Since forming in 2004 Sacred Mother Tongue’s debut album has been a long time coming. The Ruin Of Man arrives like a speeding freight train, a musical fist in the teeth, and is relentless in its blistering energy.
Sacred Mother Tongue are a fierce metal quartet from the Midlands, and since May 2008’s release of the single Two Thousand Eight Hundred they’ve garnered significant praise among metal publications, and a healthy following on the underground metal scene – which is perhaps one of the few times “healthy” has been used in reference to a bunch of metalheads.
On the evidence of The Ruin Of Man the praise is richly deserved, such is the technical proficiency with which Sacred Mother Tongue go about their work. Their complex rhythms are airtight and expertly executed, and the drums and guitar in particular boast a virtuosic swagger which is both inspiring and impressive.
But to exhume the corpse of The Ruin Of Man reveals a distinctly one-dimensional sound that, while distinctive, is just not varied enough. For example, Sacred Mother Tongue’s nescience is almost absolute when it comes to dynamics. Yes, metal is all about being loud and making loads of noise, but basic songwriting principles still need to be acknowledged to create an interesting record.
Take System Of A Down‘s lauded Toxicity album – it was so musically varied and creative that it forced itself into the hearts of music fans that didn’t even own any metal albums. At The Drive-In were another band who understood that creating quiet bits makes your loud bits louder and more impacting.
But with Sacred Mother Tongue it sometimes feels as if they’re trying to pound their listener into submission with relentlessly earth-moving drums, fractured and dislocated rhythms and abrasive guitar. Worse, the composite members of Sacred Mother Tongue sometimes sound as if they’re competing for musical space rather than playing as a band, each member vying for the listener’s undivided attention. The result is songs which sound cluttered and are hard to follow, rendering The Ruin Of Man quickly forgettable.
There is solace to be found in The Suffering, The Man You Tried To Hide and Wake Up Call, which all benefit from a more definite structure. But too often the songs follow the same formulas, and are over-reliant on the “shredding” of guitarist Andy James, and while his solos are technical genius they are also annoyingly grandiloquent in such dense occurrence.
Also annoying is the way vocalist Darren South arbitrarily switches between his natural singing voice (which is powerful and rousing) and that blood-curdling throaty-shouty thing that metal singers do. Nasty.
It’s ironic that perhaps the most beautiful moment on the album is My Sins Have Become My Fears – a one minute long stripped down guitar interlude, a pause for breath, and a poignant piece of music.
One for the metalheads then, but If Sacred Mother Tongue learn to tighten their ridiculously brilliant ability to play their instruments, think more about their songs rather than creating tsunamis of noise, and then add this to the confidence exhibited on The Ruin Of Man, they will be a band of considerable force.