Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou

The Helm Of Sorrow EP

Written by: AP on 25/04/2021 20:45:47

When the unlikely pair uniting death gospel artist Emma Ruth Rundle with sludge metal outfit Thou hit the studio last year to transform their long-dreamt collaboration on stage at the 2019 edition of Roadburn Festival into an album (which became last year’s “May Our Chambers Be Full”), there was always going to be a lot of material pouring out of the creative powerhouse. And just like any other band in possession of songs that were originally written for, but then deemed unsuitable for the general sound or theme of a particular record, instead of just discarding them, Rundle and Thou compiled them into an EP, “The Helm of Sorrow”, which they themselves describe as a ‘companion’ to the aforementioned full-length. In more familiar terms, the EP is thus a compilation of four b-sides recorded during the sessions for the album, including an interpretation of The Cranberries’ classic song “Hollywood”.

Long story short: if, like me, your breath was taken by the aforementioned record, then you will of course like what “The Helm of Sorrow” has to offer as well. It kicks off with “Orphan Limbs”, a sombre and subdued piece reminiscent of Rundle’s own solo material, which allows plenty of room for her smoky voice to cast its spells and wrap the listener around her little finger — until Thou’s Tyler Coburn lets his tom-toms roll to announce a shift in tone toward something more frenzied around the four-minute mark. This segment offers another example of those bizarre, yet oddly intoxicating vocal duets by Rundle and Bryan Funck that made parts of “May Our Chambers Be Full” so unique, with Rundle singing in a falsetto bordering on the operatic and Funck laying down his crackling signature growls as they exclaim: “Frenzy! Shrieks! Revel! Flesh!” in the midst of acerbic sludge riffs. “Crone Dance” continues on with this dense and atmospheric style, in which the two voices and four guitars once again fuse and feed off one another in devastating fashion, before deconstructing themselves into a grotesquerie of a breakdown.

But it is the second half of the EP that proves to be the most intriguing, first as “Recurrence” brings one of the most expansive post-metallic soundscapes yet from this septet and eventually concludes in a storming finale verging on blackgaze in the vein of Deafheaven or perhaps Tombs. It sounds like nothing on the full-length, and as such, one can understand why the seven musicians could not find space for it there in spite of its being an extremely good track. And then there is the aforementioned cover of “Hollywood”, which must go down as one of the most successful adaptations of the Irish icons’ music thus far… I mean, if it were not for the much heavier instrumentation and Funck’s ‘harmonising’ Rundle’s voice with his growls, you could be forgiven for thinking it was actually the late Dolores O’Riordan behind the microphone; that is how faithfully and respectfully Rundle is able to bring this classic to a new life.

“The Helm of Sorrow” is thus a worthy companion to “May Our Chambers Be Full”, and while it does have a slight taste of leftovers, its existence means that this ambitious collaboration now has enough material to deliver a full-length concert when live music becomes permissable again. Interesting to note is that the EP picks up from pretty much exactly where the album left off — “The Valley” off the latter bleeds into “Orphan Limbs” quite seamlessly — which means that although the EP works just as well on its own, for the optimal experience I would recommend listening to the two records consecutively. This is some of the most exciting material to have emerged from the metal scene in recent years, so if you did not hop onboard already, this is your last call for the hype train destined for immortality in the genre.


Download: Recurrence, Hollywood
For the fans of: Emma Ruth Rundle, Red Sparowes, Thou, Yob
Listen: Bandcamp

Release date 15.01.2021
Sacred Bones

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