Everyone loves a good story. But what if the story didn’t make sense? It sounded as if it did at first. At a cursory glance everything seems in order; but the closer you listen, the more things seem a little off. Words and sentences don’t seem to fit. Things seem to lose focus. The story drives on, but now something is definitely wrong. You aren’t following at all, are you losing your mind? Everything seemed normal. Why doesn’t this make sense? A feeling of dread creeps in. Is the storyteller insane, or are you? What’s happening? You begin to panic. Beads of sweat form. You have to get out of here, you can’t keep listening. What are they even saying? Why are they smiling? Their eyes seem dead. Your head feels like it’s unravelling. This isn’t normal. This isn’t happening. Run. RUN.
And so begins the musical journey that is US avant-garde four piece Fell Ruin’s harrowing debut opus ‘To the Concrete Drifts’. Released on March 17th through I, Voidhanger Records and Graven Earth, it follows a narrative and there are recurring motifs such as the gorgeous acoustic sections that lull you into a false sense of security; but that’s just a well calculated ruse to intensify the helplessness with which you tumble into its nightmare. The more you get lost in its intricacies, the more you realise it’s a staggering piece of art.
Its five tracks begin with ‘Respire’, an intro of sorrowful and foreboding acoustic guitar before the terror begins to stir in second track ‘The Lucid Shell (Rite of Fertile Sand Coasts)’ with a savage, crawling doom rasping and grinding towards you. From then on the tale takes on a life of its own, subversively challenging your senses and nerve as it organically mutates from dystopian blackened doom to thrash to blistering pure black and even post metal, all within the same song. Brian Sheehan’s commanding, haunted and often sinister vocals drive proceedings; when he roars “I SUCCUMB” in third track ‘Spy Fiction Folds in Ready Streets’ you can almost literally feel yourself being swallowed by waves of concrete, shifting and crashing as the cityscape collapses and undulates, succumbing to the psychedelic horror.
Special mention should also be made to Jeff McMullen’s unique basswork and tone, winding around in fantastic interplay with Rob Radtke’s portentous guitar and adding a whole new level uncomfortableness, confusion and misery to proceedings as August Krueger expertly gives the songs what they need with dazzling progressive skinsmanship.
The whole thing works so well together, each listen gets better and better. Before you know it it’s dragging the pit of your stomach through the floor as it weaves a mesmerising spell, leaving you hopelessly ensnared by an unnerving and unhinged world you’ll be unsure of how you arrived at… and will never be able to catch your bearings enough to escape from.
Hi Brian, I hope everything is well in the world of Fell Ruin. You recently released your crushing debut album, ‘To the Concrete Drifts’. You guys pleased with the reception it’s been getting?
– Better than we could have hoped. Glad to finally have it out there.
The songs are absolutely mammoth, kaleidoscopic slabs of blight and avant-garde decay. What was the creative process like? Does someone handle the bulk of the writing or is it more of a democratic process?
– Writing is a collaborative process. Everyone brings ideas to the table, and we refine as a group. Listening back to rough recordings from the previous rehearsal for further elaboration. Everyone plays off each other pretty naturally.
The album title is a partial line from one of the songs: “To the Concrete Drifts, I Succumb”. All of the esoteric lyrics conjure up some great mental imagery, but can you explain why you chose that particular phrase to represent the album as a whole?
– Naming things has and will always be the bane of my (our) existence. Scouring over the lyrics, To The Concrete Drifts fit the album as a whole, ringing true to the synopsis of the story.
You guys have a unique and discombobulating sonic pallette, raw and immediate yet oddly disconnected and surreal. I find it occasionally akin to being on acid in a burning building, sitting surrounded by death as everything crashes in slow motion around you. How did recording go, did everything turn out exactly as you envisioned?
– Perfect! That’s relatively close to the atmosphere we sought to create. Recording, for myself anyways, is always the most trying yet rewarding part of making music. With that said, tracking this album was the most comfortable and confident I have been with my performance to date. I think as perfectionists, we all hear things later down the road we wish would’ve been done differently. Collectively, we have long come to peace with such sentiments and remain proud of what we’ve created.
