Age of Ruin

The Tides of Tragedy

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With so little quality melodic death metal to go round on U.S. shores, one can't help but want to pull for Washington, D.C.'s Age of Ruin, whose year 2000 debut album, Black Sands of the Hourglass, put a welcome American face on the well-loved Gothenburg sound. However, much has changed in the band's situation (not least a large amount of personnel turnover) during the intervening years leading up to their second release, 2004's long-awaited The Tides of Tragedy. Primarily, it appears that the arrival of new vocalist Ben Swan has added a heavy dosage of hardcore to the group's musical mix, resulting in many new tracks like "Yesterday's Ghost," "Elapse," and "Yours to Bury" having more in common with recent stateside success stories Killswitch Engage and God Forbid, than Age of Ruin's original European inspirations. All this is fine and good, since, in retrospect, pre-existing metal-core elements are now easily identifiable in Age of Ruin's earlier work, and there's no doubt the work of Killswitch Engage and their like has greatly helped revitalize American metal; but what isn't fine and good is how this retooled direction often leaves Age of Ruin sounding like a substandard imitation of these bands. Simply compare the seemingly forced "A Portrait of Solemn Seas" and the downright clumsy "Diaries of the Dead" with more straightforward, old-school melodic death songs like "Truest Flame," "Siren's Passage," and "Glowing Embers" and you'll see how much more comfortable the band sounds with the latter. But, then again, there's the ultra-derivative "Serengeti" -- a mildly tribal, all-acoustic guitar-driven number ripped right off of In Flames' The Jester Race period -- to argue the exact opposite point. So what, after all, is the group's ideal direction? It's truly impossible to tell, but whatever it turns out to be, the fact is The Tides of Tragedy has the feel of a rather confused, possibly transitional effort for Age of Ruin. With so much unfulfilled but promising songwriting on hand here, chances are the right mix may be just around the bend.

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