The deteriorating economic situation in Greece has been worldwide news for a while now, and besides the repetitive and insulting media simplification of these issues — austerity, austerity, austerity — it’s a reality that few can truly relate to and even fewer can effectively write music about. With Blank Language, the aptly named Ruined Families have attempted to convey this caustic vitriol of a generation the best way they know how, by pinning you down with 20 minutes of aggressive, thickly layered blackened hardcore fused with the hazy retrospective qualities of post-punk.
It’s this successful pairing of styles, coupled with the knowledge that you know the anger is real, which makes Blank Language work. Whilst the screamed lyrics are generally indecipherable, lost amongst the muddy production, it only adds weight to the title of the record — a reminder that within the realm of music, honest delivery has the ability to transcend literal understanding. You don’t need to hear every word to hear passion.
If you do choose to find context, however — and it’s an album which benefits greatly from doing so — then you won’t have to go far to find it. ‘I don’t want anyone to decide what’s good for me’ on Easy Livin’. ‘In this city that smells gasoline and boredom / we’ve been cheated by everyone’ on Definition in Paradox. The despairing simplicity of ‘and I can see my friends / they are all here / but they look sadder’ on closer’ Pedestal’. It’s an album full to the brim of this poignant rhetoric. Perhaps the most resonant of all though, is left to the thunderous 208, and the pained, exasperated chanting of ‘Athens without answers’ that closes it out. You won’t suddenly be able to grasp what it’s like to live in modern day Greece, but these visceral outbursts paint a much more realistic picture than any late night news bulletin will.
It would be unfair to cast judgement on Blank Language without further examination of the musical styles which fill it, though. Traditional hardcore sections frequently devolve into these melodic Joy Division-esque interludes, bridging the gap between onslaughts. The best examples of this contrast are found on opener ‘Only Need Is Real’ and the following ‘To New Parents”. Indeed, you can really tell that Ruined Families have varied musical tastes, and it’s impressive that they’ve drawn from them to create this intriguing blackened post-punk sound. There is also little rest bite from the intensity here — the riffs are always churning and the drums are always loud.
If you can see past the initial harsh nature of the sound — heavy, biting and relentless — you’ll find a lot to admire in Blank Language. It’s an album which captures all that’s good about the hardcore spirit — part catharsis, part battle cry. And, whilst I won’t pretend to fully understand the situations that Ruined Families attempt to describe, I do know that it’s through music like this that I’ll be told the stories with the most truth, the most obvious of which is reserved for the very last line of the record — ‘I have no name’.
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