Is there any particular piece of art, music or otherwise, that inspired your sound and/or themes on this release?
– We all have our influences/inspirations. Individually and collectively. Without naming dozens of bands, I would say we are all simply into a little of (almost) everything. Speaking for myself and lyrical content, I’ve always been into the raconteurial approach. Grand story arcs that span the album. To The Concrete Drifts was heavily influenced by pieces such as El Topo, The Dark Tower (specifically “The Gunslinger”), Begotten, The Seventh Seal, and a plethora of others. I don’t really get any inspiration from any lyricists in the metal realm.
The CD is out on I, Voidhanger Records; one of my personal favourite labels. How did that come about?
– Same here. Once we received the mastered version back in the fall, I inquired with a few labels that seemed like a suitable fit. Luciano got back immediately and enthusiastically expressed interest in collaborating. Same thing with Rachel of Graven Earth (whom released the cassette version). Both have been a pleasure to work with, and the finished products exceed expectations.
The suitably nightmare-inducing video for “Spy Fiction Folds in Ready Streets” also dropped recently. Can you tell us a little about that and the ideas represented in the video?
– Having grown up on old, black and white horror/art films, it always seemed natural to pursue similar aesthetics and themes. Including elements from the lyrics as well as the album artwork without painting too specific of a picture is difficult. Surreal horror that isn’t in the straight forward commonplace, allowing the spectator to come to his/her own conclusions. In this case, we are more than pleased with the result. As for specifics, I will let the viewer discern.
Were you there for the shoot? How was that experience, and how much creative input did you have throughout the process?
– It was a collaborative endeavor between Nick Holland of Diamond Dead Media, myself and a few close friends. I wanted to make something that made me feel the same way I felt watching Begotten for the first time, without just ripping it off. Sampling bits and pieces from the lyrics, crafting masks and costumes, it was an elaborate endeavor that took weeks of planning and two days of shooting on location.
The album artwork is great, ties in fantastically with the video. And it was done by yourself (Legerdemain Art)! Did you have any prior ideas/direction for it all?
– Thanks! It’s been a luxury handling the visual interpretations of the music. I had a vague idea going into it, but it came down to experimenting with multiple elements and combining them. Once the main image was conceived, the additional art came together pretty naturally.
It’s been two years since your also-excellent EP ‘Devices’, which I felt was slightly more straightforward black metal influenced. This one seems like you’ve really let rip. What would you say the biggest change has been from the EP to the album?
– I feel like our songwriting has matured as a whole. Although, two of the tracks on T.T.C.D. were written before some of the songs on Devices. Refined and relentlessly revisited before making it to the recording.
‘Fell Ruin’ strikes me as a very emblematic name. What’s the meaning behind it?
– Again, naming things has never come easy. We completed the recording of Devices before agreeing on the moniker. ‘Fell’ in the old literary sense (savage, violent, cruel). ‘Ruin’ in its common use (decay, dissolution). Inciting the notion of empowerment through turmoil.
You’ve been around a few years now. How did Fell Ruin come into existence, and why does it continue to exist?
– Just three friends from various musical endeavors conspiring to do something new. In the fall of 2013, August, Jeff and Rob started writing songs. I tried out for vocals in the spring of 2014 and it’s been us four ever since. It will continue until we feel it loses its luster.
– There are some great bands, but very few black metal bands. We ourselves never really considered this band to be black metal though the influences are undoubtedly there. To name drop a few local friends and peers: Isenblåst, Dark Winter, Temple of Void, Mammon, Endling, Sunlight’s Bane, Her Dark Host…
And finally, what comes next? What lies in the future of Fell Ruin?
– Writing for our next venture is already well underway. More live shows in support of the album are being planned, but nothing we can share just yet.
Great news, looking forward to seeing the horror and wonder the next album brings. Thanks again for your time!
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