Logo For Ruin

Celtic Metal - no thanks!

For years people think only of a few big names like Primordial or Cruachan when it comes to the Emerald Isle. But especially lately the Irish scene started developing strongly again, and Irish bands can raise their degree of popularity because of the healthy and vibrant scene. One man who has been observing this buzzing of activity for many years is John Murphy, mastermind of FOR RUIN who introduce their first album "December".

"In fact these days there are almost too many bands and gigs in Ireland. A number of promoters, events, websites and venues around the country have all helped the resurgence of Irish metal and it's really taking off. We are one of a number of new bands in the scene who are doing well. We have been fortunate to sign a record deal that suits us for now and we are going to use it as a stepping stone to hopefully bigger and better things. All of the bands in Ireland are pretty well connected and know each other. One of the mistakes an outsider looking in might make is that 'all Irish bands play Celtic/folk metal'. That couldn't be further from the truth. Personally I dislike (intensely!) that type of music and only one or two of those bands I can think of are worth listening to. Primordial have stayed clear of that path and are ambassadors for the scene here - but the majority of bands in Ireland does not sound like them. There are many extreme metal bands here who play death, thrash, grind and whatever sub-genres you care to invent. As to what we sound like - I think it's safe to say we sound nothing like our Irish compatriots and have more in common with our friends in 90s Scandinavia and the Mediterranean! I see the scene in Ireland with a view that many of my age group would see it - growing. There was no scene to speak of in Ireland for ten years or more, until recently. In the early 90s there were gigs etc. in Ireland but that faded away and in recent times with the growing popularity of metal again, Ireland has picked up on that." There is a simple reason for John consistently using the 'we'-form. Originally founded as a one man project, John goes through with FOR RUIN on his own for several years. In 2004 some of the written material ends up on a split demo. These recordings are rough, unpolished... and no longer available. 2004 is also the year John moves to Valencia where he writes and records the second demo "Shade". He distributes a lot of free copies of it at gigs in Ireland and abroad, and this is the demo he really pushes hard in the press. "Shade" sells pretty well and helps getting FOR RUIN's sound recognised. Back in Ireland John continus to write material and checks label offers coming in because of the "Shade" demo. However, he turns them down and starts working on the third demo "Obsidian" on which he spends a lot of time and only releases it in limited quantities in late 2006 when he is happy with the material and the sound. Around this time the first line-up of FOR RUIN comes together. "Obsidian" was rated very highly and really got us noticed - there are some very strong tracks on it, and the sound was pretty good. We started gigging pretty soon after its release and the line-up had changed completely (other than myself) by October 2006. Not for 'bad' reasons but the other three guys' lives were taking them abroad at the time so a new crew came onboard and they are great! We signed a deal with Sentinel Records (Dublin) in early 2007 after releasing a limited live DVD and recorded our debut album "December" for them in March and April 2007. It's out now and we're playing in support of it. I coudn't set up a band in Spain because I knew I wouldn't be staying there indefinitely."

The teamwork with drummer Barry English, guitarist Drew Myers and bassist Barry O'Sullivan works out very well and offers - apart from being able to play live - various advantages. Seven of ten songs on "December" are re-recorded and show lots of improvements compared to the original versions. "It's a clear advantage to have other ideas and creativity in there if it fits the 'sound' of the band, and the guys are really into what we play. I hope there won't be any changed in the line-up. It's working well and doesn't need anything else at the moment. The guys are full members and while all the material was written prior to their joining the band, I hope that their input will come to the fore for the next recording. Their own playing individual styles have already given the songs a new identity and they sound different live to the way they do on the recordings. We have played a lot of shows and that allows the songs to evolve a bit more. Regarding the re-recordings the individual performances of the four musicians that play on the album make the new versions sound quite different to the versions I recorded alone on the demos. Yes, my vocals and guitar play are still more or less the same but the other three parts are different. For me personally, the main improvement has to be in the drumming. I am - or was anyway! - a capable drummer but nothing compared to Barry's standard. The drums on the first demo are all live drums. The drums on "Shade" and "Obsidian" are a 50:50 mixture between programmed and played drums (electronic drum pads and drum samples). Now on the album we are back to 100 percent live, raw drums, played by an excellent drummer who has made many of the songs his own." Some people may be surprised or, if they own the demos, even disappointed to find only three new songs on the album instead of a bunch of brand new tracks but John has a good and traceable reason for that. "Mostly because the demos were only released in Ireland. They had some good songs on them that evolved once the band starting playing live shows and we wanted to release them recorded pretty much how they sound now when played live. Many people outside Ireland (with the exception of those in the press who reviewed the demos) hadn't heard, and still haven't heard, the album so I think it was a good idea to include some of the songs from the demos. The older songs in many ways sound quite different on the album (and live) from how they sounded on the demos. The second album will be the opposite. We may have one or two old songs on it but it will predominantly be new material which will be characteristic for FOR RUIN. Aggression with melody and harmonies with memorable parts that stay in your head. Not a single note has been recorded in the past without my pouring over it for a while and playing around with it to be sure it's right. FOR RUIN stand for songs that have had some thought put into their structure and flow and not just fast or heavy for the sake of it."

