Record of the Week: Poison Ruin: Härvest LP

Poison Ruin: Härvest 12” (Relapse Records) From the first time I dropped the needle on Härvest, Poison Ruin’s third record and their first for Relapse, I was smitten. How can you not fall in love with a record that starts with a song as great as “Pinnacle of Ecstasy?” It’s a tour de force, moving from a guitar hook that could have powered an artyfact from the Nuggets era to an equally brilliant main riff to an anthemic chorus and into a heroic lead guitar freakout, moving from part to part with a poise and confidence that runs counter to Poison Ruin’s lo-fi production values. Speaking of which, if you thought moving to Relapse would water down Poison Ruin’s aesthetic, you are mistaken… if anything, Härvest leans on tones that are nastier and gnarlier than their previous records, but the production feels richer and more dynamic than on those releases. A big part of Poison Ruin’s appeal is their sound, a distinctive, cooked-down concoction of anarcho punk, oi!, and classic heavy metal, but even with such a heavy vibe, Härvest’s songs shine. This record takes everything that was so striking about Poison Ruin’s earlier records and just slams the gas pedal to the floor. The hooks are bigger, the riffs more distinctive and memorable, the performances crackle with even more energy, and the lyrical concept and execution is next-level by DIY punk standards. Poison Ruin doesn’t invite easy comparisons, but a good point of reference might be Subhumans. Like Subhumans, Poison Ruin has an identifiable sound and aesthetic and they craft ambitious songs that would lean toward prog’s pretensions if they weren’t so steeped in punk energy and venom. And in that context, Härvest is like Poison Ruin’s The Day the Country Died, where all the elements come together with a rush of excitement as intoxicating as your first drink. I could go into why I love each track on this record, but it’s enough to sayHärvest is a non-stop parade of hits, the work of a brilliant band at the height of their powers. Viva Poison Ruin!

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