Ruina - _Ukruina_
(Hammermark Art, 2008)
by: Alexandra Erickson (6.5 out of 10)
Balls-out brutality has never been a quality I have found endearing in metal, nor has it been a quality that I have sought out when finding burgeoning bands. And if I was to approach Ruina's first full-length based solely on their sometimes-excessive use of galloping bass drumming with heavily chugging guitar rhythms skipped over with high whines from the strings, the curtain would close on this review right here. With that said, somehow this Ukrainian outfit manages to dip their toes into the tepid and stagnant pool of generic contemporary death metal (and all of its brutality) without drowning in it. Featuring members of Kroda, inevitably and very thankfully, there is enough of a strong melodic and eastern European folk influence to seemingly balance the bleak malevolent atmosphere to the point that _Ukruina_ becomes a legitimately stand-up album.

Striding chin up and weapons raised into the fog of militant metal (akin to Endstille, in many respects), Ruina drag themselves up after the first two tracks on _Ukruina_. Both "Fetters of Freedom" and "The Tree of Kin Is Rotting" proved weak enough to lose my interest quickly, and the third track, "Without Fear and Death", starts off down the same mundane road as its predecessors. However, it swiftly redeems itself with annihilating drums and melodic guitar work, so much so that halfway through the track I had forgotten my earlier disenchantment with the album. Vocalist Viterzgir's ability to convey dynamic emotions so well through his gravelly blackened singing abilities shine on this album. If you're at all familiar with Kroda, you understand how powerful his smoky style is. The title track, "Ukruina", follows suit in fashion with the upswing in atmosphere. Opening with a clip of folk women singing, the eastern European ability to marry folk and heritage with the heavy and dark underbelly of metal is exhibited once again with finesse. "Thunderstorms Scattered the Soil" is the standout track, in its melody and musicianship. Unrelenting from open to close, the song balances the chugging obliteration and chaos with the disparity of the vocals and complete harmony that shines like a beacon through the fog. The rest of _Ukruina_ follows up in a somewhat similar fashion: pairing melodies and folk interludes with the agonized vocals, absolutely ripping guitar work, and machine-gunning drums. Honorable mention goes to a completely unexpected and absolutely delightful guitar solo just over halfway through "Hacked and Crushed".

Don't misread this review; this album is justifiably good on its own merit. There is, no question, a bit of brutal excess. There are breakdowns and death guitar whines aplenty, and are mirrored on nearly every single track. But there are bands who fit the mold without becoming faceless members of the worldwide death metal militia. And I honestly think Ruina have honed a unique sound by throwing in just enough folk and melody that they can stand on their own and forge ahead with an undoubtedly starved fan base wanting more from them. Their promotional photos show them donned in military drab and camouflage flight jackets, and their music is a reflection of that. It could be my penchant for the melodic coupled with the brutal, but in earnest, this is an album that will get frequent rotation for me.


(article published 29/5/2009)

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