EULOGY FOR AN OLD FRIEND
How my Sony ES got RUINed
Friends and family, we are gathered here today to pay tribute to a loved one who has left us much too soon. Sony ES was a good friend who shared in many of my life's happiest and saddest moments. Sony ES or ES for short (yes, it's a strange nickname but quite appropriate) was always there for me, never judging, never disappointing, and continually, unselfishly providing me with solace from the outside world.
Especially interesting was that ES liked exactly the same kind of music I did which made listening to CDs hassle-free. We would get together in my office and spin disc after disc, getting lost in each atmospheric landscape or careening violently to toxic skin-peels. ES developed a love for my favorite bands such as My Ruin. When I purchased A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish, my introduction to the band, he was there shaking noticeably from the brutality of Tairrie B Murphy's voice which came pouring out like molten lava on "Beauty Fiend". He ran for cover when Mick Murphy's chainsaw guitar cut the air wide open on "Heartsick". He sat in rapt attention while Tairrie purred through the Nick Cave cover "Do You Love Me".
Since then ES has been with me for a celebration of all the subsequent My Ruin records. In fact I believe in my heart that this is the primary reason for ES's untimely demise. His complexion seemed to pale whenever these records were put into rotation. ES never complained or protested though I knew the volume and sonic maelstrom was something that bothered him. He liked the music…it was just that the fury seemed to really affect him. A true friend, however, he just quietly absorbed the adverse effects that the music did to his delicate wiring….I mean, psyche.
I feel extremely guilty that I was complicit in his death. The main reason being that this was a slow death and if I truly faced reality, I could have seen this coming for years. It all began to have an effect with My Ruin's album Throat Full of Heart. When Tairrie B bellowed the first song, "Ready For Blood", the light began to flicker in ES's eyes, and he sporadically croaked out a mild protest. These almost epileptic-type seizures began to happen in increasingly disturbing intervals.
By the time the savagely vindictive A Southern Revelation was released, ES was a mere shell of his former self. And I did nothing to help him. I love My Ruin. What could I do? Not play them? No, from my perspective, ES just had to suck it up and enjoy the music as much as I did. Health be damned!
That mindset ultimately set things into motion for that slippery slope to the end. Allow me, if you will, to share with you ES's final hour. Finally….after months of an agonizingly long wait, I received the advance of My Ruin's latest record, The Sacred Mood. My fingers flew with Olympic-quality dexterity to activate the media player and bring this long-awaited collection to life.
From the very first few notes, my eyes darted to ES because I just knew that this record could do real damage. A brief countdown to detonation takes place with the first song, "Monolith of Wrath". The initial couple of lines are spoken ominously by Tairrie B while a restrained chugging gives a hint of the danger yet to come and then all hell breaks loose. ES started vibrating, slower at first then gradually lost control and yielded to the aural sensations. "Monolith…" is a lumbering beast that is like an out-of-control werewolf, scratching and clawing at everyone and everything. Six-string warlock Mick Murphy (he also plays drums on the record as well as being listed as co-producer) and bassist Luciano Ferrea combine for a sound that is as razor sharp as it is wet-cement heavy. Quite the intro.
"Moriendo Rensacor" came kicking and punching right out of the gate, spraying fire almost like a tommy gun from a comic book mobster. On every My Ruin record, there's at least one song where Tairrie B unleashes her trademark scream --- the one that separates her from everybody else in the game. There may be others that can growl lower, can shriek higher but NO one else can deliver the pure lethal venom she is capable of spewing. This song contains one such scream --- and after bearing witness to it, ES grew visibly paler. I, of course, ignored the danger to my friend and was in full head-banging mode.
The guy that Dave Grohl recently called "one of the world's best guitar players", Mick Murphy, starts off the first of my two favorite songs, "God is a Girl With a Butcher Knife", with a tasty little finger work-out before the piece slams into a pulverizing riff. Quickly the song switches gears with a foot on the break for a verse or two with Tairrie rapping the lyrics. For the chorus however, it's back to the scream and full-steam ahead riffing and if it's possible, Tairrie seems even more pissed off than usual. Love this one!!!
My favorite song is up next. "Heretic Dreams" has a swagger about it that is simply irresistible. It slowly emerges from its coffin, going into a surprising riff-laden verse with Tairrie B methodically spitting the words. Then the crushing riffs lead into the unexpected but awesome chorus where Tairrie lets it rip and goes full throat.
