Doom pounders Un push back against traditional darkness, bring celebration to ‘Sentiment’

It really can’t be argued that much of heavy metal is a haven for negativity. That only makes sense. There are dark forces at work here, and much of this music is a reaction to all of the horrible things going on in the world and the anger felt deep inside that must find a creative vessel for release, lest the person explode and do something they’ll regret.

But not everything about metal comes from a dark place. Take, for example, long-running doom band YOB and their constant flow of inner reflection, Eastern philosophies, and refusal to give into hatred. On that same path come Un, the Seattle-based doom squadron that is returning with their excellent second full-length “Sentiment.” On the surface, it sounds shadow-drowned and brutal, a long, concussive album that could have you wallowing with your own demons. But dig deeper, and you find far more than that. Vocalist/guitarist Monte McCleary points out that this isn’t another dark foreboding doom record and is instead one of celebration among what often can be a destructive world. Instead of feeding off that pain and agony, the band—it also includes guitarist David Wright, bassist Clayton Wolf, and drummer Alex Bytnar—see their music as a token of gratitude, a way to help feel a little more positive among the stress and anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with most of our daily lives. Even if this stuff feels dark and foreboding, as you’ll read from me.

“In Its Absence” is the 13:42 opener, and it begins gently, with guitars dripping, and a melodic gust taking shape. Deep growls rumble, while the atmosphere builds, and the slow-driving playing keeps numbing the senses. The pace shifts, as the guitars cut, and lurching growls penetrate the mind. Guitars screech before everything fades into coldness, icing over your wounds while the guitars go off again, exploring outer space, letting the playing buzz before fading with a freeze. “Pools of Reflection” is 11:55, and it ramps up the feelings of sorrow, with riffs getting cagey, and then, suddenly, tranquility swimming. A female voice emerges and soars, while the pace bleeds darkness, and the growls tear open all feelings of ease. Melodies stretch, while their funeral doom rolls in mystery, digging in and even upping the pace eventually. The growls get tougher, while the music sprawls, and the track is hammered closed.

The title track brings calm before the playing lights up, and the growls scrape. The slow, grimy assault meets up with leads that are laser focused and stretch the story, bringing a cool gust of air. Out of that atmosphere comes gritty, chewy guitar work as well as growls that smear mud over your wounds. The melodies then simmer, as a gazey ambiance drizzles over the hulking path, bringing brutality along. Things even out again, with hearty winds soothing before the track tumbles away. “A Garden Where Nothing Grows” ends the album and is the longest song here, clocking in at 15:33. Solemn guitars lead to cavernous growls and a flooding noise pit. The song keeps adding intensity slowly, bashing away as the playing meets a thick wall of drone. The growls become gurgles, as the song maims the senses, playing with the pace, and entering into a haze complete with warm guitars. The track gets jazzy, but not in a showy way, as the growls punish anew before a foggy smear takes hold, and the band pounds and drubs you into oblivion.

I love dark and sinister music that digs for hopelessness and depression as much as the next person, but it’s also really refreshing to spend time with an album such as “Sentiment.” Un remind that, while we may drink deeply from punishment’s well, it’s also OK to look around and appreciate the positive aspects of life. You can still be thankful and a brutal metal disciple at the same time, and this is a great lesson to keep in our hearts. Oh, and it’s also one fuck of a great doom album.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/unvibes

To buy the album, go here: http://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.translationloss.com/

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Bliss Signal combine freezing synth and caustic guitar work on mind-melting debut record

There is more than one way to play heavy music, and we’ve come to learn over the past several years as the boundaries have been pushed further and further into the distance. For those who strictly adhere to the old ways, you’ll always have bands that acquiesce. But this genre is a living, breathing organism, and its continual evolution is the way we guarantee it survives.

