Photo (C) Andy Watson, DRW Images
“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone…”
Only this isn’t the Twilight Zone, at least not as we know it; although it proves to be just as inspiring, imaginative, magical and otherworldly. Contrary to the Twilight Zone’s 1950s written narration, it is also a place that welcomes and positively empowers women.
No, this isn’t a TV series cemented firmly in fiction. After all, this revelation won’t be televised. No, this is real. And it is LA metal veterans My Ruin’s last ever UK tour. If you missed it, I’m sorry, but you really did miss out.
Viewed from both inside and out, The Sacred Mood Tour was a Herculean task; something of epic proportion and equally epic struggle, a fact that made the extraordinary, emotional and powerful performances each and every night something very special to behold.
Before the tour even began, My Ruin had to deal with their friend, producer and intended tour drummer, Joel Stooksbury, dislocating his shoulder, meaning that he couldn’t head out on the road. That prompted the recruitment of Matt ‘Frenchie’ LeChevalier, an accomplished drummer and friend of the band who had joined My Ruin on tour previously in 2006. So far, so good. Crisis averted. The show would go on.
Then, just a few short weeks before the tour was due to begin, one promoter defaulted on his contract, prompting cancellation notices to be sent out to fans who had bought tickets for My Ruin’s show in York. Statements were quickly issued by the band, indicating that the show was not in fact cancelled. Tairrie, Mick and their UK contacts had worked like proverbial Trojans to find another promoter and ensure that the gig was all set to go ahead.
Fibbers in York, the renowned Yorkshire venue booked for the tour, then had to close in order to facilitate a relocation, meaning that My Ruin’s show was once again in jeopardy. But once again the stops were pulled out, blood sweat and tears were shed, and the show was re-booked at The Duchess. Thank the gods, and plenty more hard toil, for that.
Another venue closure, this time in Norwich, loomed and threatened, but yes, once again, did not sound the death knell for this now Biblical tale.
The gods of rock had one last trial up their putrid and pernicious sleeves, however.
My Ruin had never made any bones about the fact that The Sacred Mood Tour had been built on the back of their appearance at the UK’s first annual AltFest, set to be a weekend long celebration of alternative music and culture, staged in the beautiful grounds of Broughton House, Kettering. Tairrie, Mick, bassist Luciano Ferrea and Matt LeChevalier were due to play a set on the Metal Stage on the opening day of the event.
With just two weeks before the tour was due to commence, and only one week until the band were due to travel to the UK from across the globe, rumours began to circulate that AltFest was in trouble. An agonising four day wait for any kind of official statement from the festival organisers resulted in what most were expecting: AltFest was indeed cancelled owing to poor financial management.
But as friends and fans will already know, if there’s one band who know how to knuckle down, do the necessary, and ultimately triumph in the face of adversity, it’s My Ruin.
Photo (C) Matt Adamson Photography
Just a couple of days later, here was the announcement that everyone had been hoping for. AltFest may have let everyone down massively, but My Ruin would not. The Sacred Mood Tour was not cancelled. Indeed, all shows would be going ahead. Not only that, but rather than using the time freed up by AltFest’s demise for their own ends, My Ruin would now team up with UK industrial metal band The Defiled as their very special guests for an exclusive, intimate warm-up show at The Zombie Hut in Corby.
The response from fans across the UK and Europe was loud, clear and simple: “Fuck yeah!”
As a band that have embraced and live by the DIY code, and one with the best part of two decades of experience of doing so under their belt, My Ruin were not about to disappoint the people who were going to break life and limb to see them for one last time on UK shores.
The stages were set; the band were all here; the Blasphemous Girls and Bad-ass Boys wanted their rock n’ roll. It was time to deliver the doom.
