TOXIC RUIN “The Nightmare Is Real”

By Dr. Abner Mality

Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is generally known as the “Freshwater Surfing Capital of the World” and also as the home of world-class bratwurst. Well, pretty soon it may also be known as a place to get your face melted by heavy duty technical thrash metal if TOXIC RUIN have anything to say about it. This band is determined to be the metal shark in this surfer’s paradise.

OK, MORBID SAINT also calls Sheboygan home, so we’ll split the metal claim with those guys. But right now the spotlight is on TOXIC RUIN, whom you will be learning more about very shortly. These dudes have been around for a while, but with their new album “Nightmare Eclipse” in the pipe, their profile should rise very rapidly. This is one violent piece of death/thrash mayhem executed with extreme prejudice and precision!

Drummer Dave Miller recently took some time to chat with the Good Doctor about the history and rising fortunes of TOXIC RUIN. Let’s hear the skinsman spill the beans…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to Toxic Ruin! Your name will be new to many of our readers, so introduce the band, if you will…

DAVE MILLER: Hi guys! My name is Dave Miller, I play drums for the Wisconsin based metal band Toxic Ruin. We’re a four-man monstrosity trying to make our mark in the metal world with our classic thrash influences combined with a little modern death technicality!

WC: What lit the metal fire in you guys? Did you start with more “normal” rock and work your way up the extremity ladder or were you in heavy thrash and death right from the start?

DM: I think we all knew where we wanted to be in terms of heaviness from the start. All of us were sort of raised on metal from the 80’s and our tastes expanded over the years. In the beginning of the band it was really just skill that was limiting the potential. We were making an attempt at the time, but now I think our musicianship as a whole has allowed writing more extreme music to be possible. Of course, a couple of us started out in more Rock-ish cover bands, but I can say for myself especially that I always knew I wanted to be on the thrashier side of things!

WC: Sheboygan doesn’t come to mind as a metal metropolis. Are you the kings of the hill there or is there more of a metal scene than we know of?

DM: The small scene that used to reside in Sheboygan has basically faded away over the last 10 years. It’s a fairly small city that doesn’t really have much for live music opportunity. We call it our home base and usually throw one local show every year or so just to remind everyone that metal still lives here. That being said, we can’t claim king status quite yet since our rehearsal space is right next to the legendary Morbid Saint! Haha! I think they’ll hold that one for a while.

WC: How much of an evolution is your new album “Nightmare Eclipse” compared to your debut “Subterranean Terror”?

DM: It blows me away how far we’ve come from “Subterranean Terror”! I know it’s only been five years now since ST was released, but now when I listen back to it, it sounds like a completely different band. The change in vocalists definitely aids with that, but I think that we’ve also matured as musicians quite a bit since then and it shows on “Nightmare Eclipse”.

WC: You’ve now got a relationship with M-Theory Audio, who have some pretty well-known bands under their banner. How did this deal come about?

DM: It was a surprise to us too, actually! We had sent NE out to a long list of different labels in 2020. M-Theory somehow was missed on our list and, of course, Covid was in full force at the time so a lot of labels weren’t taking in new talent, which didn’t help. We had a few responses and offers that didn’t work out. Then after waiting a couple of months with no more interest we decided to DIY the release once again. So, late 2020 we dropped the first single, “Ritual Rebirth”. We weren’t expecting label support by this point, but about a week after the song dropped, we were messaged directly by M-Theory with an offer that we couldn’t refuse! It turned out M-Theory only heard the track because a friend of the label sent them a link and said they would dig it.

WC: How much of a step up is it working with M-Theory as opposed to doing everything yourselves?

DM: The support is phenomenal! We’ve worked with several 3rd party PR organizations and distro companies for the previous two releases, which can be a lot to handle. M-Theory’s support is letting us focus more on what we need to rather than just the business aspect 24/7. But, it is definitely getting busier in camp TR with the extra help of the label. The exposure of Nightmare Eclipse is much greater already compared to what we could have done on our own!

WC: Tell us more about the new album “Nightmare Eclipse”. I get a very dystopian sci-fi vibe from it. Is that an accurate take?

DM: I’ll give you that one for sure! I think you could also say that almost all of our material falls under that same category. For “Nightmare Eclipse”, Steve (bass/vocals) didn’t stick to one overall theme to the album, lyrically. Every song on the LP covers different topics and themes, so it’s for sure no concept album. However, the title track and artwork were all based around one of his favorite darker anime series. I’ll just leave it open as to what that actually is!

WC: The great Glen Drover worked with you on the new album. What was it like working with him and how did this come about?