On that note, today we’re tackling the self-titled debut full-length from Bliss Signal, and electronic metal project from James Kelly (Altar of Plagues, Wife) and UK DJ/produce Jack Evans (Mumdance) who deliver eight tracks that largely are synth driven but definitely pack a metallic punch. Don’t confuse this with the infusion of darkwave projects that have come along lately and found a soft spot among metal’s more open-minded circles. While parts of this eight-track collection definitely would not sound out of place in a B sci-fi or horror soundtrack, it’s also a decidedly metal record. It’s loud, aggressive, and if the band decided to lay over the top some ear-piercing shrieks or growls, you would not bat an eye. Instead, they stay instrumental and bring some seriously horrific and icy shit, stuff that won’t make you dance but wallow in a corner in the throes of panic.

“Slow Scan” is your opener, and it emerges from a thick synth haze, as blips echo, and it feels like you’re navigating through a weird, icy dream. “Bliss Signal” follows as the blips carry over, noise and synth crash, and the intensity builds. The noise gives off almost an exuberant vibe, as the track rips itself away. “Surge” arrives in a storm of cold keys and a dense fog, while the tempo pounds away, and things get frenzied. A metallic rage begins to envelop, bringing on heaviness and grim reality, as the pace picks up, the sounds blind, and everything ends in a tornadic vortex. “N16 Drift” feels like an early morning daze, as the clouds build, synth shines, and things begin to feel frosty and wintry. The chill spreads amid a rumbling underneath, as the track fades away.

“Floodlight” has guitars striking, as ominous tones flood, and beats spill in and add violence. Rays of light shoot through and blind, while the sounds of urban moans add a level of sootiness to the song. Overcast weirdness makes things feel alien, as the track swims through clouds, mesmerizing before it fades away. “Endless Rush” has an out-of-body haze, as sounds flood the mind, and a droning, driving pace accelerates the panic. The volume continues to rise and oppress, amplifying the danger, before the whole thing washes away. “Tranq” has guitars jabbing away and drawing blood, as riffs bloody noses, and the song gets loud and abrasive. The tempo slices away, the emotions burst, and the sounds caterwaul and bleed out. Closer “Ambi Drift” situates into noise swarms, as an inhuman voice is swallowed behind an ocean wall, and the visibility fades. The pressure then splits any sense of calm, while the world rumbles beneath, and the track dissolves into fever dream.

Bliss Signal are one of the many bands pushing metal into weirder and more intricate terrains, and their self-titled debut is bound to confuse those who only adhere to the strictest of rules. If metal is about chaos and destroying boundaries, then Bliss Signal have to be considered one of the more disruptive projects to come along lately. They lure you in with icy synthscapmdses and then slay you with your own sword, with you never seeing the attack coming.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blisssignal/

To buy the album (CD/digital), go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com/

Or here (vinyl/digital): http://www.truepanther.com/releases/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

And here: http://www.truepanther.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Fórn’s muddy darkness, despair spread wings over punishing ‘Rites of Despair’

If you’ve read this site for any length of time, you’re probably aware that music resonates in these parts that tackles personal darkness and struggles. We all go through them, us included, and it’s very easy to get buried under too much debris, unable to climb out for air or try to avoid overwhelming pressures. Those issues often darken other areas of our lives, making a lot of what goes on tougher to handle.

Just a single visit with Fórn’s second full-length album “Rites of Despair” lets you in on the suffering and pain that are packed into these songs. This effort is broken into two acts—“Depersonalization” and “Derealization”—and the 11 tracks spread over 66 minutes examine issues such as isolation, depression, abandonment, and dangerous bouts of self-discovery. It’s an album that digs deep into tumult, gets right inside the sensitive parts of the heart and mind, and lays all of that mayhem on the line for all to see. The band’s brand of pummeling but atmospheric sludge and doom makes these topics feel even heavier than they normally would mentally, and their delivery gets inside of you and devastates you. The band—vocalist Chris Pinto, guitarists Danny Boyd and Joey Gonzalez, bassist Brian Barbaruolo, and drummer Christian Donaldson—and joined on this mammoth record by guests including vocalist Lane Oshi, Jessica Way (Worm Ouroboros, Barren Harvest), Madalynn Collura, and Alec Rodriguez (Lesser Glow, the Proselyte) to add more texture and personality to a record already flooding with emotion.

