From the start of Ruelle's Madness you know you're in for something heavy. Opening with the title track you're treated to a bruising back beat that grabs your attention rather than asking for it, and when she throws down the hammer at the halfway point you have no choice but to devote yourself to the rest of the record. You owe her that much. From there we get to experience an artist coming into her own, and in a big way.
Some of you may remember her 2015 release Up In Flames, which joined the ranks of alternative pop in the vain of Banks or Halsey. I enjoyed it quite a bit but at the same time didn't take too much from it. Surprisingly it garnered her quite a bit of love, and as of now that love hasn't translated to the follow up. Then again, despite Madness essentially being an evolved version of Up In Flames, to me it feels like an entirely different animal.
Sitting somewhere between industrial and pop, Ruelle has found herself exploring a niche genre that still hasn't quite blown up. With Madness' aforementioned commanding opening, you're forced to take in the rest of the release with a level of concentration possibly absent from the first release. While I would never casually compare something to Ellie Goulding's Halcyon (possibly my favorite pop record ever) I do hear glimpses of it, along with acts like LIGHTS. Songs "Live Like Legends" and "Game of Survival" offer the same hard hitting backdrop that "Madness" does, while "Where Do We Go From Here" and "Closing In" do the exact opposite, opening up a softness that complements the atmosphere as well as expands the scope.
This is a huge step forward for Ruelle, and at 25 minutes it's an easy companion for the casual commute. Look at me, helping you out like that. What a guy!