Fittingly, as show time approaches in Corby for My Ruin’s gig with The Defiled, the clouds gather, the sky darkens, thunder rumbles and down comes the rain. It is as if the combined power of LAs and the UKs heavy metal finest have drawn ominous and unsettled energies together above this relatively sedate English town; some kind of signal or beacon; a harbinger of the iron-flecked rock about to be wrought, and wholly appropriate given Corby’s history as a borough built on the production of British steel.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ “Tupelo” adds to the atmosphere as it rings out on stage and ushers in messrs Murphy, Ferrea and LeChevalier. Cheers and shouts go up as the lights go down, and The 3rd Best Metal Guitarist Of All Time ™ begins a feedback loop and then strikes a power chord, ushering in My Ruin’s mainstay, lyricist, vocalist and frontwoman, Tairrie B. Murphy.
From there it is straight in to the opening track from their 2013 album The Sacred Mood, “Monolith Of Wrath”. As it was with the parent album, so it is with the band’s live show. The song starts with a staccato rhythm and honeyed vocals, before tearing open in to a thundering riff and a full throated scream from Tairrie B., confronting us with “the moonless midnight of my mind.”
The crowd begin to warm up, nodding heads developing into bouncing souls and then a full on circle mosh pit as the Ruiners in the audience begin to lose themselves in some of the band’s most beloved songs.
A short while later and Tairrie approaches the mic with a glint in her eye and an invitation to welcome a guest on to stage. Defiled frontman, Stitch, stalks through the crowd and out in to the spotlight, sheepish grin planted firmly on his face as Tairrie explains that owing to The Defiled not making the venue in time for soundcheck, what is about to follow has never been rehearsed and will be the first time the band and both vocalists have performed together live.
Not that you would ever know it, as the riff now familiar to all Ruiners and Mudhoney fans the world over kicks in to gear, and Tairrie and Stitch belt their way through a punishing, high energy cover of the aforementioned Seattle band’s song “Touch Me, I’m Sick.” If this is the sound of spontaneous, unrehearsed rock, then may all bands be so ill-prepared in the future. It’s an unqualified triumph, and the crowd roar at the song’s close, those here for The Defiled adding their support to the die-hard My Ruin aficionados.
A special guest slot means a slightly shorter set, and it doesn’t feel like too long before Tairrie is thanking the crowd, wishing them well and giving a shout-out to My Ruin’s new found friends in The Defiled. By all accounts, it’s a cracking precursor for what is to come in the days ahead.
A special guest slot also means that the Murphy’s can stick around and catch The Defiled’s set however, as well as chatting to fans old and new, and hanging out with long-standing merch-man, fan, friend, stylist and Tairrie’s “gay husband”, Jack Osborne.
“How was it?” Tairrie asks in conversation after the show. Skin Back Alley offers the opinion that it sounded brilliant to our ears.
“I wasn’t sure if it was really a My Ruin crowd,” she observes. Nevertheless, spirits – including Tairrie’s own – seem high in the Zombie Hut’s band lounge, banter being shared between rock n’ roll comrades, photos being captured and turned in to future memories, accompanied by the hubbub of gear being packed away in to vans for an onward trip to London.
The Sacred Mood Tour is now underway, and My Ruin have kicked down all the barriers put in their way in order to ensure as smooth a passage as possible.
Photo (C) Doug Rimington, Detune Photography
The following night in Camden, the conditions couldn’t be more different. The Underworld is drenched in sunlight and the queuing fans snake around the outside of The World’s End pub and down towards The Black Heart. The Ruiners may be largely dressed in funereal black, but the conversation is buzzing with stories of meetings with Tairrie and Mick from years gone by, and anticipation of the gig to come. Many can’t believe that this really will be the last time that they get to see their favourite metal band, and the atmosphere is electric; palpable. It is clear that this really IS a My Ruin crowd.
Doors open early, as tonight sees a one-off set from Mick Murphy’s side project, Neanderthal, open proceedings. It means that Murphy, Ferrea and LeChevalier are pulling double duty, but they don’t seem to mind as they pound their way through the groove-fuelled pyrotechnics that allow Murphy to flex his dextrous instrumental muscles. The set is ferocious and immense, “Mi Ruina” sounding particularly blistering. Mick being the man of a thousand faces, tonight the joy in his playing is plain for all to see, and the quality of the music astonishingly high.
