With the release of their sophomore album, it’s easy to forget that this is a band that’s still in its infancy. Born out of a period of deep personal angst, debut album Blossom was released into the world with all of the ferocity of a caged animal. Barbed social commentary and venomous hardcore punk alerted the world to the band, while their live shows only reaffirmed Carter’s legacy as one of the most vital artists of the 21st century.
I’ve seen Blossom described as a Molotov cocktail. It’s rough, ready and bristling with animosity. It could shatter into pieces and engulf everyone around it in flames. Modern Ruin, by contrast, is a statement in measured indignation, like the arc the cocktail makes through the air after it’s been thrown. You can’t help but be transfixed as it hangs in the air, but the threat of impact is everpresent.
The album opens solemnly, with Frank taking up guitar duties on Bluebelle, an ode to growing old named in honour of his beloved dog. The tempo soon picks up, though, with a number of familiar faces immediately making themselves known. Lullaby, Snake Eyes and Wild Flowers no longer need any introduction, and instantly highlight that this is a band effortlessly comfortable experimenting with their sound. Anthemic alternative rock expertly navigates issues both personal and global, indicating in equal measure this band’s vigour and versatility.
Vampires introduces a menacing yet soulful sound into the mix, with a chorus that can justifiably stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any other on the album. It’s not until the sub-minute Jackals, with its rampant percussive beat, that we hear anything that would sit easily amongst the songs that endeared this band to many on Blossom.
The title track takes that title though, reminding anyone who may have forgotten of the visceral power that this band possess. It feels like a door closing on the sound of their debut, but that would be to do this track an injustice. It’s more akin to taking it apart with a pickaxe and throwing it over the roof of your house than simply shutting it behind you.
Neon Rust starts with a melody that you’d catch your mum humming to herself, that is, until the vicious final swansong kicks in, providing a glorious curtain closer to a record that is marked by its often restrained aggression and experimental brashness.
Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes have done what many bands try, and fail to do, in ensnaring the rage of hardcore punk and moulding it into melodic alternative anthems. The social and personal commentary is still there though; darkness lurks beneath the harmonies.
The venom remains; it’s just been distilled and bottled. It may look beautiful but inside it’s even more potent. For a band that has set their eyes to the skies, Modern Ruin may prove to be a career defining moment.