PICK OF THE WEEK: Menace Ruine’s dreamy beauty shines through the darkness on ‘Venus Armata’

Menace Ruine 2Beauty in metal and heavier music is not a commonly written-about topic here. That’s not on purpose. I guess the natural inclination is to steer toward the dark, violent, depressing, crushing. Plus, since we avoid symphonic metal outright, there’s not much chance to discuss lovely sounds in what’s an otherwise dark musical format.

Not that Menace Ruine don’t have their dark moments, but what I generally find when taking on this Montreal-based duo are sounds that reveal incredible colors, emotional depth, and music that doesn’t make me want to maim and pillage. Instead, I want to reach out with my imagination and keep dreaming. I want to stretch my creativity. I want to escape inside these sounds and absorb every beam of light they emit. The band’s music, which isn’t really metal but certainly can slip over and impact that audience, is a mesmerizing mix of drone, neofolk, gothic sounds, atmosphere, and the spellbinding singing of Genevieve Beaulieu, which are as alive and transcendent as ever on their new, fifth album “Venus Armata.” In fact, even if the sounds don’t grab you at first (expertly put together by S de la Moth), the voice will, and you might find yourself hanging on every breath without even knowing you’re doing it.

Mence Ruine coverMenace Ruine have had a prolific, yet criminally under-appreciated run ever since their formation in 2007. Having offered their debut full-length “Cult of Ruins” in 2008, they’ve reported back pretty regularly, following with “The Die Is Cast” that same year, “Union of Irreconcilables” in 2010, and their Profound Lore debut “Alight in Ashes” in 2012. They’ve also had their work released by noted labels such as SIGE, Alien8, and Aurora Borealis, and they’ve slowly built their following while sharpening their incredible work. On “Venus Armata,” they have put together their best work to date, and while it may take a few visits for the songs to begin taking root, once they do, you’re gone. You can feel the power and spirit pulsating in these songs, and the journey on which you should take mentally will leave you enriched and intellectually refreshed. That’s something brutality hardly ever gives to you.

“Soften Our Evil Hearts” begins the record with cold bells chiming, noise drone rising and getting lathered up, and the atmosphere continually building. Beaulieu’s vocals join the mix, and her mesmerizing ways snake through the song, always keeping you alert and wary. The music feels like a thick fog, with the signing coming on like it’s directing an early morning spiritual, with the tempo twisting and treading up to the end. “Red Sulphur” is a great track and might be my favorite in this band’s entire canon. A blanket of sound feels like they’re being emitted from ancient organs, and Beaulieu unreal vocals kick in. She sounds like a magisterial storyteller, and her harmonies are completely arresting and infectious. Psychedelic sounds arrive, and drums even push things ahead, but all the while the singing is the hook, one of the great performances of the year that should make other singers jealous. It’s hard to do this justice in words. Go listen to it. “Marriage in Death” has slowly delivered drumming, with guitar squall settling in and the singing sounding more solemn. The track bobs slowly on its waves, navigating you through the night, leaving your body quivering like the music. “Soothing But Cruel” is a fitting title for the song it represents, as there’s a deep chill in the air that could sting your cheeks, with emotional vocals that leave cracks in the glaze that forms over top. The composition is glimmering and frosty, with the sounds floating, and eventually dissolving into a deep buzz.

“Belly of the Closed House” stretches over 9:56, and it has piercing strings, a melody that cuts right through the thing,  and layer upon layer of atmospheric playing stacked so high, you can’t see the top. Eventually the vocals emerge, sounding like something magically recorded out of a dream, and the last portion of the song begins to weigh a little heavier, with thick drone and a penetrating show of force. “Torture of Fire” feels shivery and woozy at first, with echoey beats shooting out and striking the walls. The vocals take a different approach and have a new personality than elsewhere on the record, and Beaulieu sounds pretty dangerous. The 16:17-long closing title cut introduces itself by ringing out sharply and drone lowering itself to the ground for a final push. First, the vocals slip behind the noise, which sounds like a million insects buzzing, but then Beaulieu breaks through and takes control. The melodies—both from the music and the vocals—are swirling and trance-inducing, and maybe this is just something I’m pulling out the song, but there’s a sense of sorrow that embraces you like an old lost friend. The emotion conveyed is unmistakable and real. Organs pile on again, the tempo picks up and begins to vibrate with light, and the final sounds create one last cutting swoop before turning into vapor and disappearing before our eyes.

Menace Ruine can be a breath of fresh air for listeners who are too bogged down in violence and negativity. Beauty and light are elements we need to grasp, and even when there are darker moments on “Venus Armata,” I can’t help but feel uplifted when the whole thing’s over. It’s a work of poetry as much as it is a collection of songs, and never have I enjoyed a Menace Ruine record this much. And I love their back catalog. This is worth every ounce of your energy investment in these seven songs, and they will reward you a million fold for your effort.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/menaceruine

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

To buy the album on vinyl, go here: http://sige.bigcartel.com/artist/sige-records

For more on the label go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

And here: http://sigerecords.blogspot.com/