Deathcore has always gotten a bit of a bad rap. The screaming, the lyricism, the guitar tunings and the rhythmic tendencies – none of them seem to be a particularly welcoming idea to someone not already a bit tuned in to the attachments to the genre. So for many a band, much like any artist, it is a constant struggle to not only attract those who will appreciate your craft, but find a way to stand out.
As Westfield, Massachusetts-based Within the Ruins releases into the wild their third LP Elite – the first through eOne and Good Fight Entertainment – the idea of continually trying to get better clashes with that idea of attempting to not only stand out, but to transcend the idea of the genre in the process. Whether it be avoiding the route of extra-stringed guitars or exploring the ideas tied to instrumental arrangements in their records, the band’s history of balancing the two has perhaps reached its pinnacle with Elite. But the occurrence is anything but luck – guitarist Joe Cocchi and the rest of the band are certainly quite aware of what they are doing.
“We basically have been doing it since our 2008 EP,” says Cocchi, who doesn’t shy away from crediting his love for Metallica with the reason why his writings have included instrumental arrangements. “You can reach a bigger audience because some people might not like the screaming or the breakdowns you hear – those aspects of the genre we’re in. And then some people, they like the music and the guitars. It helps us kind of demonstrate or show what we can actually do outside the genre.”
In fact, the writing process this time around originated with what could be called the musical centerpiece of Elite – an instrumental dirge by the title of “Ataxia II,” named as the sequel to a track from the band’s previous album Invade. “It was one of the first demos that I had. As soon as I started writing it, I knew it wasn’t going to be a song that we would necessarily perform live with [vocalist] Tim [Goergen] or add vocals to. It’s just a totally different vibe and a different feel. It’s going to be instrumental and a little more over the top and all over the place, which makes it really hard to write vocals to and to play the thing live with me being the only guitar player right now.”
Elite would end up taking Within the Ruins – Cocchi, Goergen, bassist Andrew Tate and drummer Kevin McGuill – back to White Lake, Michigan and producer Josh Wickman, who produced Invade for the band back in 2011. “It’s funny because, we have an awesome studio here in our hometown of Westfield – Zing Studios – which is where we did our album Creature in 2009. There’s big bands that record there. Killswitch [Engage], All That Remains, The Acacia Strain. All the local bands did some of their debut albums at the studio here. But once we found out about Josh, we wanted to definitely get a different type of sound. We wanted to do the album outside of where we live. We know it’s hard to record and still be involved in everyday life here. It’s hard to concentrate.”
But this time around, the environment and process were much more streamlined and, in the words of Cocchi, more professional.
“When we did Invade, Josh was still learning,” tells Cocchi of the five weeks the band spent with Wickman working on Elite. “We were learning new ways and figuring things out that made the recording [of Invade] easier for us and made it come out better. So when we got to do Elite, we already had a system with Josh. We knew how we were going to do everything. We still experimented and tried out different shit. It just flowed. We had a better schedule. When we did Invade, we would track for six hours and then go out and party and grill. Then we would wake up, record whatever, then repeat. I think it’s funny because it shows it has that feel to it, to me at least. When we did Elite, we were like, okay, schedule. We’ll go to the gym at 8 in the morning with Josh, then go eat breakfast, then we would start tracking at 10. Then go to 8 o’clock [in the evening]. I think we were a little bit more responsible and professional if you will when doing this album.”
The inclination for Within the Ruins was to just do everything more than the album before, according to Cocchi. “When we go in to write a new record, we want it to sound better production-wise than the last album, we want it to be faster, we want it to be heavier, we want it to be more melodic. We thought of it as, take all the highlights of Invade, keep those in mind, and then use some of those aspects but also add in some new shit.”
In particular though, Cocchi notes that the songs of Elite vary in a way that was not as noticeable with Invade. “All the songs are in different keys with this album, where with Invade a lot of the riffs and parts of songs were interchangeable in a way. It all definitely sounded kind of the same after awhile, I’ll admit that.” The band also put more effort into the vocal aspects of the album, something they rushed through on Invade – this being the second album on record with Goergen as vocalist. “We also focused more on the lyrical content and just working with Tim a little bit more. It was always three weeks of guitars, a week of drums and a few days left to bust out vocals. We didn’t want to do it that way. We wanted to concentrate on the vocals just as much as everything else.”
Now that the album is out, Within the Ruins is again at the point of being ready to hit the road for some shows – this time alongside a handful of bands in a run that will take them through several notable festivals, New England Metalfest and South By So What. “The reason we’ve been sitting at home is because we want to take a break and get ready and be prepared for this. We wanted to wait for the album to come out before we started touring again. We’re beyond excited. We’re playing all those festivals, we’re very thankful that we’re on those because they are some of the funnest shows.”
But even as the band jumps back into the fold of things, Within the Ruins hasn’t changed much within their course; they just do what they can to stand out from a pack of similar sounding beasts. And with Elite, it can only be said they’ve accomplished what they set out to do – and then some.