‘…a striking melancholy that conveys not only an exhausted resignation at the band members’ predicament – a very Irish sentiment that, too – but also seething anger at what has brought them to this point‘ – MacDara Conroy can relate to Greece’s Ruined Families.
Europe’s black hole’ is what Ruined Families call their home base of Athens, once the birthplace of modern civilisation but today, of course, the centre of the eurozone money pit, and a magnet for the rest of the EU’s projected self-loathing. And that’s not to mention the alarming rise of legitimised Neo-Naziism. Yep, Greece is pretty fucked. But extreme conditions demand extreme responses, as the 1980s So-Cal hardcore scene or the Brazilian thrash explosion can attest, and Ruined Families’ hardcore attack is a logical response to the Greek crisis. And a surprisingly nuanced one, at that.
Four Wall Freedom, their debut full-length from 2010, is plenty frenzied and angry, but there’s not much there to indicate the massive strides the band would make on their untitled 7-inch from last year – specifically on the B side tracks ‘Bedroom Nihilist‘ and the monumental ‘Quiet‘, where all that undirected rage in the face of society’s ills is pulled into keener musical focus, with the promise of an exciting new direction. So you’ll be as pleased as I am to learn that Ruined Families have come through on that promise with Blank Language, a nine-track LP bearing all the markers of hardcore – song titles mixing irony with forthrightness; a short and to-the-point 20-minute run time – but filtered through a drizzling haze of black metal, and coloured by strong post-punk influences.
Opening with a peal of feedback, ‘Only Need Is Real‘ sets the bar high with a heady combination of noisy tremolo-picked riffs, rumbling bass and immense, thunderous drumming, all enveloped in a blackened miasma. ‘To New Parents‘ explodes from the blocks in a flurry of hammered blastbeats and tremolo riffing; then comes a dissonant slamming of strings before the song transforms with a melodic coda eliciting the kind of euphoria that stokes revolutions. Next, the brooding post-punk dirge ‘208‘ stumbles into ‘Easy Livin’‘ where soaring chord progressions collapse into a pit of crushing doom groove, then scramble out in a blast of grind before changing tune again for a stomping denouement. There’s more of that tempo-shifting, gear-changing restlessness from ‘Human Fence‘ through ‘Nature’s Worst‘ to ‘Definition In Paradox‘. ‘Books As Weapons‘ threatens to split at the seams as the guitars ring out, while closing number ‘Pedestal‘ captures what it might sound like if The Ex went Die Kreuzen.
Suffice it to say Blank Language is a tremendous effort, and not just for its unique bent on hardcore. Amid the euphoria permeating these tracks is a striking melancholy that conveys not only an exhausted resignation at the band members’ predicament – a very Irish sentiment that, too – but also seething anger at what has brought them to this point, and a resolute refusal to take any more of this divide-and-conquer austerity shit. If only the rest of us were so determined.