Despite looming over the past decade of British hard rock in various different guises and consistently proving himself one f**k of a frontman, Frank Carter has remained something of a cult figure. His first crack of the whip came as vocalist of Watford hardcore heroes Gallows, who he parted ways with in 2011. Then it was onto the rather more family-friendly, pop-leaning Pure Love, a project with US guitarist Jim Carroll. Since 2015, he’s been making a return to his more brutal roots, with the Rattlesnakes tearing up razor sharp riffs behind him, and his caustic, unflinching howl and doomy world view upfront and centre.
This, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ second album, is an angry and sad but striking thing, all shimmering, serrated guitars and Carter’s distinctive vocals imbuing everything with a vital urgency. If you want to shake off any lingering New Year’s cobwebs – and get a rather gloomy insight into the tortured mind of Frank Carter – then ‘Modern Ruin’ is the way to do it. The full-throttle ‘Vampires’ gives one of many flashes into Carter’s sorrowful psyche, as he admits: “I feel like I’m breaking / Under the heaviest weight.” The maudlin but meditative ‘Acid Veins’ goes deeper still: “I’ve got a skeleton inside me / Made from knives and chains,” while ‘Thunder’ takes proceedings from the personal to the political.
A passionate comment on
the migrant crisis, it throws up some seriously intense imagery inspired by some of the most upsetting headlines of recent times: “I see a baby lying face down in the tide / And I see thousands of souls begging for their f**king lives.” The sonics are just as powerful. ‘Lullaby’ chugs along like Black Sabbath by way of Dalston Junction, an updated take on the metal icons’ stoner sound. ‘Wild Flowers’ is furiously propulsive, a heavy, heady and yes, tortured, love song – but
it’s not all rough and rowdy. ‘Bluebelle’ is just over a minute long, a fatalistic
blues ballad, with Frank in crooner mode, sighing:
“The worst that can happen
is you die,” over lonesome, tremulous electric guitar.
Don’t come to ‘Modern Ruin’ looking to be cheered up then, but if it’s catharsis you’re after, there’s nothing more fitting.