DM: Yeah man! Unfortunately, we never actually got to work with him in person. The four of us still don’t quite understand how it came about, but Blake’s (guitar) dad had been chatting with Glen while we were in the writing process and supposedly snuck him a couple of the demo tracks. Glen dug what he heard and offered to do a guest spot on it. I think he was doing contract work at the time. When we found out, we were stoked about the idea! So we worked out a good spot for him in the instrumental track, …”It of The Horrid Storm”, and it turned out great!

WC: Another great experience for TOXIC RUIN was getting pretty far in the Wacken Battle in 2019. This had to be a surreal experience...tell us more about it.

DM: Winning the regional battle in Chicago was awesome! There were a lot of really good unsigned bands there, so we were lucky to squeak by that one. Even though we didn’t come out on top at the final in L.A., it was still a blast to be able to play the Cobra Lounge on Sunset. From my understanding, the final points for the battle were really close between a few bands, so I’m thinking it was a pretty hard decision for the judges. None the less, it was an awesome time all around! We didn’t make it to Germany, and we lost our van on the journey back across the U.S., but it was worth the shot! And hopefully we’ll make Wacken a possibility in the future!

WC: Is it fair to say “Nightmare Eclipse” is the most technical and over the top TOXIC RUIN yet? Was this always your desired result or did it just “turn out that way”?

DM: At this point, yes. But, “Yet” is the key word here… We’re constantly writing new material, which is great because it keeps the ‘ol “riff bank” full of new ideas. But, we have this problem that we’re continuously writing more parts that are too difficult for us to play. We like being challenged by our own music and it seems to be working out because it’s making us better players in the process and it’s driving our music to be more aggressive in the end. I think that may answer the second part of the question too!

WC: “It of the Horrid Storm” is a pretty kick-ass instrumental that really shows your playing ability? Tell us about how this song came to be and will you be doing more instrumentals?

DM: Hell, yeah you can expect more instrumentals! I’m a huge fan of songs that can take you on a journey from just a pure melodic base. When I was young, Metallica’s “Orion” was worn out in my Walkman haha! “It of The Horrid Storm” was formed after a full day of piling riffs together, between myself and Jake (guitar). Jake had a bunch of different parts we wanted to record for future use, so we tracked them down and started building sections onto it. The song wasn’t planned to be completely instrumental at the start, but after we finished the base line structure that day, we listened to what we had and immediately knew what it was turning into. From there it was just a process of stacking on the guitar solos!

WC: Is experimentation an important part of your make-up? How far would you carry it or what would be the limits to how far you could change your sound?

DM: We do experiment with different styles, but we like to keep it subtle. There’s not too much of an urge to stray far away from the usual death/thrash tendencies since it’s what we enjoy playing. I think a good example would be the track “Voices of Death” which almost shows some black metal influence. Even though none of us are big fans of the genre in general, it’s just a touch of the flavor that gives the song its own vibe.

WC: The Covid pandemic affected every band in the world. Did it make you more creative than before, or have an affect on your lyrically?

DM: When things went crazy in March of 2020, we were on tour with LICH KING and STONE CUTTERS on the east coast and had to abruptly cancel the remaining dates. That was about the extent that it had on us, other than diminishing our live presence for the rest of the year. We were well occupied in the meantime, however. Most of 2020 was finishing the new record and preparing for the release. You probably won’t see a lyrical effect or anything related to that with us, haha! We tend to stay away from current events and pop culture… it’s more METAL that way.

WC: Any live plans supporting “Nightmare Eclipse”?

DM: Absolutely! We’ll be doing a bunch one-off shows for the rest of year around the Midwest along with an album release party the day after the LP launches. Next year we have a couple of tours in the works already, so stay tuned for those!

WC: What would you say was your most memorable gig so far?

DM: Full Terror Assault 2017 was insane! We played earlier in the afternoon in some extreme heat, but it didn’t matter because Assaulters are there for one thing and that’s to party!

WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

DM: Ludwig van Beethoven, H. P. Lovecraft, Cliff Burton.

WC: Has TOXIC RUIN ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went haywire that you could tell us about?

DM: Ohhhh man! Well, I partially mentioned it before, but on our drive back to Wisconsin from the Wacken battle final in L.A. our van blew up just outside of Las Vegas. It was Sunday, a holiday weekend, and everyone was closed… We had shows booked the next two nights on the route back that we had to cancel. Somehow, we found a Uhaul agent that was open and rented a box truck. We had to give the van to a scrap yard, and then four of us squeezed into a three-person cab and drove 36 hours straight back home. …We’ve since upgraded our tour vehicle, HA!

WC: Any last messages for the fans out there?

DM: “Nightmare Eclipse” is out August 27th! Check us out on all the socials, go support the scene, and get out to some shows!