Dead City Ruins are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with, both on the Melbourne scene and internationally. Since releasing their debut album in 2011, they’ve done numerous tours of Australia and Europe, including a full tour with hard rock heavyweights Skid Row and Ugly Kid Joe. Now the band, consisting of singer Jake Wiffen, guitarists
Tommy ‘T-bone’ Cain and Sean Blanchard, bassist Matthew Berg and drummer Nick Trajanovski, have released their third album, ‘Never Say Die’. The album, of course, shares its name with the final Black Sabbath album to feature Ozzy Osbourne on vocals, but the influence doesn’t end at the title.
The album is full of fuzzy guitar riffs, sing-along friendly choruses and just enough dynamic variation to keep things interesting. The album’s twelve tracks total forty-three minutes, but in actual fact, the last three tracks are live renditions of songs from this very album; meaning that there are only nine new songs, coming in at just over half an hour.
The album’s opening track, Devil Man provides a teaser of what’s to come with two-and-a-half minutes of fuzzy, ballsy rock & roll. In this short tune, they manage to squeeze in two distinct sections, the second containing a galloping Iron Maiden-style rhythm and wailing vocals. Following on from the welcome ceremony, we get two back-to-back singles, Bones and Dirty Water. Both of these songs have catchy choruses that will definitely go down well in a live setting and are ripe for airplay in Australia and Europe. Cain and Blanchard lock into each other with Berg playing rumbling basslines underneath, while Wiffen wears his influence on his sleeve – his Ozzy Osbourne-esque vocal delivery is produced to maximum effect and stands out over the rest of the music.
The band takes a different musical approach on the next two tracks, Rust and Ruin and The River Song. The intro for Rust and Ruin gives off the impression that it’s going to be a mellow tune, but as the chorus kicks in, the band switches back into heavy territory. The usage of light and dark definitely proves that the guys have skills when it comes to composition and arrangement. That mentality also carries over to The River Song, which features chain gang vocals and clean, arpeggiated guitar in the intro. I actually liked the swampier production on this track, and I applaud the boys for creating something fun.
When you have a song called, We Are One, you need something at the beginning to call everyone to arms. Enter Trajanovski with a tom-heavy drum pattern, followed quickly by the rest of the band with another dark, bluesy riff. Things are reaching turbo-Sabbath level by this point, with a Children of the Grave style rhythm and another chorus to bring in the crowd. Destroyer and Raise Your Hands continues very much in the same vein as the rest of the album, and aside from a couple of neat effects, there’s nothing here to distinguish them from the other tracks.
The final new song on the album, Lake Of Fire is the longest track on the album and is broken up into several sections. We get a nice little, unaccompanied guitar showcase as an intro before the bass and vocals come in with an ominous descending melody, reminiscent of Skyhooks’ Horror Movie intro. Once the drums kick in, it turns into a slow headbanging jam, perfect for getting stoned to. The rest of the song continues alternating between quiet and loud, before closing with a two-minute jam on a steady Wanton Song-style riff and drum beat. A great closing riff, but a rather anticlimactic ending due to the band’s decision to simply fade out.
The back end of the CD contains live versions of Devil Man, We Are One and Bones, all of which sound far superior to their studio counterparts. Without the slick production to spruce up the tunes, what’s left is raw energy and a great sample of why Dead City Ruins are getting rave reception for their live performances.
If you’re a fan of classic metal and believe in the mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, then you’ll love ‘Never Say Die’. It’s full of well-crafted riffs with very clear and clean production all the way through. All of the songs work well together and would fit perfectly into a complete live set. However, if you like your albums with a little more variety, you’ll find that the Ozzy-esque vocals and fuzzy guitars get stale even before the thirty minutes is up. There were times when I was surprised though, mainly with the live tracks and the alternate production style on The River Song. I wish Dead City Ruins great success going forward, and I’m hopeful that a full live release isn’t too far away.