Daniel Tompkins – Ruins: Album Review

TesseracT singer Daniel Tompkins solo ventures continue with Ruins.

Release date: 11th December 2020

Label: Kscope

Format: CD / DL / vinyl

Dan Tompkins’ Castles was an impressive solo debut having stepped back from TesseracT and experimented with White Moth Black Butterfly, not to mention Sky Harbor. Itch scratched you might think but once you’ve experienced the sensation of solo flight, there’s no looking back (or down).

Ruins sees an unusual move in reworking/reinterpreting Castles alongside producer Paul Ortiz (Chimp Spanner) showcasing re-written music with more aggression and a truer, darker tone.  The new version is significantly different with the appearance of Tompkins’ signature aggressive versus clean vocal style. It was felt that renaming the album and each song was appropriate and aside from the lyrics, it is essentially a completely new album. 

Having enjoyed Castles, there’s a vibrancy about Ruins. Perhaps I didn’t listen to Castles so carefully to be able to spot the joins. I guess those who know every nuance of Castles will put Ruins under the microscope for deep analysis. For many of us there’s a freshness about the songs where we may be less robust in our comparisons. The message is to simply enjoy the music for what it is. One thing it will do is have us scuttling back to our Castles to reassess that album.

The eight songs carry no fat although listening to Ruins in full feels like so much more than a set of compact songs. Guitar maestro Plini makes sure that Wounded Wings provides a curtain-raiser with a bagful of impact. Tyrant is a powerful epic that broods and then takes off in a cloud of intense riffing and a desperate vocal to match although we get a hint of a softer side with a couple of lush sections. Stains Of Betrayal evolves into a powerful riff-fest as Dan hollers “my fire still burns” and a jerky rhythm kicks in and Empty Vows follows a similar pattern.

The development of Castles into Ruins is a masterclass of how to create an ebb and flow in the shifting dynamics. Ultimately, the showcase comes in the dramatic four and five-minute bursts that climax with A Dark Kind Of Angel. The chugging guitar and sonar bleeps turn to a more restrained passion; brooding and threatening, yet just as impressive and the equal of any of the explosive blasts of noise. It’s followed by Trivium’s Matt Heafy joining the party and adds presence to The Gift making sure we leave on a high and with a reminder that the harsh vocal style and thundering rhythms remain at the top of the list on Tompkins’ calling cards.

Music is an organic thing. Rarely is a record definitive. Live performance and evolution over time see songs mature and take on new shapes, even new meanings. Springsteen has always talked of wanted to re-record Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Ruins is a perfect example of why maybe more bands should have a look into their past.

Listen to the title track here:

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