“涂地” starts the record with spacey synth, Oshi singing amid the foggy night, adding her soulful notes to an eerie passage. “Manifestations of the Divine Root” opens as pummeling doom, with the pace lurching, and the growls corroding like acid. Melodies lap along a thick bassline, and then warm guitars wash away the blood, leading into a deathrock-style corner. The track bursts again, with the guitars chewing everything to bits. “Cosmic Desolation” starts with cold guitars, whispers in the air, and a steady pounding that ushers in sorrowful melodies. The pace gets gritty and bloody, while guitars wash over and cool the heat before another bludgeoning arrives. Colorful playing and violence mix, while the guitars thicken, and the song races to its finish. “Ego Desecration” is quiet and clean with Collura’s singing haunting, making it feel like you’re navigating a fever dream from which you can’t seem to break. “(Altar of) Moss, Lichen & Blood” has a clean start before a swaggering riff strikes, and things manage to get tougher and more monstrous. The riffs reek of doom, while the essence of meanness grows, growls scrape, and following a brief calm, the leads explode and pile up filth a mile high. “Ritual Ascension Through a Weeping Soul” has guitars flowing and sadness flowing deeply, as the vocals shred the senses, and misery packs on the pressure. The track drags its damaged body across the earth, as melody gushes thick dark oil, the band hammers away savagely, and the song ends up in cavernous hell.

“Auraboros” is an instrumental track built on Western-sounding guitar moans, as the music simmers in the air and floats off into “Scrying Below the Wolf Moon” and its sinister, threatening guitar work. The elodies that rush are full of mourning, while the vocals do instant damage, and the doom strains squeal in agony. The track then freezes in its steps, while the band lets the song slowly trickle its blood into a stream before one more all-out assault. The drums bash in brains, while sorrow gushes, and everything ends in a nasty fury. “The Ancient Wisdom of Sorrow” crushes right away, as the vocals slice through bones, and the track itself hulks up and prepare for battle. The soloing weeps before filthy playing arrives and mars everything, and then the growls register more blows as the song heads into the dirt. Damaging noise, a slowly delivered epitaph, and a blood-smeared view of the horizon are all that’s left at the final gate. “A Transmutation” is a quick instrumental comprised of quiet guitars and whispers, while Way’s singing gets inside of you and turns you into a ghost. That all leads to final cut “Subconscious Invocations” that starts gently enough, as it works its way out of a thick mist, and then a deluge of melodic doom strikes and buries souls underneath. Way’s voice once again soars, an amber beacon among smoke and carnage, while the track slowly builds its way to a crescendo. The soloing spills blood, the intensity reaches a critical mass, and everything finally gives way, ending its reign in a creaky, warbling panic.

Fórn embody the psychological torment and torture many of us deal with and endure over a lifetime, and “Rites of Despair” is a record that collects all of that chaos and spreads it into a massive, devastating document. This is an album that may take a few visits to fully absorb as a whole, but once it hits you, it leaves you a blistered mess. This is a dark album, one that follows a tumultuous period for the band and one that hopefully acts as catharsis for them, as well as their audience.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Forndoom/

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/collections/pre-orders

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

Crippled Black Phoenix display dark emotion, embrace outcast role on awesome ‘Great Escape’

Photo by Marton Bodnar

We soon are entering into the darkest part of the year here in the United States, when nature will decay, the daylight will grow scarce, and warmth will retreat for a couple seasons. That also tends to be a time when people’s personal darkness comes back to roost, robbing one of happiness and hope when the lack of daylight and warmth chew away at psyches.

