Let’s put all elitism aside for a moment. It doesn’t matter who liked Frank Turner first, or who actually heard of Million Dead before they broke up. It’s not important what Frank Turner thinks of illegal downloads. Instead of whining about how he has been ‘lost to the punk underground’ and is increasingly becoming an indie darling who can sell out large venues, let’s just ignore all that and look at what’s in front of us: a reissue of a classic record by a band who were cut off in their prime and now have the opportunity to reach a much larger audience thanks to the current exploits of their lead singer. Because A Song To Ruin is a classic, one of the finest UK punk records made by the post-hardcore generation. Blisteringly aggressive and powerful whilst still remaining devastatingly intelligent, the closest we ever got to having an At The Drive-In of our own. Hopefully now it will be given the acclaim it deserved instead of being drowned out by the sound of former tourmates Funeral For A Friend who, perhaps unjustly, went on to be much, much bigger. Formed in 2001 by guitarist Cameron Dean and bassist Julia Ruzicka, two youngsters from Australia who were new to London, the lineup was finished by Dean’s co-worker in a record store, Ben Dawson on drums, who roped in Frank Turner, whom he had played in bands with for years, for vocal duties. After settling on a name that came from a line in a Refused song, Million Dead recorded a couple of demos that landed them support slots for metalcore heavyweights Cave In and UK scene mainstays The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, and a record deal with Xtra Mile, who would release both of their full length albums. Photobucket A Song To Ruin was preceded by the release of the single Smiling At Strangers On Trains which gained the band support from John Peel and Steve Lamacq, and would end up on the finished album. When it finally came out in September 2003, Million Dead earned a nomination from Kerrang for best newcomer, and airplay on MTV2. Although well deserved, they deserved more. Whilst certain other bands were whining about ruined wedding dresses and filling songs with cheesey metallic breakdowns, Million Dead were creating a dense, frantic post-hardcore sound with crunching hardcore style guitars contrasting with more impressive melodic work that would probably land the band with a ‘math’ label today, backed by an incredibly tight rhythm section whilst Turner’s voice sounded as comfortable in a softer melodic sound as in his furious scream that would spit out rants about consumerism, socialism, ethicalism, asceticism and a whole bunch of other -isms, cleverly framed with pop culture references such as in lyrics like those to Charlie And The Propaganda Myth Machine: Willy Wonka was a capitalist confidence trickster/a poster boy for neo-liberalism/a full-stop on revolt/and the BFG a propagandist for an unaccountable regime/orwell’s vision with a wrinkled face. Kind of makes ‘and I’m nothing more than a line in your book’ seem a little pathetic in comparsion, doesn’t it? Although the whole album is fantastic, there are some definite standout tracks. The dirty, distorted intro of Pornography For Cowards explodes right out of the gate and is about as straight-up-hardcore as the album gets, featuring some insanely fast screaming backed by crashing drums. Title track A Song To Ruin starts with a gorgeously bass-heavy melodic build-up that leads to desperate, echoey vocals floating above an increasingly distorted backing. Relentless, however, is just that – a driving, unstoppable song that chugs away for four minutes, and features some of the most powerful screaming on the record. The album closes with The Rise And Fall, a 14 minute epic that powers through a wall of noise in to a rolling repetition of screaming guitar over eerie vocals until the song shreds to a finish, leaving you breathless. This was a nine out of ten album when it was released, and it’s still a nine out of ten six years later. Despite the fact that bands like BlakFish and Shapes are currently tearing up the UK with a mathier, screamier version of this formula, it doesn’t sound in the least bit tame or dated – the amazing, thoughtful lyricism by a Frank Turner who barely sounds like the folk singer he grows up to be, the guitars that can go from crushing hardcore to spacy melodic rock in an instant, the driving, weighty basslines and the frantic drums make for a record that set a standard for UK post-hardcore that most don’t even come near to. This is, however, a deluxe edition, which means bonus tracks and DVD extras (fortunately, it still sounds exactly the same as it used to, unlike the annoyingly remastered reissue of Alkaline Trio’s Goddamnit, for example). Tacked on to the end of the record are five bonus tracks that, despite ruining a fantastic album closer, are still well worth a listen. Recorded or written around the same time as A Song To Ruin, they all contain the same tricks that make the album so great, but generally with a more melodic slant. Tonight Matthew is the highlight of the bonus tracks, and is about as poppy as the band gets, with a bouncy and fun chorus cut up by dark and powerful basslines. A Million Dead DVD was announced around the time the band split, but never seemed to materialise. It’s unclear if this is actually what was planned in 2006, but it contains the band’s last ever London show, their last show before Cameron Dean left the band in 2004 and every video they made, which should be enough for those who have been waiting all this time, and makes the album well worth buying not just for new Frank Turner fans or people who missed out on it the first time round, but even people who already own it. A Song To Ruin is a true classic, a defining record of the UK scene and the post-hardcore genre. If you have never heard this album, then your life has taken a wrong turn which I suggest you correct immediately.