Digital Ruin - Dwelling In The Out

Year of Release: 2000
Label: InsideOut Music America
Catalog Number: IOMACD 2008
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:38:00

The long awaited disc from Digital Ruin has finally arrived. The rise of this band over the last few years is one of surprise and filled with stories of toil, grind and hard work. It also shows one of the few bands that have made a name for themselves by distributing demos to the world and building a reputation based on demos alone. The band is also a perfect example of how the Internet has helped in assisting a band in it's quest not only to reach people worldwide, but how the Internet has allowed the band to reach a resting place with a major label in the prog metal world.

Beginning with Listen, which was actually a demo that the band recorded themselves many moons ago, the band sought to reach the public by releasing a concept disc which is virtually unheard of for a band's first release. The disc found its way to an unsuspecting public, much to the delight of many a prog metal fan that caught on right away that this band had something special to offer. Brilliantly written, the disc is an absolute tour de force of lyrics, samples, and superb musicianship. The only element lacking to give it the masterpiece status it deserved was the production - which again, was recorded by the band and meant to be a shopping demo for label interest. The disc quickly sold out and has now become a very difficult disc to find. The disc also showed the potential for growth, and much wonder as to what the band would be able to on their next outing.

Their next demo, a 4-song disc again recorded by the band to shop for labels, garnered so much interest from the fans that the band barely had enough discs left over to shop for a label. True to their fans though, the band decided to release the disc to a happy world of Digital-ites. Still, while the disc met with tons of great reviews and opinions, the production (as a demo) caught some flak from some reviewers, opting to trash the sound rather than accept the fact that the band had intended this disc to be their shopping collateral to attract label interest - which they finally did.

Enter Dwelling In The Out. Having to live up to the brilliance of Listen, the band decided to change a bit of direction and head into more accessible areas of their music, as on Listen they approached the music from a strictly progressive standpoint. This time out, the band has come up with 10 songs, each containing that distinct Digital Ruin sound, consisting of mad, crunching tuned down guitars, mixed in with an almost techno-style of keyboards to complement the guitar work. Each song has its own identity, yet at the same time easy to follow, still heavy, and much more melodic than any previous work. The band included 3 of the 4 songs found on the previous demo, and actually re-recorded all 3 songs for Dwelling In The Out to give the songs new life after having shopped the disc around the world for the better part of a year. The band has sought out the heaviest guitar sound possible, the 7-string, tuned down monster that reminds me of either John Petrucci's sound, or even Tony Iommi's early Sabbath sound. They have toned the many samples that garnished Listen although there are still plenty to be found here. Also of note, is heavy use of Matt Pacheco's (vocalist) techno-keyboard style that is starting to pop up everywhere in the prog metal world. Using various tones, patches and synth sounds, Matt has superbly complemented the guitar work to create an unusual, distinct sound that can only be distinguished as the signature Digital Ruin sound. The band freely admits having influences ranging from Dream Theater, Queensryche and Fates Warning, all the way around the spectrum to Marillion and Stabbing Westward. They also pride themselves on not being a band that sounds like any one single band.

Dwelling ranges from the almost happy chorused opening song "Living For Yesterday", to the incredible title track "Dwelling In The Out", a dreary Tad Morose-like powerhouse of doom and gloom married to wonderful melodies. The band has even thrown in a Digital Ruin-ized ballad called "Along the Way".

The lyrics have also changed direction as well, from the sci-fi, futuristic theme of Listen, to the now emotional, inner turmoil of the individual. The songs do have their share of fantasy, like "Machine Cage", and the supernatural "Night Falls Forever", but the main theme here focuses more on the inner turmoil of the human spirit wronged by life.

