Artist: Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou
Album; May Our Chambers Be Full
Label: Sacred Bones Records
Release Date: 30/10/2020
Country: United States
Originally published on 4ZZZ’s The New Releases Show.
If you were feeling daunted and getting lost in the weeds of Thou’s discography, they are almost certainly not making it easy for you. Getting through their back catalogue is a mammoth task. Every time we turn around it seems a cavalcade of grime slathered doom torrents out of Baton Rogue and hits with the impact of an oak bookcase toppling on to you; you see it coming, it’s too late to move and now you acquiesce. Before May Our Chambers Be Full, I’d not heard anything from Emma Ruth Rundle. Being in the company of Thou was enough of a recommendation for me. Early singles were a sizeable move from customary layers of filth, steeped in punk’s abrasive D.I.Y aesthetic. Gone as well is the usual, affronting, grainy, greyscale imagery taken from Häxan. I’m guessing this has something to do with what ERR brings to the table. Making my way through this record, it feels like being introduced to your friend’s friend for the first time; you’re not too sure on how to proceed. Eventually, however, if things go really well you form a different relationship from the first one and this makes the initial friendship deeper as a result.
From the off, opening cut Killing Floor reflects a new found clarity, much as we see in the Craig Mulcahy shot cover-art. Gone is all filth from here. Almost a minute elapses before our light, introductory stupor is broken by a passage that’s basically shoegaze. Vocal duality is a well-worked component of this record. Thankfully it circumvents the good cop / bad cop goofiness propagated by mid-ten’s metalcore bands who wore that trope thin. The collaborators here open and close the record with its longest songs, as both wade into open water with languid determination like Bob Ross’ brushstrokes. Slabs of stoned doom riffs march from Monolith as vocals drop in tone to match the dour guitars. Voices take on a melodramatic whine in step with the mood. As the snare claps through a surly song like Queensland summer thunder, full blown desert doom erupts in the final moments.
A similar move is executed on Out of Existence, though here the drum plateau is far more sparse. Oscillating clean and harsh vocals work with their corresponding instrumental partners in perfect synch. Emma Ruth Rundle makes a nice contrast in the faint opening, matches the final moments of enlivened progression and backs it up on Ancestral Recall where her folk leanings shine through in volume. Her voice compliments both the more restrained and the more morose parts in equal measure. Magickal Cost takes a softer build after track four’s collapsing closure and in doing so applies a guttering spotlight again on the voice. In conjunction, there’s some deft song writing chops put in full view now we’re not trudging through endless moss to find the notes. It’s an interesting manipulation of their tools mainly used to crush us but now we’re gazing open mouthed at refined finesse as on Into Being’s slow construction. The weight grows, onerously, before a solo breaks out from underneath. Said solo is promptly squashed heralding our entrance stepping into the record closing and The Valley; slow and reluctant final steps though they may be. Much like what came directly before it, it swells ever so slowly. Measured tension is tightened before an explosive finish.
Like I said you can easily get option paralysis in an effort to find a start point in Thou’s extensive discography. This work with Emma Ruth Rundle is easily their most accessible, even in a collection as vast as theirs and it doesn’t undercut what makes them idiosyncratic either. As for Emma Ruth Rundle herself -and if it seems like I’m downplaying her involvement- I came from a place of unfamiliarity and played off what I know. I now know that I’m a fool for sleeping on her work.
Thanks Thou, for the introduction.
Listen to the full album below: