Sounds like … '90s pop/rock descended from Goo Goo Dolls, Train, and Matchbox Twenty, with some alternative touches similar to Jars of Clay, Poor Old Lu, and The Mars Volta.
At a glance … Out of Ruin offers just enough inventiveness and deeply felt lyrics to set themselves apart from the average Christian rock band, though stronger melodic hooks and more examples of their instrumental prowess would take their sound up a notch.
Brothers Gram and Ben Messer have been recording and performing together for 13 years, playing drums and guitar, respectively, since their early teens. Things seemed headed in the right direction after forming Out of Ruin as a four-piece band in 1999, but then Gram became sidelined by an intestinal parasite, and eventually the lead singer and bassist splintered off to other projects.
All that would be enough to finish most bands, but the Messers persevered. Thankfully, Gram was eventually healed of his ailment, and after much consideration, the brothers decided Gram could step out from the drums to handle lead vocals. Now Out of Ruin tours as both an acoustic duo and a full band (adding a bassist and drummer). Having recorded a couple of independent projects, they're finally back on track with the national debut, What I Can't See.
That's a good thing for those who appreciate skillfully crafted pop/rock. Out of the Ruin combines pleasant, though sometimes run-of-the-mill modern AC rock—reminiscent of Matchbox Twenty and Goo Goo Dolls—with some jazzy guitar riffs and complex rhythm patterns that occasionally echo The Mars Volta or Poor Old Lu. Skeptics should check out the Messers' progressive performance chops on the acoustic instrumental "Alimente El Corazón" (Spanish for "Feed the Heart"). The rest isn't nearly as wild, though "Man to Be" offers some complex rhythms and "Stand for Something" mixes furious rhythm with one of the album's more memorable melodies.
Out of Ruin also connects with some deeply felt lyrics that cry out from brokenness for spiritual renewal, including the worshipful "Numb" and the pleading ballad "Spirit." Some of the album's smartest imagery comes in the very first song, "Broken Pieces," in which Gram notes, "It's the broken pieces that you've picked to tile the walls of my soul."
As good as this band is, I hate to say that their sound is not particularly marketable—at least not by Christian radio standards. Which of course is something of a double-edged sword for Out of Ruin. The talent and inventive sound is enough to set them apart from others in Christian rock., yet their songs lack the memorable hooks and melodies that will keep listeners coming back. Give Out of Ruin an A for effort in doing far more with their music than the average band, and hope they'll continue to push their sound toward even more impressive heights.
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