When thinking about Athens Greece, images come to mind of the mythology, the architecture and the place in history it all holds. You never think of spurts of self-hate being actualized over post-hardcore/noise punk elements. Cue Ruined Families, a band from Athens who has used two LPs and one seven inch to kick in any door that would dare stand before them. Ruined Families are back for more self-loathing with Blank Language, their most compelling album to date.
Using iconic film quotes to describe Blank Language, I would defer to the iconic quote uttered by Clark in John Carpenter’s The Thing. “I don’t know what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off whatever it is.” Ruined Families want you to know how angry they are. Please, come in, sit down, we’re Ruined Families, we’re fucking pissed and we want to spit it all over you. Fear not, you won’t be bored; we have way too many influences shimmying through our work for that.
Blank Language is clearly structured with post-hardcore and punk, but Ruined Families layer in feedback, squealing guitars in the vein of Black Flag, they throw in blast beats, then saturate their music in slow, plodding riffage. Ruined Families manage to pull in screamo elements without making it offensive. There’s little in the way of subtly here. From the opening chords of “Only Need Is Real”, Ruined Families are pushing to cave your skull in. At the pinnacle of this rage, the band opens up with a Greg Ginn meets Slayer hammer guitar line that stays constant while the band plays around it. “Only Need Is Real” comes off like an anxiety attack brought on by way too much speed.
In contrast, “To New Parents” is all aggression, a bull shark attack of thundering drums, guitar chords being beaten to death and screams of both warning and loathing. “208” eases off the full on attack, at least musically. The guitars groove here and then swoop up into a scream elevation, though still staying muddied with down tuned heaviness. Vocally we get the same attack as before. Song after song, Ruined Families keeps pushing their sound in your face, which is their one weakness.
When you’re creating music so primal, you need to have something threaded through the songs that distinguish them from everything else. Ruined Families haven’t found that something. The main problem comes from the vocals, which are screamed the same way no matter what the music is doing. As interesting as the guitars might be, as crushing as the drums might pound, the repetitive nature of Ruined Families’ vocals drains at least a third of the energy of the songs. It’s not a fatal flaw of Blank Language, but it does take away from the impact.
Blank Language isn’t perfect, but it is a competent slice of post-hardcore/noise punk.