Archive for the ‘Menace Ruin’ Category

Menace Ruin — Venus Armata

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Canadians Menace Ruine have been living up to their name for the past seven years or so across five releases of wonderfully solemn droning gloom. With two members, Menace Ruine, like the Italians OvO, construct the overpowering from the spartan, with distorted keys and relentless martial-industrial rhythms of death marches swirling around the ominous beauty of Geneviève Beaulieu’s vocals. 2012’s Alight in Ashes was an exceptional monolithic landmark, now followed up with aplomb through Profound Lore Records with the album Venus Armata.

Production on the band’s work has improved with each release. On the earlier releases, the volume and dynamics of so much distortion had a tendency at times to bury the vocals in the mix. Now, with Venus Armata, the freedom Geneviève’s delightful voice began to find on Alight in Ashes is now fully realized. The vocals are now subtly elevated and with clarity within the mix, without any negative impact on the intensity of the rest of Menace Ruine’s sound. The other half of the band, S. de la Moth, has triumphed with his production; and, the mastering by James Plotkin has allowed the group to fully realize their potential for both beguiling and abrasive intensity.

There is a growing wave of feeling that Menace Ruine are far ahead of their peers blending the medieval with darker and heavier sounds. Venus Armata has an emotional heaviness, relying on the feeling in voice and instrumental phrasing to achieve this, rather than what one traditionally thinks of as “heavy”. And yet, it’s heavier than the vast majority of albums wrought from over-compressed guitars and Lego-like lulls and explosions. Alongside Menace Ruin, many who labored to blend the medieval with heavy genres fall into a laughable heap. It’s harsh, maybe. But true.

The sonic character of Venus Armata is reflected perfectly in the package. The surreal, primitive, haematochromatic images accompanying the music share a succinct relationship with the sound of each piece. Alongside ‘Red Sulphur’, a bird in flight appears to prepare to alight alongside another of its kind, talons upturned in death upon the ground.

Hence, the record is full of these elegant symbiotic contrasts, swinging from the beautiful and uplifting to transfixing horror effortlessly. Even in major keys, Venus Armata manages something fugue-like in nature, like a witch knowingly cursing the idiotic throng around her in defiance as she burns. There are moments where brilliant melodies take hold of the fabric of distortion, a vague tether to the earthly. But there is always something inhuman and monstrous nearby, ready to sweep aside everything in amorphous eruptions of drone.

On this album, Geneviève is phenomenal. Her invocations of the dark and medieval are a signature; but, they are not so typically referential and derivative. She is miles away from being another tired emulation of Lisa Gerard. If a comparison was to be made, she delivers like a modern-day Grace Slick, but with far more of a haunting and soul-shaking edge to her tone. She is the quintessence of the simultaneous contradictions that Menace Ruine pulls off. ‘Soothing But Cruel’ is as beautiful a work as they come, like being serenaded as you are whipped with a flail of barbed wire in an act of profound love.

Venus Armata was released on October 14 and is available in CD and digital format. For something distinctive and with great depth that will stay with you long after you have long finished listening, you could not do much better.