Album Review: Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes - Modern Ruin

Words by Maddy Howell

With a musical career spanning over a decade and featuring projects such as Gallows and Pure Love, Frank Carter is no stranger to producing records that push boundaries and encourage open-mindedness. 2015’s 'Blossom' marked the birth of his latest project, Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, which saw him return to his roots in a new and exciting manner.

Producing the follow-up to an album with such critical acclaim was always going to be a challenge, especially for someone with such a notable and influential history in the modern UK punk scene. Taking some melodic influences from previous outfit Pure Love, 'Modern Ruin' is an evolution of sound in an increasingly bemusing fashion.

Bluebelle starts of proceedings, with Carter’s crooning vocals echoing out over a delicately plucked banjo. The lamentable and almost eerie opener creates a tone quite unlike anything Carter has previously conjured up, instantly taking a detour from the aggressive and gravelly tones of The Rattlesnakes’ debut.

Lead single Lullaby delves into the more familiar gritty rock ‘n roll notes of what Carter is renowned for. It’s an alt-rock anthem, and whilst it may lack direction and risks becoming monotonous in parts, the snarling vocals and swaggering sense of confidence bring it back to form an unexpected yet intriguing return for the band.

Modern Ruin is littered with moments that both bewilder and entertain, with Wild Flowers resembling Carters’ former project Pure Love if they somehow managed to recruit Ian McKaye to front on a track. It’s here that Carter’s formidable vocals truly begin to show themselves, with his powerful cockney twang thundering over the raucous riffs.

The feisty and feverish Snake Eyes touches upon the topic of alcohol-fuelled nights as Carter spits “What did I do last night / and will I be ashamed?”. Think an edgy Arctic Monkeys, if Alex Turner had refused to settle for mediocrity post-2007.  It’s emotionally raw and delivers everything it promises from the off-set, with comparisons easily drawn to a grainier early Incubus.

Whilst not all seem to be entirely calculated, this record presents Carter taking risks in a manner he never has before. Thunder is a rattling and emotional track, acting as the perfect illustration of his vocal development. The powerful screams create a sense of intensity he hasn’t been capable of reaching before, with each blistering note reaffirming his place in the UK punk scene.

The most reminiscent moment of the album comes in the title track, giving a taste of the old-school punk vibes of The Rattlesnakes’ debut. Carter’s signature spitting vocals present the aggressive and unrelenting passion he has continually shown throughout his career, ensuring that no-one can deny his importance in the scene.

Neon Rust brings the affair to a close in a five-minute display of just how to make experimentation pay off. The dreamy notes of the intro are soon accompanied by Carter’s pained screams in an aggressively starling cacophony. It’s unsettling, it’s loud and forms the defining moment of Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes in 2017.

It’s a far cry from Gallows, it’s a far cry from The Rattlesnakes debut and it’s a far cry from anything the world has heard from Carter to date. Comparing Modern Ruin to its predecessors seems like a relatively pointless endeavour, it’s a reincarnation of Carter and a complete rebranding of The Rattlesnakes as a collective.

Although there are moments where Modern Ruin begins to feel like a slightly lacklustre affair, the cracks are healed almost as soon as they begin to show. With this release Carter sheds a part of his angst-fuelled exterior and gives a glimpse of a more emotionally raw side of his songwriting abilities. It’s almost dangerously experimental, and whilst parts of the risk may not have paid off in the ways intended, Carter’s consistent ability and desire to try new things is endlessly commendable. If Blossom was the storm, Modern Ruin is the calm that came before it.