Menace Ruine’s latest offering, Alight in Ashes has a presence like few records. Powering through overdriven, blackened industrial instrumentals with singer Genevieve’s beautiful vocals playing off them masterfully, I was at first taken aback. However, with after a few listens, I can say without a doubt that Menace Ruine have crafted their finest work yet. Previous offerings have toed the line between blackened doom, drone, and martial, yet the singular vision of Alight in Ashes is it’s most powerful strength.
It should be noted that the production of this record may be an issue for some. It is an exhausting listen. The guitar relentlessly drones on, often times to near piercing levels, and the vocals are so up-front that you may find yourself having to listen to this in chunks. It’s an interesting approach for a band that have largely dealt in a lower fidelity sound prior. Yet Alight in Ashes has a clarity and depth which manifest a monumental atmosphere, and I found myself consistently coming back to it, listening for more and more below the surface.
Opener “Set Water to Flames” is a clear high point. Genevieve’s vocals are a bright contrast to the blackened industrial ambience provided by S. De La Moth. Martial drumming resonates clearly throughout this track, an influence that will appear again and again. At over twelve minutes, it never once comes off as over long or drawn out. It is cold and forbidding, eschewing technicality for pure, brutal wintry ambience.
“Salamandra” takes a more neofolk approach; while the instrumentals maintain an industrial edge, Genevieve is in full form here. Her performance throughout this record is uplifting, keeping it from becoming too arduous of a listen. Bringing to mind Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, there is a haunting, occult-tinged beauty that matches perfectly with the ugliness of the instrumentals. “Arsenikon (Faded in Discord)” is, appropriately, far more entropic compared to the first half of the record. S. De La Moth takes the helm here, powering through a freeform instrumental that is more noisey than anything prior. Genevieve, for once on this record, sounds like she’s being overpowered by what’s going on around her.
As this record progresses, it appears to break down into more and more experimental flourishes. Whether it’s the distorted strings of “Disease of Fear” to the funereal death march of “Cup of Oblivion” this record maintains a cohesive style without becoming repetitive, which is a difficult achievement considering how limited the instrumental palette is.
Menace Ruine have crafted a discography that places them on the outliers of genre definitions. Alight in Ashes is a haunting, powerful document in their history. While the duality of this record may be offputting at first listen, listen to it a few times, let it sink in. Menace Ruine remind us that there can be beauty in the grotesque.