There always has been a thick dark sheen draped over the music made by UK-based band Crippled Black Phoenix, a band that isn’t really in the realm of heavy metal but certainly can spill over into that terrain. Their dramatic, emotional brand of music combines many sound elements including art rock, psychedelics, doom, and prog, yet you can’t really affix a definite label to them. On top of their sound, their songs often are packed with intimacy and personal experiences, as well as reactions to the world going on around them, and all of that comes back in spades on their excellent new record “Great Escape.” The formal follow-up to 2016’s incredible “Bronze” again finds the band unloading sharp epics, biting rock, and dreamy transmissions that could make your blood pump and your tear ducts swell in the same song. Long helmed by multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves (who played in the past with Iron Monkey and Electric Wizard), he and the rest of the band—Ben Wilsker (drums), Daniel Änghede (vocals, guitar), Jonas Stålhammar (guitar), Tom Greenway (bass), Mark Furnevall (synthesizers, Hammond, backing vocals), Helen Stanley (grand piano, synthesizer, backing vocals, trumpet), and Belinda Kordic (vocals, percussion)—pack these 11 songs with humanity and dark tidings, with each listen more infectious than the one before it.

“You Brought It Upon Yourselves” is a compelling introductory piece built on synthscapes and clips from British philosopher Alan Watts, as well as a piece from the 1972 film “Silent Running.” As the words start to swirl together and repeat, so do their messages on individuality, staying outside the norm, and the fear of a homogenized world. Then “To You I Give” launches, a 9:21-long burst of power that pays homage to love and devotion, even in the midst of chaos. “We’ll make it right, hope we’ll still be here tomorrow,” Änghede calls, while the song continues to build on each element, turning it into a dashing light. The song turns inside out later, with guitars charging, the flood waters rising, and a sweltering end. “Uncivil War Pt. 1” is a proggy, cosmic instrumental led by zapping keys and eeriness before it shifts off into the stars. “Madman” brings some swagger to the record, as the grittier vocals and cold, alien synth back up Änghede’s warning of, “You think I’m fire? Get ready to burn.” “Times, They Are a Raging” follows, an 11:57 piece that begins with piano dripping and solemn melodies, as Änghede tries to hit a unifying note with, “We all bleed just the same, you know.” That transitions into darker, more ominous guitars, as the pace is torn open, soloing is unleashed, and a whirlwind of emotions caterwauls. The intensity keeps flowing until it’s pulled back, only to have quiet accordion lead it from the room.

“Rain Black, Reign Heavy” has guitars rumbling, tensions rising, with Kordic pointing, “How many times do I have to die?” Horns arrive as the song bursts like a storm cloud, with the singing swelling, and the song bleeding out on delicate piano. “Slow Motion Breakdown” opens with church bells, icy synth, and guitars that take on a 1980s feel. Soloing takes off and soars through the skies, as damage is done, and the track fades out in the damaged strains of amusement park melodies. “Nebulas” has a guitar part that reminds me of the Edge when he was still hungry in, like, 1981. It drives the song as Kordic takes lead, calling, “I’m sorry, so sorry,” over the chorus. There is a gust of New Wave bravado, as steely guitars join up and find their way into the murk. “Las Diabolicas” is the shortest non-instrumental track of the set, situating itself in alien terrain, as the vocals sound transmitted from space. “The walls are closing in on you tonight,” Änghede observes, adding a sense of danger to what’s a pretty damn strong song. The record ends on the two-part “Great Escape,” the first a 7:36-long piece that’s the quieter, more psychedelic of the pair. “Don’t wait for me,”  Änghede warns, while tranquil guitars try to soothe, horns slip under a fog before gloriously rising later, and then we’re into the 13:03-long second part that starts with guitar and attitude. The sun blazes over the song’s horizon, feeling like a classic Pink Floyd song that goes to squeeze your heart with its hugeness, and then synth settles in and we’re back to calm. Softer singing and weeping guitars take over before the band sends you on an excursion over the final minutes where layers are placed over steaming layers, the track gushes with emotion, and eventually it slips away and dissolves into the night.

