Monday, 17 November 2014

Menace Ruine - Venus Armata (Album Review)

Venus Armata cover art

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 14/10/2014
Label: Profound Lore

Venus Armata’ CD/DD track listing:

1. Soften Our Evil Hearts (11:15)
2. Red Sulphur (06:41)
3. Marriage In Death (09:00)
4. Soothing But Cruel (06:10)
5. Belly Of The Closed House (09:55)
6. Torture Of Fire (05:14)
7. Venus Armata (16:19)

The Band:

S. | Vocals, Instruments
Genevieve | Vocals, Instruments, Lyrics, Visual Concepts

Review:

Darkness in music should be unable to be ignored. Darkness should chill and silence. As a concept it sits easily enough, as real aural expression it remains elusive to all but a few artists to harness. Menace Ruine have no neat descriptor, every tag feels futile, cheap.

Menace Ruine simply sound like darkness.

Other reviews will attempt to smear genres across ‘Venus Armata’ in a flurry of pigeonholing and the inability to simply let it be, like the vexed apes from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ throwing rocks at the confounding obsidian column. As with the Profound Lore signed Quebecois band’s previous offering, the regal ‘Alight In Ashes’, Menace Ruine’s latest release exists somewhere between all planes, achieving a sound that is at once softly organic and coldly mechanical, a creature not quite living but far from lifeless.

On ‘Venus Armata’ the band have noticeably warmed their sound from previous releases. Chord progressions glow ephemerally through the murk, and melody comes with less need to weather harsh tones and atonality. Crucially, Menace Ruine do not sacrifice their character in doing so; the album opens to a distorted bell (Lord knows if it actually is or not) that roars more than rings, reminiscent of Akira Yamaoka’s crepuscular work on the ‘Silent Hill’ soundtracks, setting the tone for the 64 minutes to come.

Aside from the generous layers of anonymous noise and manipulated tones, the primary composition of the band’s sound comes from the combination of synth, vocals and percussion. But to narrow the scope of the music to such simple terms is a gross disservice to the end result. The synths scream, whisper, threaten, entice, weep. The percussion sits like the muffled heartbeat of a sleeping giant, deep and steady, barely present and all the more perfect for it. The vocals are the one anchor the band has to this world we live in, clean and with as much human character as the instrumentation beautifully lacks.

Whether plaintively ringing out a single line or birthing an unholy crescendo the band just seem to make it work. More adept listeners could probably dissect their songwriting skills better than myself, but this seems firmly secondary to the attention Menace Ruine pay to every noise created. Few bands, if any, can summon the thick atmosphere that they do. While ‘Venus Armata’ fails to capture the utter depths that ‘Alight In Ashes’ did with its tone masterfully ensnaring both otherwordly psychosis and mournful tranquillity, their latest release does not attempt to emulate this and confidently sits as alone as its own being.

You won’t find yourself listening to this album every week, or even every month. When you do spin it, however, you will find yourself in another place, one you hesitate to visit, yet once there cannot bear to leave. Love it or hate it, you will not leave this album indifferent to it, and for the discerning listener that really counts for something.

Words by: Jake Mazlum

You can pick up a copy here


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