Here are a few choice reviews and tributes, old and new, just to give you the scent of the beast
Top 12 of 2016, by Freddy Alva
Ruin, He Ho/Fiat Lux (Southern Lord)
This ’80s hardcore scene’s best Buddhist-influenced, Leonard Cohen-covering, genre-bending, instrumentally multi-faceted band’s entire output has just been reissued. Do yourself a favor and pick it up if you’re not familiar with the record. Or, if you are, it’s even more of a reason to get it again. The few bands that experimented outside of hardcore’s comfort zone in the ’80s deserve credit for being against the grain within a supposedly nonconformist movement. Ruin did it first, and better than most of their contemporaries, and the proof is in these two wonderful LPs that are seeing the light of the day thanks to the fans with long memories at Southern Lord. You know what to do.
From The Pessimist Club
For my first offering to you, dear reader, I give you Ruin. A Philadelphia band from the mid-80’s, Ruin were a phenomenal live band. One of the best I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen them all. They wore all white, lit prayer candles onstage before playing, then unleashed a titanic fury. They were heavily influenced by the likes of Black Sabbath at a time when that was anathema, long before “My War” or “Slip It In”. Check their gargantuan version of the Stones’ “Play With Fire”. Their music has been called Buddhist Hardcore (see Gibby’s quote in the Butthole Surfers chapter of Our Band Could Be Your Life). Whatever, it’s great punk rock, great rock ‘n’ roll. They covered not one, but two Leonard Cohen songs, one on each album. Quoth Master Cohen (in Spin, back when it was half-decent): “On this new album by Ruin, they sing the first verse of the “Master Song” more or less as I sing it, but then they bring this world to it of every sound you ever heard and murder it, but as it should be murdered. It’s a clean killing.”
(from a comment on the above site)
Ruin were incandescent. They were otherworldly — phantoms, ghosts, bewildered gods. White clothes, black light, darkness, candles. I saw them maybe ten times in and around Philadelphia in the 80s. I wanted to have fun. But they were too disturbing. What were they saying with their sad songs and monster sound? The look on their faces — I can still see that, and feel haunted. They rocked with a fury that I cannot fathom or describe. I think they meant to destroy the world. Where are they now?
Meanwhile, back in Baltimore circa 1980s…
Eric de Jesus reports that his ‘zine, RAW POGO ON THE SCAFFOLD interviewd Tonie Joy of MOSS ICON / UNIVERSAL ORDER OF ARRMEGEON / CONVOCATION OF… fame, sometime around 1999. Tonie Joy mentions Ruin as a milestone of his punk youth. Eric adds, “and it’s obvious from the names of his bands and their lyrics that Ruin had a lasting effect. “
TONIE-…… I meant to ask you about this; what do you know about the band RUIN from Philadelphia?
ERIC-uh, I saw them a couple of times. They were pretty old.
TONIE-cuz I saw them in Baltimore in ’86 or ’87 and thought they were amazing.
ERIC-they were like the first “Buddhist” band. Before NY bands got into “Buddhism” or Krishna or whatever, they were like Soka Ga Kai Buddhists or something.
TONIE– in the context I saw them, they were just amazing because back then Baltimore was really fucked up and violent and drunk. It was at this hall and there were fights and people outside with guns and knives. Just crazy hardcore weirdness.
ERIC-were they chanting? That was their thing.
TONIE-they weren’t chanting but they got up onstage all dressed in white with all these candles burning. And everyone’s just like “oh no”, throwing bottles at them, yelling “fuck you”. GOVERNMENT ISSUE was supposed to play and they canceled. The sign said that one of them fell off the stage at CBGBs and broke his leg, but I think they probably showed up, saw how fucked up the show was and just said “fuck this” and split back to DC.
ERIC-is that how Baltimore always used to be?
TONIE-yeah, in the mid-80s it was like that. And the other band that played were THE SERIAL KILLERS from Philadelphia.
ERIC-Oh god! they sucked. But they were cool people.
TONIE-well they played and the crowd was totally on their wavelength. And then RUIN gets up there. And when they started playing they just floored everybody. Their music was so powerful.
ERIC-actually the town I was from always had a few kid bands that would do “proof” or some other RUIN cover. Just cuz they were one of the big bands from Philly. I can totally see you digging the Buddhism.
TONIE-I went to the show with these people who were not into hardcore at all. They had their KRAFTWERK tribute band and like DAVID SYLVAIN and whatever weird shit was happening then, and the one guy just adamantly hated hardcore; and he was like “OK, RUIN is the one greatest hardcore band ever!”
ERIC-they would love to hear that. They played a reunion show a few months ago to like 20 people. I was never so into RUIN.
[Note: Eric’s math is way off, by about 1000, lol]
TONIE-it just had a big impact on me then, because it was punk or hardcore music, but with an attitude that was totally different.
ERIC-thats for sure. I think they were all wigged-out Temple University religion majors. Actually there were a few other bands there with the same weird drugged out spirituality thing.
TONIE-I didn’t even know about all that ’til years later, but just the way they were that night, Cuz if you asked any kid at that show what his favorite hardcore band was he would’ve been like “uh the SERIAL KILLERS” or “I came to see GI”. But in the end they were floored.