The Late 80s, Hardcore, Crossover, And A Premiere From Ruin It! – Locked Up Dead

If you’re at all familiar with Last Rites, you know we spend an undue amount of time reviving Ye Olde Fires of yon 80s heavy metal. What we generally neglect, however, is putting much effort toward reminiscing and detailing one other particular circumstance that crossed over into our denim & leathered world in the mid-to-late 80s: Hardcore.

It’s true that a number of kids from the U.S.-based metal and hardcore scenes from back in the day had difficulties harmonizing—one sphere was too melodic and quixotic, the other too sloppy and political—but it was really only a matter of time before the two worlds collided, because in the end a similar goal was shared: fellowship for young people interested in stark rebellion through intense, considerably loud music that worried the piss out of adults.

Over time, bands from every mid-to-major-sized city began blurring the lines and “crossing over.” Foreseeing noticeable potential, even Metal Blade jumped into the game with an offshoot label called Death Records that released linchpin recordings such as Corrosion Of Conformity’s Animosity (1985), D.R.I.’s Dealing With It (1985), and the first two teeth-kickers from Santa Monica’s Cryptic Slaughter. Records such as these drew in fans from both sides of the spectrum, who in turn began tape-trading and spreading the tendrils even further. Hardcore fans discovered bands like Nuclear Assault and Dark Angel that sped up thrash to absurd levels, and metal fans discovered greats such as Crumbsuckers, GBH, and Fear Itself that added a notable metallic edge to their riffing. By 1989, it wasn’t at all surprising to witness a kid in a Cro-Mags shirt at an Obituary show discussing the latest releases from Wrecking Crew, Token Entry, Prong and Carnivore with another kid wearing a King Diamond Conspiracy shirt. Sweet harmony had finally arrived.

That year in particular—1989—was an extraordinary moment for extreme music, landing crucial releases not only for death and grind—Severed Survival, Realm of Chaos, Symphonies of Sickness, Altars of Madness, Beneath the Remains, A Holocaust In Your Head, Horrified and Slowly We Rot—but for U.S. hardcore and crossover as well:

Cro-Mags – Best Wishes
Sheer Terror – Just Can’t Hate Enough
Murphy’s Law – Back with a Bong
Bad Brains – Quickness
Leeway – Born to Expire
Killing Time – Brightside
Underdog – The Vanishing Point
Judge – Bringin’ It Down
Sick Of It All – Blood, Sweat and No Tears
Gorilla Biscuits – Start Today
Excel – The Joke’s On You

By the early 90s, however, the wheels on the wagon started wobbling for a number of people who came into hardcore via the crossover route. Some blamed a softening of the edges on emo; others indicted hip hop. In truth, it was simply a shift in trends, and a gradual deviation away from that comfy metal scene to a noise-rockier, screamier, more mathematical stance that brought a particularly turbulent form of -core back into wide graces in the mid-to-late 90s. That math element didn’t do a lot to win over the hearts of the knuckle-draggers still left in the house, though. (Once again, math confuses a good time… As math is often wont to do.)

Thankfully, old-school hardcore/hardcore punk has never been all that difficult to dig up. Enthusiasts perhaps dig down and out a little further to uncover the gems, but beneath all the falderal bubble bands like Pure Disgust, Restraining Order, Creem, Open Your Eyes, BIB, Nuclear Spring, et al., and praised be, the internet delivers anything and everything in 2018…which finally brings us to Rhode Island’s fairly unheralded (outside of Rhode Island) Ruin It!

The first thing that jumps out is the band’s charming bio:

“Ruin It! are a bunch of middle-aged dudes who grew up together and are having a midlife crisis. It made logical sense to start a band like we were 16 years old again. It seems to be working so far. We are all born and raised in Rhode Island and call it home for Ruin It! Lyrical inspiration comes from life experience as a mental health therapist. Working a majority of the time in impoverished cities where mental illness, abuse, neglect, and drug addiction run rampant. Conveying a sense of hope and a positive mental outlook for those suffering to recover from their despair, and acknowledging that it’s an uphill struggle. These lyrics reach towards a path of recovery. Influences: Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Infest, Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Dead Kennedys, Verse, Kid Dynamite and, of course, King Diamond.”

First of all, those last two words are clearly significant here. Locked Up Dead obviously sounds nothing at all like a King Diamond record, but if you were one of those people who bought Conspiracy and Best Wishes within months of each other, this is probably something you want to put ears to.

Release date: September 7, 2018. Label: Armageddon Records.
Secondly, it’s good to have hardcore records that meet the miseries of everyday modern life head-on with a caveman’s fist, but that do so in an inspired way that doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s strictly intended for suburban dudes miffed about getting kicked off the junior varsity football team for smoking weed under the bleachers. Ruin It! play old-school hardcore that confronts real-life problems for people across the full scope, so if a young woman wants to use these songs to remind her that leveling some loser who insists on trying to grab her arms “just to admire her tattoos” is a viable option, so be it. In the same sense, if you happen to be a grossly under-paid social worker who banks on venting office frustrations at home by cranking records and throwing hammers against the garage wall, Locked Up Dead will be a willing accomplice to such endeavors.

This record sounds as if it was yanked from the same bedroom shelf in 1989 that housed any or all of the earlier-mentioned gems. These are fifteen very riff-centric songs that clock in at a perfectly succinct 22-minutes whose primary concern is speed, skankability, and the capacity to deliver a strong message in a gruff woof that sounds as close to Chris Notaro of the Crumbsuckers as one could get in 2018 without banging on the man’s front door and dragging him kicking and screaming into the back of a van.

Check out a premiere of the record’s title track:

Notice how the song starts off at a fairly comfortable pace to better allow the listener a moment to prepare the rest of the morning commuter train car for what’s about to go down. Stand up and begin nodding and pointing to everyone to the beat. By about the 13-second mark, the drums let everyone know that the storm’s about to hit, and then WHAM—the entire car is a turbulent pit of flailing arms. Check out the lady who was once sitting quietly with what appeared to be nothing but a plastic bag filled with hundreds of other plastic bags—her skank game is very strong. Wicked elbows, lady. Wicked, wicked elbows. “Locked Up Dead” is perfect example of what’s in store for the remaining 14 songs.

Really, there’s nothing “new-sounding” that can or should be attached to this release, and that’s a huge part of why it’s so captivating. News flash: uniqueness is fucking overrated, especially when a band can summon the impression and significance of a bygone age with such authenticity, and Locked Up Dead certainly accomplishes that.

If you miss the days when records from labels such as In-Effect, Profile, Relativity and Caroline mingled with what you picked up from Metal Blade, Combat and Under One Flag, be sure to mark your calendar for Armageddon Records’ preorder for Locked Up Dead going down this Friday, 8/17. Then, simply wait for that old, familiar wall of death to hit you square in the chiclets…

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; That was my skull!

  1. Cool article. I remember being floored by the Crumbsuckers the first time I heard them in the late 80s. What was their first album called? Cant remember the name, I think they had only one album. Anyway, “Its so true, its a bullshit society” blared from my speakers a lot those days. I think they were actually on Combat record label.


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