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A vast improvement, but still subpar - 50%

enshinkarateman, August 12th, 2009

Job for a Cowboy, famous for having the worst band name in metal, have decided to move away from their deathcore roots with their newest release, "Ruination", and while it's miles ahead of anything they've done in the past, it's still a rather dull album with a few enjoyable sections. Is it worth your time and money? Let's find out.

The first track "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel" opens furiously with a storm of blast beats and a fast riff that shows JFAC's tech death influence. While I usually find tech death boring, at least it's better than deathcore. Then, we get the vocals. First: They're not good at all. In this track, Johnny Davy sticks mostly to those high-pitched screams that are like nails on a chalkboard, and when he goes low, he reminds me of a weaker version of Peter from Vader. Not only are the vocals bad, but they're everywhere! I think the only time in the whole song that grants a relief from the ear-grating wails is the guitar solo, which would be noteworthy, but the drums underneath it are incredibly distracting. The whole song is quite the clusterfuck, lacking any trace of memorability in the riffs or vocals. The mix makes the song more chaotic than it should be, with the rhythm guitar sounding like a sludgy mess. Not a good omen for the rest of the album.

Fortunately, it would seem as if my initial thoughts of were a bit of an overreaction. True, the vocals remain horrendous throughout the entire album, but "Ruination" isn't the sonic abomination that I'd thought it would be. There's some great riffage on the first part of "Regurgitated Disinformation", and "Constitutional Masturbation" has some oddly-catchy vocal parts ("I masturbate!"), and even the way-too-long-for-it's-own-good "March to Global Enslavement" has a great solo, though simple. And there is the irony of "Ruination": Despite their re-invention as a tech-death band, JFAC is best when they're not technical, and are playing songs that you can wrap your brain around, instead of going "OMIGAWDTHESEGUYSCANPLAY!"

Sadly, for every awesome riff, there are many, many more dull ones that show up in abundance towards the last half of the album. A big part of JFAC's weaknesses lie within their genre itself. It's tough to make technical death metal interesting over the course of a full-length, and Job for a Cowboy just can't pull it off. By the seventh or so track, you'll just be checking your watch, wondering how much time is left with the album. At least "Ruination" is only 40 minutes instead of an hour or so.

Furthermore, the whole album has a monotonous feel that is only broken up by the outro track, which also happens to be the title track. The guitar tone is very different than the rest of the album, and, as odd as it feels to type this, it actually brings to mind black metal. This interesting departure from the rest of "Ruination" serves as a great end to the story of the album, which is some sort of concept about the Anti-Christ, or something like that. The atmosphere it creates is that of the end times, which is quite refreshing after hearing the chaos of the rest of the album. It should be noted that the chaos of the previous tracks fails to achieve the atmosphere of actual chaos, and really just comes off poorly-written song structure.

Unfortunately, as a whole, "Ruination" fails to attain an "above-average" grade, largely due to the vocals. I mentioned them earlier, and they bear repeating. Johnny Davy should focus on his strengths (the lows) and stop trying to scream in a high-pitch. Such caterwauling only brings to mind the deathcore that Job for a Cowboy seem to be trying to get away from. The musicians Davy's playing with might be technically gifted, but they lack songwriting talent, falling into the trap of attempting technicality for its own sake. "Ruination" is far from being the worst album of the year, but it's nowhere near the best, either.

As a side note, does anyone else think that Job for a Cowboy are trying way too hard with their song titles? I mean, "Constitutional Masturbation", "Regurgitated Disinformation", "Psychological Immorality"? Someone needs to put down the thesaurus and work on their songwriting skills.

"Constitutional Masturbation", "Regurgitated Disinformation", "Ruination"

NOTE: This review was originally written for