With Hell is Empty Ruiner return with one scathing, vicious, and beautiful album. It was worth the two year wait that fans endured between this Prepare to be Let Down. What Ruiner had developed on Prepare to be Let Down has been greatly expanded upon on Hell is Empty. The songwriting is much more dynamic, and J. Robbins' organic production shines without glossing over what makes this record, and hardcore in general so appealing: the raw energy, the emotion. The worst thing that a band can do in hardcore is overproduce a record, and strip it of all emotion and soul (coughboysetsfiretomorrowcomestodaycough). Instead what we get from Ruiner is a quality release, that while not at the full-on breakneck full-out speed frenzy that Prepare to be Let Down was, is still chock full of sing-alongs, finger pointing, and circle pit parts that the kids go crazy over these days.
The album comes to a blistering open with "I'm Out." a track detailing the protagonist's coming to grips with the past that is haunting him. Exactly how he is "out" isn't made clear, but it's ambiguous enough to be left up to the listener that this person is either on the verge of suicide or on the verge of leaving the life which they are entrapped in. "Dead Weight" continues the assault as a critique on a generation and people in general who are born with a sense of entitlement, and that life owes them something. Vocalist Rob Sullivan's response to that attitude is that "Life owes me nothing but a cold deep grave and a promise to never wake me up when I close my eyes." "Two Words" - which opens with the line "Hello you fuckers, you assholes, you social rejects
" - continues the assault with a critique of the current state of the scene. It takes jabs at people afraid to speak their minds, for fear of retaliation via keyboards and "former role models who gave in to their own cynicism." While not a role model, I know that being a part of hardcore and punk rock is something that makes you more and more cynical as time goes on. It's hard to always remember that. This song is the check and balance we all need to remember why we're here.
"Part One" and "Part Two" are companion songs about a relationship, "Part One" being the slower of the two, hoping for not fucking up the relationship, and not making the mistakes of the past. "Part Two" going from mid-tempo to blisteringly fast and acknowledging the inevitable messy car crash ending of the relationship, but knowing exactly where to place the blame. "Convenient Gods" focuses on Rob's feelings towards religion. "Meat" about two people needing each other in the most basic of ways, and the emptiness that can be felt. "Loneliest of Hearts" continues as mid-tempo mediation on those that through their entire efforts into a single goal, and pay for it with loneliness. "Committed" is a song reflecting on the loss of self. Of playing a part so many times, that you lose yourself in it, and forget where the real you ends, and the acted out part begins. "Solitary" is a song for a friend that cannot escape his past and let's his demons continue to rule his life.
The ability of the band to expand and shift their entire songwriting focus from just sheer speed, to writing slower, more interesting parts that vocalist Rob Sullivan can utilize to for maximum effect by grabbing the listener by the throat through the speakers and spit these words at you with the utmost contempt. Ruiner has definitely proven they are able to write slower, more intricate and scathing hardcore songs. Just being able to speed along at warp speed can only convey so much meaning and emotion. I'm glad they've decided to expand and grow past breakneck speed, and add a whole new level to their music.
Hell is Empty is Ruiner on top of their game when it comes to lyrical content. Rob Sullivan tells some very compelling stories here, dealing with the cynical side of life; Puppy dogs and ice cream this is not. With this release Ruiner shows that they aren't a one trick pony, and in fact can grow and make the best record of their career so far.