For Ruin Band
Picture provided by John Murphy

On the whole international music journalism seems to confirm these statements for "December" as the reviews mostly turn out positive. "True, some of the reviews have been over positive to be honest and that's nice to see. I have no illusions however. We are a small band on a small label in a big scene and progression and recognition take time. We are doing well in Ireland and that's where we have to start. Although the band as an entity has been going for a while it has only been playing live a little under two years now so there's plenty of time for growth yet. Most people talk about the sound on the album. It's not the most polished album in the world ever and it's quite 'live' sounding. However, everyone seems to agree that the songs on it are very catchy and well written and that's the key point to my mind. Next time we record I'm sure we'll use a better studio and the production duties will be shared between myself and a pro-engineer. We are ramping up the promotion internationally now and we hope to play some shows in the UK/Europe in 2008." Names which often appear in reviews are Rotting Christ, Katatonia or Death. And obviously John has no problems with such comparisons as "people have recognised my influences since the first demo, and they're still the same today. The demos only have my influences on them and the album has some more with the guys playing on it. I have listened to artists like Rotting Christ, Katatonia, Paradise Lost, At The Gates, Death, Amorphis, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Dire Straits, The Police, Hypocrisy, Unanimated, old In Flames, Dissection... it's a long list! I listen to a lot of non-metal stuff so I'm sure there's some of that in the mix as well." Despite good reviews John still feels that some things can be done better on the next album for "anyone who knows me is aware I'm a perfectionist, and nothing is ever good enough. To me there's no question about the performances on the album, they're great. I'm a capable engineer but it was too much for me at the time to take on with starting a family, moving house and changing jobs all at the same time as recording. We recorded on a tight budget and next time around I'm sure that will not be a problem. I also took care of the artwork and design which was a lot of work but I learn by doing. Next time the artwork will be done by a professional artist, the production will be shared and an external studio, not my home studio, will be used. With all of these factors to think about it's more important in my mind that we keep focussed on the main idea of producing quality songs." The artwork has an almost otherworldly touch to it with the two moons and the landscape in the mirror. Nothing is left to chance with FOR RUIN, and so we can also find a relation to the music and the lyrics here. "The album is called "December" and the artwork has a cold feeling to it with the colour scheme and imagery used. It's quite a simple piece of artwork to my mind that suits the mood of the album. Some people have noted that there sometimes is a melancholic feeling to parts of our music ('Treading', 'Frailty', etc.) and I think the cover reflects that. We could have put an illegible logo, crosses and sixes up there but what's the point. We're not into any of that shit so we went with something more abstract. It's a decent enough cover but I personally want something better for the second album."

As little as the artwork avails itself of black metal stereotypes as useless is the search for corresponding wording in the lyrics. "Lyrically, I don't go in for the rubbish that many sing about. Occasionally my lyrics may venture into the darker side of life but mostly they reflect my views on personality, places, people... these are where I draw my ideas from. I'm a big fan of Schuldiner's style of lyric writing; he had a great talent for observation and getting his point across. My own personal life has changed dramatically in the last four or five years with many ups and downs and that has influenced me, but if anyone wants to read gore lyrics or songs about devils they should look elsewhere." An agitating phase of his life should be his longer residence in Spain. Talking about the development of FOR RUIN it's interesting to hear whether or not life far from home influenced his music. "It did, without question. For a while when I moved there I was unable to play at all due to the lack of equipment, space and time to play. I started playing drums in a couple of local bands to keep busy before I started concentrating on the FOR RUIN material again. It was a difficult time for me in many ways, I was a 'stranger in a strange land' for quite a while and never settled in Spain as much as I loved it and the people close to me at the time. Looking back now it was an important, transitory period in my life that has shaped me today personally, professionally and musically. 'Dread' was the first song I wrote while I was in Spain and it reflects some of the feelings I was having at the time. 'Another Breed' is a song I love playing; that was the second song I wrote in Valencia. Both songs are fast, aggressive songs with some riffs that I love so I owe those particular songs to Valencia." From the past back to the future. For 2008 FOR RUIN have quite some plans and John knows many names with whom he'd like to share the stage on a tour... "We are playing a few shows with Primordial in Ireland soon and I would love if we could do some more shows with them some time. As for other possible 'dream' bands to play with... anyone of my influences above, living or dead! We really want to get the band playing in the UK (to begin with) in 2008. We have played a lot in Ireland now and it's time to branch out. I think we will probably be recording the second album some time next year as well so we must keep that in mind also in our schedule. Personally I'm getting married next summer and have a young family as my priority at the moment but there'll be time for everything - so long as I can keep my boss happy at work!"

For further information check out the FOR RUIN website or their myspace page.

Interview done by Endrew. November 2007.

last page