Just a short while later, UK metal band Sanctorum take to the Underworld’s stage. The band will be familiar to the My Ruin audience, having supported them on three prior tours. They’re working like demons throughout The Sacred Mood Tour, supporting on every date, as well as acting as backline techs and tour management. The work rate is astounding, and so is their set.
On the verge of releasing a new album at the time of the tour, the set is heavy on songs taken from that new LP, Old Ghosts/New Wars. Every single member of the group delivers the goods in a flail of hair, the thrashing of guitars, the blast beat of drums and the guttural howl of voice. The performances are all the more impressive considering that bassist Matt Adamson couldn’t play a guitar just six months before; something you’d never be able to tell from his solid playing each and every night.
The energy of the band transfers to the audience, as numbers near the stage begin to swell, and limbs and heads begin to writhe. New songs such as “Price To Pay” and “False Idols” are all received with manic moshing and horns aloft, and the set closes out with guitarist Al Commons disappearing in to the crowd and delivering his last solos in the most up-close and personal way possible, just millimetres from gig goers’ faces.
And then it is time for My Ruin to to stand up and be counted, and dear lord do they put on a show.
From the outset it is clear that the band, now headlining their own dates and clearly aware of the emotional pull of their last shows across the UK, mean to perform each and every gig like it will be their last on earth; like their very lives depend on it.
The level of intensity on the part of Tairrie and her fellow musicians is through the roof; an entirely new level to that seen in Corby just the night before. Mrs. Murphy stalks the stage like a woman possessed; perhaps by the spirit of Lady Lazarus whom she calls upon during The Sacred Mood LP; perhaps by the knowledge that My Ruin’s music and lyrics have meant so much to so many for so long, and this might be the last time that her Blasphemous Girls get to see it performed live.
It’s a point Tairrie makes very clearly just a handful of songs in to the longer headline set when she spots an unsuspecting audience member holding their smartphone aloft, apparently filming the entire proceedings.
“Are you filming the show?” she challenges. The response is muted if any comes at all. “Are you filming the show?” she repeats. After what sounds like a sheepish admission from the person in question, Tairrie makes clear that she would rather that everyone live in the moment with the band; enjoy the music right here, right now. Forget cameraphones; forget YouTube; forget crap quality recordings that deliver the poorest quality memory of the experience; forget living vicariously later in the day. Be here now.
The message seems to be heard, and with the Underworld now bursting at the seams, the crowd get in to the groove and the energy flows once more.
Tonight, for the first time on the tour, song dedications come thick and fast. It becomes clear in Camden – and later as the tour progresses – that My Ruin are also using this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all their supporters through the years.
At one point, whilst saying a few very heartfelt words to introduce Mick, Luciano and Matt, and dedicating songs to crew past and present and long time fans of the band, Tairrie’s voice falters for what won’t be the last time during this run of shows. It’s clear that emotion is getting a hold of her; that the reality of the tour is truly sinking in, and there are very nearly tears. The cheers, yelps, arms held high and overwhelming outpouring of love from the crowd just about keep things on the straight and narrow though, and the metal begins once again, headed straight for the stratosphere and beyond.
Photo (C) Claire ‘Lecari’ Lickman
As the songs continue to flow, My Ruin’s extraordinarily close relationship with their fan base is made clear for all to see. Tairrie frequently leans in to the crowd, sharing hands, hugs and microphone with a hardcore group of Blaspehmous Girls that make their way to each and every show on this tour. Here is a woman who has lived and breathed without compromising herself or her art through a music career spanning over 20 years. As a truly independent woman, exuding attitude, style, vim and vigour, it is no wonder that she has inspired the love and devotion of female metal fans the world over, and plenty of male ones too.
It’s a fact hammered home when the band launch into one of their signature anthems, “Made To Measure”, and the audience erupts. Lyrically, the song is a vitriolic middle finger to all those who dared to judge Murphy on her looks alone, and no doubt rings true to many women in the crowd. Of course, it’s helped massively by the fact that musically, the songs thundering riff and infernal metal groove mean that anyone with a love of heavy music won’t be able to help themselves, headbanging, bouncing, throwing hands in the air and yelling the lyrics back to the band as best their lungs will allow them.