Crippled Black Phoenix manage to weave so many different styles of music, and songs that hammer your heart and soul, and they do so with no pretension and with their own blood on display for you to see. “Great Escape” is a record that should act as a perfect companion for anyone out there struggling with their own darkness are who just find it hard to wake up in the morning and face an increasingly volatile world. Crippled Black Phoenix always manage to take those words and feelings you can’t convey and turn them into ideal statements on the human condition.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CBP444/

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com//

Or here (International): https://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Canadian metal legends Voivod return with one of their finest albums on startling ‘The Wake’

There’s this notion, and there is something to it, that bands in their later years do not make their best music. A lot of times, it seems like these artists are doing it just so they have justification to tour, and when these new songs wash over the audience, people sit on their hands, because the content just doesn’t match their classic stuff.

That’s not always the case, by the way, with older bands. Rush’s last (and maybe final) record “Clockwork Angels” was an incredible piece of work that they recreated live. Judas Priest just put out “Firepower” this year, and it’s their best stuff since the early 1990s. Following that lead comes Voivod with their incredible new album “The Wake,” which, by the way, will kick your ass all over the place. This band has been going since 1981, and they have made some of the most interesting, dexterous metal of any band ever. And here we are, 37 years after they formed, and they’re still making music that’s challenging, fun, and totally awash in sci-fi madness. Their latest is a sort of concept record, and this eight-track, 56-minute album twists, turns, and blasts you through the cosmos with prog-fueled thrash that sounds as good now as it ever has. In fact, much of this new record, their 14th, visits many eras of their discography, with some of the material even teasing the days of “Dimension Hatross,” “Killing Technology,” and “Nothingface.” All of this is with a lineup that keeps half its classic formation and half comprised of new blood with veterans vocalist Snake and drummer Away joined by guitarist Chewy (on board since 2008 following Piggy’s passing) and bassist Rocky (he joined in 2014.)

“Obsolete Beings” starts the record with strange noises, guitars chugging, and prog-fueled verses that are fun and full of life. Fluid soloing from Chewy causes things to get spacey, before Snake howls, “There you are, no one will ever know!” The main body of the song fades out into strangeness that douses you in dizziness before making way for “The End of Dormancy” and its killer riffs. The track is slurry and melodic, as Rocky’s stellar basslines act as a spine, while the track gets grimy and full of danger. “Too late to retreat!” Snake warns, as the song bends into a strange sequence that reminds of the tones of their “Astronomy Domine” cover. Snake seemingly relives an alien probe, trying to figure out what all these machines are for before realizing, “I am the only one who survives.” “Orb Confusion” has guitars stabbing and the track taking on an older Voivod vibe. Snake is awash in paranoia as he asks, “Now, where should I go? What should I do? How to escape?” as the music swims and slithers, pushing toward a strange, creaky outro. “Iconspiracy” fades in from the stars, gaining speed and chewing up muscle in its gears. The vocals are spat out, while synth envelops, and a baroque-style aura is achieved. The guitars tangle your guts, delivering classic chops and prog oddity before the song comes to a fiery end.

“Spherical Perspective” simmers in a space haze before it comes to life and pushes the boundaries of sanity. Guitars spiral and confound, as Snake pokes, “Are you scared?” before a miasma of soloing washes in, and then calm arrives. As the pace lessens, the guitars chime closed, and the drums roll away. “Event Horizon” has shifty riffs and really is a bizarre song. “This goes way beyond expectations,” Snake calls, which also is a pretty good summary of this record, before a jazzy solo sprawls. Synth fog gets thicker, obscuring your vision as the song bleeds away. “Always Moving” charges hard out of the gates, as weird noises mix in, and the vocals sound like they’re swimming in the air. The song plays with its tempo, pumping blood in some corners, going serene at other times, and ending everything with a good clobbering. The record ends with 12:24-long epic “Sonic Mycelium,” the perfect way to bring this album to an end. It fact, it’s a track, that reprises a lot of what you’ve heard previously—lyrics from other songs, melodies that are warped versions of what preceded this, as mutated forms come back to haunt, and it’s a presentation that acts sort of a reliving of everything you heard before it. There are weird and dreamy melodies intertwined, numbing playing, and the whole thing ending in a bed of eerie strings that sweep the record closed.

