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Album Review: ISKRA Ruins

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An ode to the peanut gallery:

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“This came out last year!”

“You’re so behind the times!”

“You suck!”

Shut the hell up. And it’s been re-released by Southern Lord so that makes it prime material for relevance and discussion. Hell, I missed this one the first time around which is totally my fault. And maybe you did too (cue the part where you shove your ego into the comments and declare your dominance over my majesty because you were on top of this first). But now is as good a time as any to play catch up.

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I’m an angry, bitter bastard but so is the Iskra. And the Victoria, BC quintet is full of plenty of piss and vinegar. But this has been evident since square one: 2004’s Iskra. And 2009’s Bureval LPs (along with multiple EPs along the way) continued to solidified this. Ruins plays a great aggressor to these two LPs, ensuring that over thirteen-years since their inception, they’re still not here to fuck around or show anyone any mercy.

You might moan that it’s another crusty, raw black metal band but you’d only do that if you hadn’t been up to snuff with their discography. Hell, I wasn’t until a few months ago, I’ll admit it. And it’s easy to be dismissive these days considering genre saturation from all ends. But the moment you put on Ruins you’ll notice that Iskra are full-on in-your-face. The aggression is immediate when “Lawless” kicks on: Iskra are out for blood.

It’s the recording quality that makes Ruins shine so much. When everything kicks off it’s immediately noticeable that the album walks that fine line of rawness and refinery. Instrumentally speaking, the album is often clear, with the drums really coming through. However, there’s still a constant muddiness that doesn’t allow too much clarity, especially vocally. Tracks like “Thieves of Life” bring this to light in how vicious and raw out the vocals come off, but how the guitar, drums and bass still tear through with clarity. And yes, this is also an album that you can hear the bass on.

What’s surprising on the album is that throughout its forty-two-minute run time is how little the band slow down. Keeping an album going at full momentum with few slowdowns is hard to do, but Iskra manage to pull it off and remain consistently engaging and interesting. Tracks like “Traume” bring more breakdown sections and even some melodic aspects. Not that it leaves any room for breathing space. What, you thought that Iskra would cut you a break? No, I don’ think so.

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Though the band turns in a solid crusher, the fact of the matter is that the album can start to blend together. As previously stated, it’s solid. I’m not taking that statement back. Ruins continues to hit the listener over the head with brass knuckles but you reach a point where the aggression might need some extra oomph. And that’s the big flaw here. Do I enjoy every second of this album? Yes, but I’m not going to pretend that every song takes it to the next level. It cuts its teeth and tears through the flesh but it doesn’t seem interested in outdoing itself track after track.

But that being said, I shouldn’t harp on that too much. There’s plenty to love on Ruins. If tracks like “Illegal” don’t take you in, then this probably isn’t the album for you. Not that Iskra would care. The band crafts some of the best crust/black metal that I’ve heard in a long time. If you slept on this the first time around then jump on it now. Especially if you like bands like Young and in the Way or Absu. Ruins is a crusher.

Score: 8/10

Whine at me here if you must.

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