Having not heard either of MADE OUT OF BABIES' previous two releases, I went into "The Ruiner" completely cold and perhaps a bit naïve. Between the head-scratching cover that proudly displays a hefty pair of Neanderthal breasts and the fact that the band is a part of The End Records' eclectically diverse roster, I didn't expect to hear anything that fell within the confines of 'the norm, but nor did I expect to walk away from the experience more than slightly disturbed. By that I mean I was hit with the kind of uneasiness that comes from staring into Jack Nicholson's eyes during the best parts of "The Shining" or by listening to your grandfather giving a detailed description of how he killed three Nazi soldiers and was forced to live off the corpses back in WWII. In short, I haven't been quite right since this album spun its way into the dark corners of my mind.
Fronted by the multiple-personalities of demented diva Julie Christmas (BATTLE OF MICE), MADE OUT OF BABIES is perhaps the darkest of the current crop of left-of-center, art-rock bands. By smashing the indie noise-rock vibe of THE JESUS LIZARD into the subversive influence of acts like ISIS and NEUROSIS, MADE OUT OF BABIES has come up with a sound that serves as both hypnotic and devastating. Obviously, a strong selling point on this disc is going to be the emotionally disturbed vocal style of Christmas and the manner in which she can shape-shift between vocal personalities on a whim, and often in the frame of a single verse. Part melodic songstress, part snarling beast and part bizzaro-Lilith Fair headliner; Christmas is either a vocal genius or off her meds. Either way, it works. Echoing her focused schizophrenia, bassist Cooper, drummer Matthew Egan and guitarist Brendan Tobin funnel their swirling vortex of sound into a backdrop that's both oppressively heavy and oddly melodic. Acoustic layering and interludes, intelligent use of dynamics and harmonic subtleties do well do add depth to the overall feel of the album.
Opening track "Cooker" grabs your attention right away with a robotic intro before taking your senses on one hell of a roller-coaster. The layers of distortion and angst give "Grimace" and "Peew" a bit of an UNSANE vibe. Showing her impressive vocal range, "Invisible Ink" and "The Major" boast Christmas' most powerful vocal hooks while the trio behind her prove themselves to be talented songwriters by intertwining their respective instruments around one another.
While this particular breed of music can either be hit or miss with me, I found "The Ruiner" to be a very good album, albeit one that took a bit to grow on me. I don't expect this will be one that metal purists or smashmouth pit-dwellers will flock to, but the gut-wrenching level of emotional disturbia can't be denied. Simply put, this is more of a cerebral assassination than a blistering sonic onslaught.