At this point ES began to stutter and keeled over. I asked if he was OK but there was no response. I propped him up and began entertaining not so best-friendly thoughts like, "If you're too weak to listen to this, maybe you shouldn't be." Turning my attention back to the record, "Honey of the Human Soul" is like a monstrous puddle of sludge eating its lunch. The verses are the sludge slowly surrounding its prey before pouncing on it and enthusiastically chowing down during the chorus. The song is noticeably, almost palpably, visceral.
The tranquil chorus of cicadas and a far-away train during a Tennessee summer evening is quickly blasted away by a Sabbath-y type dirge in "Insomniac Moon". Half spoken-word and half rabid bear, Tairrie's compelling voice commands your ears to follow her words closely.
"Hour of the Wolf" is like the afore-mentioned werewolf, this time on roller-skates (hey, it could happen), cutting a swath through a crowd wreaking destruction on a massive scale. Wow. Brutality…thy name is My Ruin.
Speaking of brutality, "Del Riche" is just that, only with a more deliberate and measured gait. And if you thought Tairrie was pissed off before, the chorus is pure rage, ending with another of those trademark screams that sounds like she's traded her soul for an extra layer of unholy menace.
At the conclusion of this song, ES began to cough and co-incidentally the music also began to sputter. I checked my computer but everything seemed fine. I was about to curse out ES and tell him leave but for some reason did an about-face. Compassion washed over me. I mean, My Ruin is heavy. No doubt about it. But this record is especially heavy. It's not for everyone, I guess and perhaps I was being insensitive for casting my own preferences on those with weaker stomachs. Right after the record is done, I thought, we'll play something a little gentler on the circuits…I mean nerves. But this was MY time and we were going to do it up in style. I turned the volume louder.
"Harsh Light of Day" exploded out of the speakers like the unholy union between gasoline and a match. Pounding, pulverizing….call it what ever you want. This track (again sort of Sabbath-y) is not something to be played when you have a hangover.
The final song is a u-turn surprise and then again not. My Ruin has a history of taking on covers and adding their own fingerprint to it. This time out, they tackle one of Elvis Presley's staples, "Trouble", and you have to hear it to appreciate it. Supremely cool, the song is both fun and scary. When Tairrie screams "I'm Evil" in her Linda-Blair-in-the-Exorcist voice, the hair on your arms starts lifting. Geezus!
The time had passed in what seemed like seconds. The record was done and I finally had a My Ruin fix in hand. The Sacred Mood shows the band in their best light and reinforces their two best attributes, the riveting vocals/lyrics of Tairrie B Murphy and the riff-master, Mick Murphy. The band expands their sound on several cuts, moderately…not shockingly and gives you a reason to want to dig into every song. On this, their eighth studio record, they seem at the top of their game.
At the conclusion of the last track, I turned to look at ES and I just knew that things were serious. He was in a horizontal position, unresponsive to verbal and physical commands. Vitals seemed absent. The full weight of the situation bore down on me. I had killed my best friend. I had killed ES. In reality, My Ruin had killed ES but I could hardly blame them. It wasn't them who played the records constantly. It wasn't them who kept the volume cranked to atom-pulverizing levels. It was me and I had to take responsibility.
In partial celebration of ES's life and in a just plain morbid style of acceptance, there was only one thing to do. That, of course, was to play My Ruin's "Spilling Open" and embrace the last verse where Tairrie whispers, "I guess it doesn't really matter when there's nothing left. Sometimes you gotta let it go and just enjoy the death!"
OK, you may or may not have caught on long before this but ES is actually my team of stereo speakers. Sony ES series. Yeah, I know it'll probably sound strange to most to name your speakers but when you spend as much time with your equipment as I do and also love music as deeply as I do, I think I'm allowed some leeway. I mean some people dress up their dogs! Far be it for me to comment.
To wrap up this eulogy/review of sorts, I should close with this update. For the few that care (if any), I assuaged my grief by paying a visit to my local electronic haven and purchased a new ES system. I thought briefly about ES #1 as I plugged in all the proper components and thought of all the good times we had shared. Then I shrugged and returned to the business of the day: metal! I had no choice, really. I had a new My Ruin record to re-listen to.