All hails to Voivod, one of heavy metal’s weirdest and greatest bands, one that still makes incredible and relevant sounds today. “The Wake” is one of those examples where you should not write off older artists, because some of them still have gas in the tank, crazy ideas in their brain. This is an awesome piece of work that, really, is as good as just about anything else in their awesome catalog.

For more on the band, go here: http://voivod.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.centurymedia.com/

Sumac examine power, dangers of love, further expand musical boundaries on ‘Love in Shadow’

Love is one of the greatest forces on earth, as it moves people to do extraordinary things perhaps previously thought impossible. At the same time, it also can lead to jealousy, violence, death, and destruction, as that incredible quality sometimes can have a negative effect and create monsters out of people normally not inclined to terrible behavior.

If you summarized the thematic content of every song written since the beginning of time, there’s a good chance love would be the top motivator for creating such art, and probably hands down. Toss Sumac into that pot, as their ambitious, hulking new record “Love in Shadow” examines what it means to deal with that very basic need to love and be loved. These aren’t romantic jams or feats of sexual conquest, which should come as no surprise considering the players involved—guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old man Gloom, Mamiffer), bassist Brian Cool (Russian Circles), and drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists). Instead, they put their focus examining the beautiful and corrupting powers of love, which can make a person a tender, understanding being or push them toward jealousy, perversion, obsession, and more. Add to this, Sumac never have sounded this free. This is the hardest Sumac record to date to classify of their three full-lengths, as they melt away any expected ideas of song structure and melody and instead go into areas of free-form playing, where they let their fire-breathing spirits go where they must.

This four-track, 66-minute beast gets started with “The Task,” a 21:32 pounder that feels like a few different songs stitched together. The track rollicks and delivers power as it opens up and bleeds, with proggy sections confounding, and Turner’s lion’s roar vocals concussing you. The track charges, bolts, and rattles over the new few minutes, eventually going clean, seemingly fading out, before a folkish transition settles into the mix. As the heaviness returns, the track begins to sludge, as ominous tones darken the skies, noise coils in the corner, and the drums deliver fury. The pace gets a little strange, while the basslines sneak up on you, and the song slowly meanders into another pocket of calm. The music eases into space, as static pours, organs awaken, and growls devastate while the song fades away. “Attis’ Blade” runs a healthy 15:45, and it starts with guitars clanging, howled words, and everything bleeding into a psychedelic headspace. Guitars and noise zap, as clean playing returns, and the path burns out of control. Cosmic chaos erupts, while Turner’s wails turn bloody, and a sludgy pocket swallows the track, allowing things simmer and steam, letting the price Attis was forced to pay sink in.

“Arcing Silver” is the shortest track, though it still runs 12:02. Thick bass gets the cut gushing, while guitars slice in, and the howls thicken the punishment. Jerky riffs leave bruising, as the band starts to thrash away violently, and the tempo gets tornadic and dizzying. A sound bath lets everything stew in its juices before the song speeds up, wild cries are delivered, and the track is pummeled closed. “Ecstasy of Unbecoming” ends the record, a 16:50-long mammoth that is calm and tranquil at first, as the drums slowly tap, and the noise is awakened. Static begins to spread, and the band starts to chug away about four minutes in, landing calculated blows. Hellish growls and tricky playing emerge, and things drown for a moment before smashing through the surface of the water. The track keeps building new components organically, as if they’re feeling the space and each other’s playing as they add new layers. An instant buzz washes in before the song is torn to shreds, with the pace spiraling, a bludgeoning crushing the earth, and the song ending abruptly, sucking all the air from your lungs.

