Made Out Of Babies - The Ruiner
The End Records
Sludgy Alt-Metal
9 songs (41:11)
Release year: 2008
The End Records
Reviewed by James

I've got to admit female-fronted metal bands have never contributed much to my record collection. Of course, that's probably more down to my distaste for the whole Nightwish/Lacuna Coil/Epica crop of bands rather than any sexism on my part (I hope). Anyway, I was suitably intrigued by Julie Christmas' work with sludge-metal supergroup Battle Of Mice to check out her main band, who just happened to have a new album out this year. As I'm sure most of you out there will have heard of her through Battle Of Mice, I suppose I should warn you that Made Out Of Babies is a slightly more hardcore-influenced, gnarlier proposition. There's a lot of the primal sludge of Mastodon in here, combined with the pummelling experimental post-hardcore of At The Drive-In, and just a little of the rumbling, deeply rhythmical riffs of Tool. And of course, this is all topped off by Christmas' utterly mental vocal performance. She babbles, shrieks, and sings like Cedric Bixler-Zavala after a sex change. It's fair to say that she's the absolute star of the show, and that's no detriment to the musicians backing her up.

We open up here with Cooker, one of the most outright aggressive tracks on display here, with Christmas' shrieks layered with some barking male vocals, which'd be nice to see in other spots on the album, so it's a bit of a shame that it's not used more. Anyway, she sounds particularly fearsome here, and that bass heavy riff in the opening is one of the best on the album. Sounds like there are some keyboards in the mix at times, and they're tastefully used without ever sounding tacky. All in all, a strong start to the album, if a little incoherent at times in terms of riffs. Grimace follows suit, and it's a little more tightly structured, with more hooks, without ever feeling like a watered-down version of their sound. Single material, if Made Out Of Babies were popular enough to be bothered with such things. Invisible Ink seems to be an exercise in how devastating the lovely Julie can be when she properly sings. She seems to realize that merely child-like muttering and banshee wails would relegate her to the status of merely an oddity, or worse, a novelty. She doesn't necessarily turn in a technically great peformance, but then, polished operatic-diva warbling would be utterly at odds with the Cro-Magnon brutality behind her. She is all about feel, and puts so much passion into her singing that any faults merely add to the effect.

The Major is one of the most Battle Of Mice influenced tracks here, with Christmas using the semi-spoken singing that made that band so noticeable. The track's crushing climax wouldn't look of place on an Isis album, for sure. I suppose here's as good a place as any to mention the lyrics, which often deal with various unhinged characters. They manage to paint a vivid image of these various freaks and misfits that make up their cast, and it's fair to say this sort of writing is fairly rare within metal music. Buffalo is one of the most impressively written tracks here, with a little touch of black humour to proceedings. Musically, it's one of the more out there tracks with, brooding acoustics switching schizophrenically to out and out heaviness.

Mind, this isn't without it's faults. As I've mentioned, this is utterly Julie Christmas' album. It certainly feels more like a band than say, Evanescence, but I'd be lying if she doesn't overshadow her man-shaped cohorts entirely. Perhaps it's for the best, as the music occasionally falters on it's own. The aforementioned incoherence crops up frequently, and at times the band seem a little too content to bash away on their instruments and merely be LOUD, than to write anything interesting. The instrumental aspect of The Ruiner isn't bad by any means, but I do wonder whether the album would be as impressive with a different singer. Just-about-above-average sludgy alt-metal lifted up several notches by impressive vocals this may be, but I'll be darned if those vocals aren't strong enough to make The Ruiner a recommended-purachase.

Killing Songs :
Grimace, The Major, Buffalo
James quoted 78 / 100
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