Even at just 42 minutes, the third album from Brooklyn’s burliest band still feels undeniably big and, like, totally epic. Part of that is down to Made Out of Babies’ artful wall-of-sludge riffs and its powerhouse rhythm section; an even bigger part is singer Julie Christmas.
Christmas’ voice ranges from a little-girl croon to a pained, swollen howl reminiscent of former Swans’ vocalist Jarboe. It’s a chilling and powerful instrument that flirts with therapy and catharsis but, in the end, simply rages at the confines of being a person and being alive. There’s nothing redemptive about Christmas’ tormented expression. Even the band behind her is so tightly wound that its songs turn in on themselves—it’s all grim, matter-of-fact statement with no release. With its grinding pace and subterranean bass, “Bunny Boots” churns like a buzzsaw. The seven-minute “Stranger” builds from a lilting, major-key verse to a crushing climax that swallows all light.
None of that prevents The Ruiner from being beautiful, in its own sick way. “Invisible Ink,” a diary entry straight from the gutter, nonetheless achieves a kind of nightmarish grandeur when Christmas coils her voice around Brendan Tobin’s serpentine guitar lines at the conclusion. The whole disc feels enormous but suffocating; it’s hard to take but impossible to turn away from.