Sumac’s desire to destroy boundaries combined with putting out content that puts your mind and emotions to the test is all over “Love Iin Shadow,” easily the band’s most challenging work to date. Not only do they make you consider the meaning of love to your own life, they do it in such a way that it tangles up your brain when trying to listen. Of course, that’s the sign of a well worthy group of artists that’ll never be satisfied with the run of the mill.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SUMACBAND/

To buy the album, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/products/love-in-shadow

For more on the label, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/index

PICK OF THE WEEK: Darkness leads Emma Ruth Rundle to strength with galloping ‘On Dark Horses’

Travelling at dusk, when the horizons mix purples and orange and the sun is swallowed whole is an experience that’s always haunted me. It’s the perfect time to explore very personal, haunting music, because it feels like the art enters your veins like an IV drip, intoxicating you as you gaze at the night’s first stars.

That scene has run over and over in my head with each trip to Emma Ruth Rundle’s stunning new record “On Dark Horses,” her fourth solo album overall. There’s something about the music in these eight songs that drape you in darkness, romance, loss, confusion, and strength, and yes all of those things can work together. I’ve always found Rundle’s music enrapturing, and that’s a major reason we’ve always examined her music on this, what’s normally an underground metal site. Yes, there are edgy, bloody moments of her music, but much of what is here is haunting and delicate, a step in a different direction from her amazing last album “Marked for Death.” Some things have changed in Rundle’s life, including her relationship with Evan Patterson of Jaye Jayle and Young Widows, who lends his baritone voice to the album in spots, giving the music a different edge. Related to that, Rundle also embraces horses on the album (see the cover) and their strength and ability to run and sprawl great lengths, though many remain tethered somewhere and not truly free. These elements paint different colors over the music, some of that contributing to this record sounding so great at night.

“Fever Dreams” starts the album with Rundle singing immediately, sinking right in, as she recalls, “A life spent uneasy, in pieces, always in pieces here.” Guitars spill in as lighter tones are worked in before guitars spread their wings as Rundle calls, “Release me from fever dreams.” “Control” has a late-afternoon sunburnt feel, with an excellent chorus that’ll replay in your head. Elsewhere, Rundle urges, “It’s only the devil you know, it’s only the spirit you taste,” as guitars unleash gaze before burning out. “Darkhorse” is a showstopper, as dark clouds move in, and the verses pushing toward the night’s edge. “It’s the dark horse you give legs to, no one else can ride,” Rundle wails over the chorus, her voice splitting with emotion. The tempo of the song even has a dark pattering, as if horses are working their way toward you either to rescue you or drag you away. Excellent song. “Races” is awash in Americana vibes, as Rundle pushes, “I’ll take the wheel, but it’s the hunger that drives.” The track feels like being on a quiet train, rumbling and sending smoke into the lonely night sky.

“Dead Set Eyes” has drums driving, slurry guitars, and a harsher chorus that leaves a burning in your throat. Guitars burst and gaze later, as a dreamy darkness settles over the land and spends the evening. “Light Song” has guitars quivering, as the melody lines are burlier, and Rundle sings, “I outlive the day, I outrun the night.” Later on, Patterson’s voice joins hers, as his words slip underneath, while guitars moan, and a ghostly ambiance is tangible. Guitars power up toward the end of the song as noise gathers and fades away. “Apathy on the Indiana Border” is quiet and reflective, as Rundle observes, “I cannot go anywhere without you just following.” The track feels like an old spirit returning to old stomping grounds, as the guitars light a pathway before the visions disappear. Closer “You Don’t Have to Cry” comforts a grieving friend, and its slower, more delicate pace is that warm embrace of sorrow. “Now, you will sing to them,” Rundle urges, while spacey guitars layer hurt and hope, and the song offers a final hand to soothe a broken heart.

Rundle continues to slightly reinvent her sound each time out, staying true to her base but never repeating herself once. “On Dark Horses” is another excellent chapter of her ambitious career, and these songs eventually will work their way into your heart each time you listen. Fittingly on “Races,” Rundle declares over the chorus, “It’s my time to shine.” It definitely is that, and this record is one that should draw more disciples to her temple.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.emmaruthrundle.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/emma-ruth-rundle

For more on the label, go here: https://sargenthouse.com/