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Often compared to At the Gates and In Flames, Age of Ruin has frequently been described as a "melodic death metal band." In other words, they have embraced certain aspects of death metal — dark, disturbing lyrics and choked, larynx-shredding, evil-sounding growls — but they are far from the sort of pure, straight-up grindcore one associates with the early recordings of Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Carcass, or Cancer. While true grindcore is amelodic and is played at an insanely fast tempo, Age of Ruin plays at different tempos and is relatively melodic; some of Age of Ruin's recordings have been as vocally extreme as Cannibal Corpse or Carcass, but musically, they aren't far removed from a thrash metal band such as Megadeth, Anthrax, or Exodus. Many of Age of Ruin's guitar riffs wouldn't be out of place on one of Testament's early albums.
Age of Ruin was formed in Fairfax, VA (a Washington, D.C., suburb) in 1998; the band's original lineup consisted of Derrick Kozerka on lead vocals, Daniel Fleming (formerly of the bands Jonas and Days Lost) on guitar, Chris Fleming on bass, and Patrick Owens on drums. After circulating a demo called The Opium Dead in 1999, Age of Ruin recorded their first official full-length album, Black Sands of the Hourglass, in 2000 and put it out themselves. In 2002, Age of Ruin added guitarist Brian Kerley (formerly of Carved in Stone) to the lineup and went for a five-man, two-guitar attack; that edition of Age of Ruin recorded the EP Autumn Lanterns for Tribunal Records. In 2003, the Baltimore-based DFF label put out an Age of Ruin EP titled The Longest Winter Woes, and it was also in 2003 that the band recorded an unlikely remake of Bon Jovi's '80s pop-metal hit "You Give Love a Bad Name," which Tribunal added to Black Sands of the Hourglass when they reissued that album in early 2004.
Along the way, Age of Ruin has had some lineup changes. After The Longest Winter Woes, drummer Owens left the band and was replaced by Colin Kercz (formerly of the Maryland bands Haddonfield and Longshot). When Chris Fleming took off in 2003, he was replaced by bassist Joe Scheibel. And when singer Kozerka left in January 2004, he was replaced by Ben Swan (who had been a member of the band Samadhi). With Kozerka's departure, Daniel Fleming was the only person remaining from Age of Ruin's original 1998 lineup. Early 2004 found Age of Ruin signed to Eulogy Recordings (a small label based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL) and working on a full-length album titled The Tides of Tragedy.