Take a trip with me, back to 2008. It was the year we smoked Pineapple Express and had “Sex on Fire”. MySpace was still relevant, and a tweet was just a sound birds made. Instead of writing album reviews, I booked bands. Throughout my searching of MySpace for those bands, I discovered a group from Baltimore by the name of REST AMONG RUINS. Their song “Lackluster” immediately struck a nerve, flooding my head with a rush of thoughts. I knew that I needed to book them; further, I realized the singer of the group is exactly how I wished my voice sounded. . . which lead to the realization that I should probably give up on singing. Throughout the next few years the group periodically visited my area, until entering a hiatus. Flashing forward to 2015, and singer Mike Semesky has returned from a four-year stint that saw him record with THE HAARP MACHINE, INTERVALS as well as Danish pop-metal legends RAUNCHY. With that return marks the release of the band’s first full length LP, Fugue, available June 2 through various online distributors.
The 14 tracks relay a concept which draws inspiration from the singer’s own experiences while employed with a mental health facility, during which the frontman encountered a man diagnosed with Dissociative Fugue, a rare psychological disorder marked by episodes of amnesia involving one’s personal identity, ranging from the replacement of true events with memories of incidents that never occurred to embracing alternate personalities or identities. Further, this individual seemed to be living in a state of duality, which negated the line between reality and embellishment. Basically, if you’ve ever thought to yourself that it would be awesome to be someone else, this record will explain that it apparently sucks.
The disc features the reworking of three songs I previously knew from a demo released back in 2010. Of the trio, album opener “Beyond the Storm”, “Before You Speak” and “Reach the Edge”, I find the latter most compelling, especially with the addition of guest vocals from one Aleka Farha. The Maryland-based pop singer shares lead vocal duties for this song, and is featured throughout the album in various areas, providing added harmony. And while I’m not certain her appearance held a dual meaning, I find these sporadically placed moments further insinuate the erratic nature of the experiences encountered by the story’s protagonist. Moving from speculation to fact, one thing is certain: this record breaks the bonds of simple classification. Songs like “Sign to Surrender”, “In Another’s Skin”, “Guide My Way” and “Everyone’s Glowing Home” hit incredibly hard, yet still find points for infectiously captivating melody.
Vast landscapes of sound are explored amidst the mid section of the disc, with “In Focus” borrowing styles reminiscent of R & B, or the epic juggernaut of power that is “Bled Letter”. Still, there is more to traverse. “Nothing Else” displays a schizophrenic match of off-tempo riffing and magnanimous hooks. While the term epic can be used to satisfy a label for “In Focus” and “Cleanse the Sky”, it would seem mild when compared to “Siren City”, a continuous crescendo capable of inspiring goosebumps on even the most heavily inundated sociopath. The latter of the disc offers the operatic theatrics of “Stranded in the Balcony” before tearing down the wall of aural indulgence with tittle track “Fugue”. Matching the idea of duality, the album closer pulls themes from each of its predecessors into an odyssey of cascading ebb and flow, set to the backdrop of piano and cello.
While it may not be a huge secret at this point, I’m an enormous fan of the work done by the group’s singer in his previous excursions; however, this is, without a shred of doubt, the best offering yet. But that’s not to discount the phenomenal instrumentation. REST AMONG RUINS is a group of multiple talents. From the exuberant footwork of pounding double bass drum, to the virtuous lead guitar lines, every element here is set to mind-blowing proportions, serving to perfectly compliment the flow of the conceptual plot. Even with a little more than half the year left ahead, I can already tell you this will likely be my vote for Record of the Year. In other words, on June 2 get yourself a copy of Fugue…you need this album.
STANDOUT TRACKS: EVERY DAMN ONE