Saturday, June 14, 2014
I initially found out about this band in 2001 when I received their demo for review for both my own zine and also for HardcoreWebsite.net ... which I somehow ended up doing reviews for as a 15 year old kid. There were always a lot of bands who promised to send demos to both ... and I would be lucky to receive one. Having a band follow through on sending to both was a rarity that potentially never happened at any other point.
The cliche is that you've listened to an album so much that it wore out ... well, in this case, it was genuinely true. CD-R technology wasn't up to the standards that it is today but luckily I had two copies. This demo stood out amongst the hundreds that I received as one of my favorites. It was the dawn of melodic metalcore and something about this demo struck me as sounding like a "hardcore version" of In Flames' Clayman album which I had been jamming steadily since I had seen them open for Earth Crisis the year prior.
I was even more surprised to find out that the band was from Fairfax, VA; both a suburb of Washington DC and also a city not exactly known for its metalcore scene. Potentially more intriguing was the recording which I would later found out was done by Ken Olden of Damnation AD fame. While this wasn't the typical style of aggressive music he was known for, it worked well for the raw sound that the band initially pioneered amidst the other bands of the genre who were going the route of triggered drums, sound replaced guitars and pitch-corrected vocals.
I suppose I should back up slightly as the band released a demo in 1998 entitled The Opium Dead when they initially started which I only recently received a copy of thanks to a contribution which I'll go into later. While two songs would be re-recorded (something the band seemed to love doing), two tracks are only available on this cassette. In the year 2000 the band released the full length entitled Black Sands Of The Hourglass on a label I've never seen another release from called Dark Moon Empire. This would later be re-mastered and re-released in 2003 with both a new, exclusive track and a really horrible Bon Jovi cover. While this album still destroys most of the other metalcore coming from both the era and area, there was not much progression from their debut demo recorded two years prior. The maturity found between said debut full length and the following recording session in 2001, however, is quite noticeable.
Actually, what I'm continually referring to as the "demo" I received in 2001 is technically the Autumn Lanterns EP. The only difference between the CD-R that I received for review and the officially released EP is the addition of a fifth track entitled No Kiss Cuts As Deep. Released by the then-infamous label Tribunal Records, this EP served as the band's introduction to the larger audience that the label held at the time. It wasn't long after that the band started gaining recognition regionally. It around this time that I finally got to see the band live at The Bunion Bowl in Baltimore, MD. Equally as memorable as the set was the vocalist smashing beer bottles over his own head. I believe there was actually footage in the trailer for the Bunion Bowl DVD which never saw the light of day.
It was probably around this time that the band was firing on all four cylinders and started working on their sophomore EP, The Longest Winter's Woes. In a turn of events the band chose to release this session on a relatively marginal local label which was churning out most of the Baltimore Hardcore acts of the time called DFF Records. Once again produced by Ken Olden the album was every bit as vital as the preceding EP yet failed to make a comparable impact; probably due in part to the lack of distribution or promotion from the upstart label.
It's somewhere around this time period (2004/2004) that the story gets interesting. At some point after the release of The Longest Winter Woes EP the band's original vocalist went separate ways with the rest of the band and a replacement was found in former Samadhi vocalist Ben Swan. Readers of the blog may remember a post I had made on Samadhi nearly two years ago which can be found HERE. It was also at this time that the band signed a deal with yet another then-prestigious label by the name of Eulogy Records. The stage had been set for the band to finally break out of their seemingly-regional confines of the time. Despite the departure of the last-remaining original member and nearly sole song writer (guitarist Daniel Flemming) immediately following the recording of the full length, the band decided to carry on with their plans for several national tours (including Warped Tour) and eventually a European jaunt.
It was the beginning of 2006 whenever the original members (none of which were involved with the current line-up) decided to re-form to not only reclaim their material ... but also their name! For several years there were two incarnations of the band simultaneously playing shows ... and some of the same tracks! With the recently reformed group touting to be the "original" and Eulogy Records claiming to be in possession of the "real", I feel like I remember one of them eventually breaking down and performing simply as "The Ruin" ... but I can't remember which one.
The quarrel would be a relatively short-lived one, however, as the Eulogy Records version would go on to play their final show in 2007. They would not go quietly into the night as the band actually recorded both an unreleased three song demo in 2006 an entire full length before disbanding in 2007. Unfortunately for us, however, vocals were only laid down for one and a half songs (out of the nine tracked) on the full length. The only song that DID get finished was recorded a few hours before their final show. The session has been sitting dormant ever since.
This is not the finality of the story for Age Of Ruin as a whole. The original incarnation who came back into form in 2006 would go on to record a full length in 2009 entitled One Thousand Needles. While this was only released digitally through iTunes, it was technically considered to be a Hand Of Hope Records release. The album is a solid offering. The irony of the entire story is that the song-writing is nearly seemless between the two groups. To the untrained ear even the interchangeable vocalists are quite similar. With alternating releases coming out concurrently the story almost needn't be told.
Thankfully for my always-curious mind, however, I recently received not only a reply to a message I sent to a nearly-dormant YouTube account entitled "AgeOfRuin" but also a care package containing the original 1998 demo, some shirts and a whole slew of rare Mp3s courtesy of Joe, the bassist from 2004 on. While I am NOT including the unreleased full length, I AM including some rarities that will be found throughout the download links.
Once again, thanks to the kindness of Joseph taking the time to write me several lengthy e-mails to help put the pieces of the puzzle together along with the demo cassette I've been searching out for over a decade ... it inspires me to continue making posts here for everyone to enjoy. It's nice to get something in return every once in a while for the time I spend babbling here.
DOWNLOAD - Opium Of The Dead (1998 Demo + Skeletal Marionettes, unreleased compilation track)
DOWNLOAD - Black Sands Of The Hourglass (2004 remastered re-release)
DOWNLOAD - Autumn Lanterns EP (2001)
DOWNLOAD - The Longest Winter's Woes (2003)
DOWNLOAD - The Tides Of Tragedy (2004)
DOWNLOAD - Unreleased Demo (2006)
DOWNLOAD - One Thousand Needles (2009)
DOWNLOAD - Burn This City & Cancerous (from the unreleased full length ... which rules, by the way)