The band is tighter than ever. Of note is the fantastic drumming of Tim Hart, who can obviously adapt to any style of music that the band can come up with, as evidenced by the variety of styles found on each song. He does remind me quite a bit of Dr. Teddy Moller, of Mayadome, who has that similar attitude of "how I can make each beat sound like a hundred"... This is one of the highlights of the disc, trying to figure out how Tim can put so many beats into such a short period of time frame. The guitar work of Dave Souza is consistent, tight, thick and melodic as hell. Taking some pages out of the John Petrucci school of thought, Dave manages to maintain a super high level of crunch, while maintaining the sense of melody that the band has chosen to pursue this time out. Dave's sound could easily land him on a Dream Theater disc, but he has chiseled out his own style and sound, and made it into a distinctive sound only found on a Digital Ruin disc. Mike Keegan pounds out the bottom end along side of the drums, but it's easy to hear that he is not happy just plucking a couple of bass notes to carry the sound. Instead he proceeds to join Tim Hart's attitude and tries to pluck out as many bass notes as possible in a short period of musical time. It's this attitude of "cramming" as much music as possible into a disc that gives Digital Ruin their attitude and signature style and sound.

The vocal performance of Matt Pacheco is the other standout of the disc. Tonally, he sounds like (as someone once put it) a "pissed-off" James LaBrie of Dream Theater. In tone only does Matt resemble LaBrie. He has carved out his own style - adding in tons of aggression, emotion, and desperation in his voice. He has lowered his high pitch approach he used on Listen and has come up with an almost evil-sounding, definitely aggressive vocal tone on Dwelling that works incredibly well. The tortured inner spirit comes to life through his voice, and you can hear the anger, the frustration, and the turmoil of each song through his voice. As each song takes on its own meaning on this disc, so does Matt's voice, and he manages to convey each song in a most convincing manner.

The production is where this band has been plagued and held back from attaining the masterpiece status they truly deserve. Dwelling, while recorded professionally, has its drawbacks. While it's worlds ahead of their previous demos in sound quality, the recording sounds a bit squashed and compressed, almost as if the engineer didn't quite know what to make of all of the commotion going on in a Digital Ruin song. The samples have been placed too far back in the mix, although this won't affect anyone who didn't appreciate earlier samples on previous DR music. Thankfully, the guitars are very far up in the mix; still giving this its heavy, thundering sound. The keyboards are a bit back, although I'm sure where they are in the mix is fine and they still can be heard easily throughout. The vocals need to come up just a bit in the mix, as well as the bass. The drum sound is what is actually holding back the disc from being just about perfect, and it's a shame that the engineer couldn't capture the superb sound of the drums to match the superb playing. Overall, the sound isn't nearly as bad as many make it out to be, although there is much room for improvement. It certainly is a shame that the band hasn't been able to capture their true sound up to this point, and a band that writes quality music as Digital Ruin does certainly deserves to have their work presented in a perfect world of sound.

Dwelling In The Out shows what the band is capable of writing - in contrast to their earlier work, this is the most accessible and heavy. It's totally contrary to what Listen was all about, yet there is no mistaking the band's sound and identity. Digital Ruin is one of those bands that will keep us all guessing as to what their next venture will be like, and for prog metal fans, this seems to be a blessing. While some bands are content to work off of previous formulas, Digital Ruin is more content on challenging their own ideas and goals, and feel that by changing their approach but keeping their identity is what progressive metal means to them.

This disc will not disappoint any Digital Ruin fan, and will certainly appeal to those who like their metal dark, heavy, and melodic. I neglected to mention the darkness that surrounds this disc, but I alluded to the inner turmoil of the human spirit, which really translates into one hell of a dark sounding disc. It manages to chill the bones while remaining melodically warm, something that very few bands can accomplish (Tad Morose, Fates Warning, Superior come to mind)?

It will be interesting to see what this band comes up with next - if it's anything as powerful and emotional as Dwelling In The Out, we are in for a treat indeed.

[As of December 2003, the band officially disbanded, some members staying together as Monoblok (acc'd to BNR Metal Pages) -ed.]

Also released by InsideOut in Europe (IOMCD042/SPV 085-31692CD)

Living For Yesterday (5:36) / Darkest Day (4:48) / Dwelling In The Out (5:45) / The Forgotten (6:21) / Adrift (5:18) / Night Falls Forever (6:10) / Machine Cage (6:00) / Letting Go (5:15) / The Agony Column (5:05) / Along The Way (6:40)

Mike Keegan - bass
Dave Souza - guitar
Matt Pacheco - vocals and keyboards
Tim Hart - drums and percussion

Listen (1997)
Dwelling In The Out (2000)

Genre: Progressive/Power Metal

Origin US

Added: May 29th 2000
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Hits: 1035
Language: english


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