Bands appearing out of nowhere is pretty much our bread and butter around here, but after weeks of listening to the self-titled demo from Philadelphia-based solo mission Poison Ruïn, the whole project remains somehow otherworldly. But even in that remote land where gloomy vibes are the norm and dungeon synth, peace punk, NWOBHM and black metal combined does not make for such a strange and bewildering sound, even in that faraway, make-believe land, Poison Ruïn must stand as exemplary work.
Perhaps our readers will be as shocked as we were when Mac Kennedy told us via email: “The Poison Ruïn ep was written and recorded by myself. There is a live band in the works, but no official lineup yet.” Mac continues to explain how “Philadelphia has a rich DIY punk scene- most folks making music are in multiple bands.” Mac also plays in ICD10, Insane Earth, and TVO.
According to Mac, the heady and addictive concoction, that they describe as “gloomy peace punk with a NWOBHM/hard rock backbone” came about simply as a result of a love for sundry sounds. “I love punk and metal records that have dramatic, atmospheric intros,” they say. “Ghoul’s Jerusalem or Bolt Thrower’s War Master come to mind. It adds dimension to a recording, like as an artifact. I’m also a big fan of dungeon synth but have never been able to commit to making anything of the length or scope of a typical dungeon synth record,” They continue: “Also, some of the guitar parts in the songs were originally written on a keyboard. But the keyboard just didn’t work as a layer in the recordings. It didn’t blend, didn’t fucking rock basically. But when you translate an idea between instruments, certain qualities can be lost or changed. So doing the keyboard interludes is a way to sort of show a different side to some of the parts in the songs.”
Some of the metal-feeling that Poison Ruïn give off comes from their aesthetics, but the meaning behind this is cooler than you realize. As Mac put its: “The idea behind the aesthetics of Poison Ruïn is to reappropriate aspects of medieval and black metal imagery. I love this sort of imagery, brutal fantasy stuff, but often find myself in direct ideological opposition to what it has come to represent. It’s often wielded by folks with backwards, radically conservative politics,—racism, sexism, etc.—truly deplorable, dangerous shit. And being apolitical within a certain genre or aesthetic just results in being associated with the ideals of the dominating voice or cultural assumptions surrounding that style. I think this type of imagery can be re-contextualized to represent and inspire more leftist thought while still being just as fucking sick. The idea with the art is to blend brutal medieval imagery with the iconic style of anarcho-punk. The name draws on this too. There are at least a couple great Poison ___ punk bands, the Ruïn part is the medieval part.”
According to Mac, Poison Ruïn “was recorded in a practice space in a West Philly warehouse.”
Mac says, “There were some really frustrating equipment malfunctions while recording—parts recorded at slightly different speeds, or digital transfers crashing, etc. Basically all of the recording gear had been on the verge of collapse for a long time, and then died mid-way through the process. I had to completely re-track a few instruments multiple times. I ended up having to buy some new gear just to finish tracking. It all works great now, but it put me in the hole financially, so big thanks to anyone who bought the EP!
“From the start the songs covered a wide stylistic ground, so the challenge was to sharpen the aesthetic vision to help shape them into something cohesive. It was probably beneficial to have to re-record certain parts multiple times. This helped hone the role of the different instruments. I think the rhythm section came out consistently hard-hitting, which helped solidify an overarching sound. Being able to glue it all together with the interludes helped.”
According to Mac, the incredible stand-out track “‘Demon Wind’ started with that main melody in the beginning and end of the song plunked out on a piano. I wanted to do songs with that sort of lumbering not-too-fast pogo beat. It’s really menacing and powerful, but also has the space for the guitar to be melodic. So I basically just cycled through little melodies I had laying around until I found one that locked in with that feel. I still wanted to have the part play in its original form, so that was where the sort of melodramatic parts switching in and out for the fast part came from.
“The lyrics are about environmental disaster, how it’s like this looming force conjured by greed and negligence. It’s like a cosmic horror that’s too big and too real to be able to even comprehend.” According to Mac it’s also the name of a B horror movie he’s always loved.
As for the demo cover, according to Mac that “picture was taken on the roof of a south Philly row house,” they say. “I imagine there are some confused candid snaps lingering in my neighbors’ social media feeds…”
Meanwhile Mac says they’re already “well into the recording of a second EP. It pretty much directly mirrors the stylistic spread and pace of the first EP, so expect more of the same.”
Looking ahead, Mac says “I’m talking with some folks about doing a compilation 12” of the first and second eps once the second one is completed. Beyond that, getting the live band together and playing some shows (if that will ever be a possibility again…)”
When asked if there will be a repress, Mac says writing and recording new material is the focus right now. You know what they say? No repress for the wicked!