Elsewhere in the set we are treated to songs picked from earlier albums and fan favourites including “Heartsick”, “Blasphemous Girl” and “Beauty Fiend,” all the way through to songs destined to become future classics such as “God Is A Girl With A Butcher Knife” and “Del Riche.” Songs that were never given a chance to live on their own terms by back-stabbing bastards at rotten record companies – such as the awesome “Diggin’ For Ghosts” and “Long Dark Night” – are given a very welcome airing, too.
As the last notes of “Beauty Fiend” ring out at the close of the set, Tairrie asks for the house lights to be brought up. The rapturous applause is deafening, but she makes herself heard and hands are held aloft in undying appreciation as ‘Mrs. M’ takes the opportunity to capture photos of the ecstatic crowd.
With final bows, thank yous and smiles all round, the band stride from the stage triumphant. If this really is their London send-off, then it’s been monumental; an entirely fitting and highly emotional end for a group of musicians – nay artists – whose career has never been short of an exciting mix of passion, energy, raw talent and a healthy amount of controversy, too.
The house lights stay on. Warm, buzzing, sweaty and spent, with more than a little taste of the bittersweet in their mouths, the rabid Ruiners stagger from the Underworld and out in to the night.
“That was FUN!” declares Mick Murphy over drinks at the Black Heart a little later that night. It’s something of an understatement, but the joy is clear on his face as he says it. If spirits had been high in Corby the night before, they’re positively off-the-scale tonight. A punishing tour schedule means that the My Ruin and Sanctorum can’t completely let themselves go, but the mood is relaxed and there are grins everywhere you look.
Nevertheless, there remains a steely focus on the gigs ahead. Come rack or My Ruin, the heavy metal thunder is on it’s way.
The Sacred Mood Tour rolls out of London and on through Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, York and Norwich. My Ruin deliver night, after night, after night, after night, their brothers in British metal, Sanctorum, with them every step of the way.
The LA metal masters are joined on their journey by some brilliant bands in supporting slots, augmenting each night’s bill and spanning the spectrum of doom, psych, rock and metal. Cohorts include Clan, General, King Goat, Extreme O.D., Nomad, Dead White Doves, Gods of Hellfire and the mighty Servers. Each brings their own unique talent to an already very special set of live shows.
Of course, as with any tour, there continue to be minor bumps in the road along the way. Manchester sees the band accosted post-gig by a group of people who seemingly have no love for metal or Americans; York sees an astonishingly rude ‘welcome’ from the show promoter, resulting in a statement from Tairrie issued via the band’s official Facebook page. Even as the group make their way through the UK’s Heathrow airport to return to the US, it seems that security officials take exception to something – although what is never entirely clear – leaving the band very late for their departing flight, making it by less than the skin of their teeth.
Nevertheless, none of these hiccups dampens mood or spirit. If this really has been My Ruin’s last hurrah – at least as far as the UK is concerned – it’s been one hell of a blowout.
Before they head home, Tairrie writes from the bottom of her heart to all who had come out to a show:
“It’s a bittersweet goodbye as we leave the UK today on a high we have not felt in a long time. Thank you London, Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, York & Norwich. We will always remember all the amazing fans who came to the shows this last time with their heavy metal hearts filled with rock love along with all the friends (new & old) who spent moments and made memories with us while we were here.”
United Kingdom, consider yourself Ruined.
Photo (C) Michelle ‘Nightwitch’ Penfold
Check out Skin Back Alley’s 5/5 review of My Ruin’s latest album, “The Sacred Mood”, here.
Read our review of Sanctorum’s previous album, “Semper Fidelis”, here, and be sure to check out their new album, “Old Ghosts/New Wars”, released today (1st September.)
You can watch My Ruin’s video for their song “Moriendo Renascor”, below:
Tairrie B. Murphy will return…
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