While on a missions trip, Victor Gonzalez beheld vast ruins that struck him as being beautiful even in their dilapidated state. He realized that God doesn't view us as ruins even though our lives may resemble them to us. Instead, God makes our wreckage into something beautiful. Sharing this with worship leader Debra Black, both caught hold of a vision and The Ruins was born. Now on Dream Records, the pop duo is set to release their debut self-titled EP.
The Ruins brings a unique sonic palette to their listeners by using various tricks to enhance the experience. The pop music is fairly standard for today's industry, but is used in engaging ways and never feels like the sounds or melodies are repeating themselves across the EP. Rapping is implemented on a couple occasions and, although not a highlight, does add to the little twists deployed here and there. The greatest distinction to be found here is the duets they employ. Black's powerhouse vocals reminded me of Stephanie Skipper from Copperlily and while Gonzalez is no Tim Skipper, he complements Black well. There are even times when they feel like The Civil Wars, if that duo returned with a pop record. The moody, dramatic bridge of "Deliverance" echoes The Civil Wars' "Barton Hollow." The comparison is a welcome one, as The Ruins give a pop twist to the well-worn folk duo concept.
Lyrically, the group is focused on encouragement. Opener "Run" proclaims a determination to keep pressing forward in spite of difficulty. "Only Going Up" is basically a repeat of the previous track, but this time directed toward the listener. The darker tones of "Deliverance" add color to the mood, but its message remains encouraging. "Monument" is the anthem behind the duo's name and explains the metaphor: "You take my ruins/Without You I'm just ruin/'Cause I am only human/So take my ruins." "Bow Down" turns again to the listener and warns about entrapment to sin. The closer, "Who We Are," is the most problematic track from a theological standpoint. Its message boils down to seeing reflections of God's love in creation, which sounds innocuous, but does creation fully reveal God or only point to God? It's a nitpick admittedly, and the chorus is the catchiest of the bunch, but it's worth giving the message a closer examination.
Listening to The Ruins' debut effort is a pleasing, fun experience. You get the sense that Black and Gonzalez put everything they had into crafting a quality product and it's a joy to reap what they've sown. Though it is a good EP, it fails to advance any lasting impression. It's like watching a summer blockbuster; you enjoy the movie and will probably watch it multiple times, but you struggle to remember character names or certain plot details. That's not a slam on The Ruins' work by any means. Their debut nailed a unique sound and balanced tone, something more experienced artists struggle with these days. Perhaps for their next work they can stretch their lyrical boundaries further and build on the firm foundation they laid with this EP. The Ruins is a pop duo worth checking out and following since, in their own words, they're "only going up from here."- Review date: 1/31/19, written by John Underdown of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: DREAM Records
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