The key to a successful deathcore album, at least in theory, is to balance the elements of the genre with a bit of flair and ‘zazz to stand out amongst the pack of down-tuned, breakdown-wielding creatures in the pit of bands still slinging away at the genre. Within the Ruins is in many ways a deathcore band, but by tuning in on some of the ideals of technicality and a hint of something we’ll call ‘the catchy’, they’ve found a way to stand out some from the pack. The group’s new LP Elite is no different than much of their previous to be truly honest. Yet in the cracks of hammering mecha-drumming and varied but always crafty guitar work, there is something refreshing brewing in the continually moving nature of this record. Elite might not be a huge departure for the band, but it shows they’ve still found room to trim away some of the fat in favor of something leaner and meaner.
Elite is an album, as least seemingly to Within the Ruins, about taking what you’re already comfortable with and making it into something bigger and better than the previous iteration. For these guys, it’s topping the very much inherited sound of 2010’s Invade – an album that signaled the entry of new vocalist Tim Goergen – without blowing off the steam they’ve made in the past few years on the road. Mechanically, this is quite the album in terms of meshing the ideas of deathcore, technical metal and fret-melding musicianship into one gripping, often theatrical act of blazing guitars and thundering rhythmic roundhouses.
“Solace” flashes some catchy moments with its upbeat chorus and triplet-laced bursts, but taking away the instrumental opener “Terminal,” it makes for a strong enough first track. If anything, the song’s tiny adjustments and bits of swirling guitars make for an interesting journey even if the songwriting doesn’t feel quite as strong – a pretty fair statement across the board for Elite. “Feeding Frenzy” taps that notion a bit stronger though, going right for the throat lyrically and musically with fiery guitar licks sprinkled about the low-register punching of the rhythmic base to this track. But rather than just feel like another breakdown machine, this track, among others on the record, provides plenty of optional paths to the coveted cliche – particularly in the off-kilter, wah-filled bridge. To expand on that idea of novelty though, you can also consider the blistering instrumental “Ataxia II” – which musically might be the cream of the crop here – or the self-inducing, cycling licks of “Elite.”
Lyrically, Goergen has some particularly bright moments – and some arguably disappointing ones in the process. The pullback to having a vocal approach as decipherable as his means that his lyricism is going to be right out there for us to process in the wake of feverish, technical musicianship. While “Feeding Frenzy” and “New Holy War” are potent enough, “Elite” just comes off a touch tacky in the delivery of self-anointment. The instrumental tracks prove Within the Ruins can stand straight on their musicianship, but vocally this record leaves just a little bit to desire in terms of matching the energy each puts out. That being said though, the power and ability to get the lines across cleanly makes for a much more approachable final product as far as Elite is concerned.
I’m willing to say that with Elite, Within the Ruins will surely continue building their name throughout the heavy music community. While it’s tough to say they’ve eclipsed their peers here, it’s easy enough to say they’ve made enough of a mark here to be one of the stronger bands of the genre, or subgenre. But for having three years in between records, Elite won’t disappoint those who’ve been following the band already – and might turn quite a few heads of those who haven’t.