Poison Ruïn is a whimsically dark and alarmingly cutting project out of Philadelphia, that smiths out a dagger-proof sheath of electric chainmail that cross weaves the harshest strands of mod rock, death rock, NWOBHM, and black metal in a manner that is starkly captivating while summoning the spirits and preoccupations of eras that have dilapidated into various stages of dust and grave fill. The project’s debut LP on Urge Records, actually combines the group’s first two self-titled EP releases into a single album. I am willing to bet the equivalent of a grave digger’s yearly salt haul in cold, clammy cash that you wouldn’t have guessed this was the case if I wouldn’t have mentioned it. Poison Ruïn has a very well-defined style that is hardly exhausted over the course of the release, with the adjacent plots of the group’s EPs melding together seamlessly into a singular resting place for wrenching regrets somber sentiments.
Calling Poison Ruïn a band is a bit of a misnomer though, as it is just one man, Mac Kennedy. However, the roles he fulfills for the project are legion. Mac recorded everything himself, playing all of the instruments, and at times tracking, retrackng, purchasing new equipment, and then tracking again, various and sundry segments of both EPs, before producing and releasing it on his own via Bandcamp. Only later did Urge pick up both EPs and released them as a single self-titled LP on vinyl, but everything up to that point was the sole product of Mac as captain and commander of an army of one.
The distinctive style that Mac has created for Poison Ruïn, is described by him as “dungeon punk.” A kind of medieval peace punk if you will. Tackling the problems of the present era with the time-honored attacks of ripping, steely hooks and bailey wall bulldozing grooves. Most tracks begin with a gothic intro sequence, excised from the soundtrack of And Now the Screaming Starts, or some other such period horror, set in an era when the British still measured time by the lives of their monarchs.
The subject matter of the LP couldn’t be any less regal though, as it primarily deals with environmental destruction and a dim, fatalistic view of technical progress, regarding it as a hubris-fueled piston, driving the nails into the foundation of what will one day be the human race’s tomb. It’s unbelievably bleak stuff, but you won’t be able to stop yourself from bobbing your head along to the sizzle and stomp of its funeral-seeking procession. The production on this LP is dense, muddy, and unrefined, feeling like it just clawed its way out of a swampy pit after being stabbed in the back and left for dead. You can smell the gangrene festering on its skin from the moment you let it ride on your turn table.
“Carrion” opens the crypt with and unleashes a militant, Jam-esque, leap and rattle that sounds like it could have appeared on In The City, if it were not for the crow cackles and sounds of distant warfare that greet you in the intro (not to mention that the sound quality leads one to wonder if some part of the tape it was recorded on hadn’t been submerged in a bathtub in an abandoned flat since the early 80s). The mod rocker comparisons continue to be relevant throughout the album due to the hooky, bluesy quality of the guitar work, particularly on the stoic volley of “Fog of War.” However, starting with “Demon Wind,” these blues guitars become increasingly ominous, as well as directly indebted to the work of legends like Motörhead, with the pace breaking out into a blast of sickening heat and a bile romping splash of d-beat abandon on the latter half of “Paladin’s Wrath.” Things get even more acerbic on the cloudy, nihilistic jerk and frolic of “Doppelgänger,” which will sweep you into the devastating orbit and the skull collapsing strike of “Morning Star” with its malignant chanting melody and persistent, undertow grooves. On his first full release with Poison Ruïn, Mac has dug for you a hungry grave, which now beckons you to enter and make it your final place of residence.
You can enter the dark realm of Poison Ruïn by hitting play on the Bandcamp player below: