually have this cool photography book by Simon Marsen, who did some cool Cradle of Filth photography work. The book is called "In Ruins" and that probably somehow subconsciously influenced me. I had a list of band names, that one just stood out."

"Also," he adds, "I wanted a cool, majestic sounding name. I didn't want to have a name that would paint us into a corner. I didn't want a name like Rotting Christ, whom I like, but you've kind of gotten yourself into a corner with a name like that."

Interesting to note, In Ruins have never played live before. Michael is eager to get out and play. "We've done all the studio stuff and jammed a lot, we just never got out and played before with this band. We all used to be in other bands and played out, just not with In Ruins. We had to add two extra guys to help out with the band and we may decide to sequence the keyboards. Who knows? I am just bored with studio stuff and writing. I want to go out and play. We had the opportunity to do so while in the studio, but it just didn't seem right. There is really no black metal scene here, so playing shows is kind of hard. You'd be lucky to draw 30 to 40 people to your show. We'll get out and play and hopefully soon get onto an opening slot with a band. I'd love to play with Mercyful Fate. That just seems right and would be fucking cool."

(article submitted 19/11/1998)


ALBUMS
10/1/1998 A Bromley 7 In Ruins - For Seasons of Grey
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