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EMMA RUTH RUNDLE & THOU - The Helm Of Sorrow

Most reviewers will obviously compare this collaborative EP of Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle with their previous full-length record "May Our Chambers Be Full". It's from the same sessions and the first limited special edition already featured the EP as an appendix.

Well, the thing with me is...
that I had ordered a copy on violet vinyl of said LP, but the retailer didn't receive enough items, so my order got canceled and I was a little sore and didn't buy the standard black version instead. I've pre-ordered a new coloured pressing now, but that will only arrive in a couple of months. And since I'm trying to develop a habit of not listening to albums to death online before I receive the actual physical copy, I'm really not familiar with the album yet.

I know that it probably is a strong album of the year 2020 contender though, because I'm a) not blind and have read stuff in the internet and I'm b) not deaf (yet) and have seen their joint performance at Roadburn Festival 2019, which was the whole cause for this liaison in the first place.

EMMA RUTH RUNDLE & THOU - The Helm Of Sorrow (12" EP) (2021)

With the disclaimer above it's clear that I can't really tell if the creative shares of the artists are distributed in the same way as on the album, but what is obvious on first listen is that the experimental slude/doom band is not collaborating just with the singer Emma Ruth Rundle, but with the whole package of guitarist, songwriter and singer.

"Orphan Limbs", the first track of the twenty minute EP, starts very quiet and reduced, centered around her typical guitar tone and surprisingly not her lead vocals, but those of Emily McWilliams, who has been a long-time member of the extended Thou family for a long time. (front left singer on this NPR music tiny desk concert)
Only in the last quarter of the song, when the volume is turned up and the shrill shrieks of Bryan Funck embody pure bestial anxiety, it is confirmed that the rest of this record will presumedly feature some super thick and heavy shit.

Further proof comes in exhibit B, "Crone Dance", where Funck and Emma Ruth Rundle share vocals equally. Technically it's inevitable that the comparison to Cult Of Luna and Julie Christmas comes to mind, even though the vibe of the tracks reminds me more of Subrosa and a version of My Dying Bride with multiplied gravity and bleakness. That final riff is so bad-ass heavy, you can bury a black whole under it.

"Recurrence" is the second track which sees ERR only on a bit of background vocal duty, while her dark melancholic guitar mixes with the sludgiest riff work, over which - almost a little too repetitive - Funck screeches out his entrails again.

Most reviewers will obviously compare the final track "Hollywood" with its original version from The Cranberries.

Well, the thing with me is...
I didn't really care neither for the band nor the scene or genre in the Nineties and I'm not even sure if I have ever heard the song before or if it just sounds loosely familiar because of its vocal phrasing similarities to "Zombie".

I know that this interpretation is pretty awesome though. Not only works the intensity of Thou extremely good with dark 90s alternative rock vibe (which along with a certain grunge influence seems to be a theme throughout the whole EP), but this is also where Emma's breathy voice shines the most.
Just as her famous 2 Minutes To Late Night cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" she also absolutely nails this stylistically very different performance.

All in all this is one of those short records you can easily listen to on a loop.

Despite their generally interesting promise I somehow couldn't really find myself in the mood to explore Thou beyond that one show and the occasional clip here and there until now, so I clearly came into this as a fan of Emma Ruth Rundle, and I'm glad that this killer EPs has now properly introduced me to the band.

Will surely be continued when the full-length finally arrives here.

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