Maybe it's because the gears of the hype machine have been spinning much slower for this one, but I really found myself looking forward to the new JOB FOR A COWBOY disc; despite my lack of interest in 2007's "Genesis". Not that the band's Metal Blade debut quite deserved the brow-beating it took from many purists, but I never felt like they earned their sudden spot amongst the "bigs" of our beloved genre either. Perhaps it's my stance in the middle that had me silently rooting for this young outfit to use the follow-up as an opportunity to fight for the spot they were perhaps a bit too prematurely thrust into. Well fight they did. Hell, they came out like a 'roid-ragin' cage-fighter with "Ruination"; a far more focused and schooled effort than its predecessor.
Before I get too carried away, it needs to be stated that "Ruination" is not drastically different than "Genesis", nor have JOB FOR A COWBOY taken any major evolutionary steps, but it's obvious that, as it should with any decent band, that time on the road has caused some musical maturity and overall progression. This makes a huge difference as this album contains some very well developed, yet still blistering and chaotic, examples of modern American death metal; a vast improvement from the "grind-blast breakdown for the sake of-grinding blasting and breaking down" that many of the tracks on "Genesis" were guilty of relying upon. New guitarist Al Glassman (ex-DESPISED ICON) gels nicely with the remaining Bobby Thompson as the two volley a good mix of snarling and doomy riffs, breakneck runs, clever bits of harmonizing and even the occasional, well-placed solo and melody line at each other without mercy. Glassman seems to have brought some feeling to this normally tech-addled table as the batter-ram grooves heard on parts of "Psychological Immorality" and the angular "March To Global Enslavement" demonstrate. The blatantly triggered drums of Jon "The Charn" Rice, who joined shortly after the recording of "Genesis" offers no real distinction from the sound ex-skinsman Elliot Sellers, but Rice holds his own nicely and provides a foundation solid enough for the guitars to shine. Even vocalist Jonny Davy steps it up a notch or two with a more guttural growl and shriek-ier shriek. He even manages to hit a few spots in between as he waxes poetically about all of society's dilemmas. As is typical with albums of this sort, bassist Brent Riggs spends most of the album buried beneath a pair detuned guitars. What's surprising about it here is that skilled knob-twiddler Jason Suecof did a commendable job making said axes as crisp and clear as could be; avoiding the over-distorted blurriness that has plagued death metal albums in the past. One would think there would be at least a little room for the bass. Oh, well.
Now that I'm about to get accused of welcoming this album with a raucous round of fellatio, let me get picky. As much of an improvement as I found "Ruination" to be, JOB FOR A COWBOY still have a ways to go before they reach the hall of fame. With most of the songs under the four-minute mark and jam-packed with riffs, the record can be an somewhat dizzying listen when taken in all at once. While several individual parts do reach out and grab throats with ferocity, there's a lot of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am going on as the band tries to squeeze as much brutality into 40 minutes as they can. Still, there's no denying that "Ruination" is a step in the right direction and shows that JOB FOR A COWBOY might actually be a fun band to watch grow up after all.