Poison Ruïn “Härvest” Review

Poison Ruïn
Relapse Records
Released: April 14, 2023

Philadelphia post-punk band Poison Ruïn are the newest addition to the Relapse Records roster, and have a new album called Härvest on the horizon.

With a wonderful throwback aura about them, Philadelphia’s Poison Ruin have positioned themselves on the brink of becoming the break-out punk artist of the year, by crafting a brilliant new record, called Härvest, that positions itself somewhere between the origins of the punk genre, with a touch of New Wave and a cup of borrowed sugar from the NWOBHM movement.

While it certainly feels like an ode to days of yore, as is the central identity piece of the whole rotten modern hipster movement – it isn’t done with the usual disdain or intentional irony that many of these orange toque muppets in the too short, nipple hugging mum jeans aim for. Härvest feels more like a tribute, built through passion and obsession with older times and older tunes. On Härvest, Poison Ruin come across as a well-versed and well educated throwback act that is hell-bent or preserving a sound they (and I) adore.

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What’s more, they’ve found a niche that isn’t often done in the punk genre – and that is to encompass a medieval aesthetic throughout the record. From artwork to the lyric sheet, everything about Härvest feels as if torn from history’s pages. Tales of plagues and plight, of poverty and classism – which despite being set in centuries past, still sadly fit the mantra of modern times. We’ve just lived through a plague; the poor are still left to fend for themselves while the rich, and the one-percent, continue to grow fatter, more affluent, off the backs of those scrambling to make end’s meat. Nothing really changes.

“I’ve always found fantasy tropes to be incredibly evocative,” vocalist Mac Kennedy notes, “that said, even though they are a set of symbols that seem to speak to most people of our generation, they are often either apolitical or co-opted for incredibly backwards politics.”

Kennedy reworks fantasy imagery as a series of totems for the downtrodden, stripping it of its escapist tendencies and retooling it as a rich metaphor for the collective struggle over our shared reality: “Instead of knights in shining armor and dragons, it’s a peasant revolt,” Kennedy explains, “I’m all for protest songs, but with this band I’ve found that sometimes your message can reach a greater audience if you imbue it with a certain interactive, almost magical realist element.”

Today, we most certainly need protest songs; anthems to wake the populous and finally rise above our oppressors – but is anybody listening? Before this ventures too far into the arena of dirty politics and such filth, let’s get back to the music. Poison Ruin have a brilliant album on their hands with Härvest, and have truly set the benchmark for the punk genre this year at an almost impregnable height.

Sonically somewhere between the raw energy of bands like Amebix or Crass, without the harsh side of those bands, Rudimentary Peni, Husker Du and even maybe a touch of Joy Division in terms of song structure and melody. As I mentioned above, there is an obvious influence from the early late-70s punk pioneers, with guitar work that often sounds likes directly influenced by the NWOBHM scene of the early 80s.

The extraordinary thing about this record, is that each time I listen to it, I find something more to enjoy. As if I didn’t already thoroughly dig it, more and more subtle nuances keep on surfacing. When you think of punk and all it’s subgenres, the word depth isn’t really something that springs to mind. The vast majority of releases in this genre and those that branch out from it, are rather simple in terms of composition. Punk is more about raw energy and when properly applied; politics and bringing attention to the many social ills that plague whatever time period in which it was written. Seldom is the musical portion overly complicated or technical – yet Härvest has something about it – not that it stands besides the Mozart’s or Bach’s in terms of intricacy and composition, but it defiantly has more to offer than your average three power chord romp that fans of the genre know and love.

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The title track itself, Härvest, is a fine example of this phenomenon. It begins with a piano piece that could convincingly be used during an emotion scene in a film, and then begins to take off with a floor tom and kick drum driven beat, picking up steam as it evolves and works up into a solid slab of punk rock. It really kicks into drive at around the two and a half minute mark, and at the three and a half minute mark, a guitar solo establishes the track in its full swing. Perfection.

Copies of Härvest, the new record from Poison Ruïn, is available now for pre-order through Relapse Records. Vinyl, compact disc and cassette variations are available, as well as shirts. Relapse Records have also re-issue the debut self-titled album, and that too is available to order right now.

For Fans Of: Rudimentary Peni, Crass, Husker Du
Track Listing:

01. Pinnacle Of Ecstasy
02. Tome Of Illusion
03. Torture Chamber
04. Härvest
05. Frozen Blood
06. Resurrection I
07. Resurrection II
08. Augur Die
09. Blighted Quarter
10. Bastard’s Dance
11. Slowly Through The Dark

Author Rating

  • overall
  • composition
  • enjoyment
  • production
  • variety
  • memorability