Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle – May Our Chambers Be Full: Album Review

Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle collaborate on a wondrous album that forms the next instalment of Sacred Bones Records’ Alliance Series.

Released: 30th October 2020

Label: Sacred Bones Records

Formats: CD / LP / Ltd. LP / Digital

Anyone that follows alternative dark rock or heavy metal will no doubt have heard of Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle. Both have stunning bodies of work in their own right and both have takes on darkness that are wrought with emotion, so if you’re in the know, this collaboration should whet your whistle no end.

May Our Chambers Be Full was born at Roadburn Festival in 2019 and is the next release in Sacred Bones’ Alliance Series. Previous pairings include Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky and Uniform & The Body.

Killing Floor opens May Our Chambers Be Full. A swirl of feedback induced grandeur greets us before a mournful, chiming guitar melody breaks the opening tumult.

Immediately, the two vocal styles clash. Both Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle have distinctive vocal styles. Thou bring harsh, screamed vocals and Emma Ruth Rundle brings a beautiful whist to proceedings; therefore, the juxtaposition is exciting. During Killing Floor, the two styles propel the same lyrics in their own way, simultaneously. It sets the stall, early doors. In other parts of the album there are moments where the styles have a call and response motif, and there are plenty of times where each act shines individually.

Andy Gibbs of Thou commented in an interview with At The Barrier that the vocal styles were the biggest challenge to overcome in the recording of May Our Chambers Be Full. Andy says, ‘I think that whenever we seriously started talking about this we ran up against some hard realities. One of the hard realities that we were going to be forced to contend with was that in our band there is screaming and Emma’s music is singing. We were just going to have to figure that out; a lot of that down to Emma and Bryan. They did a great job with give and take; sitting out when they needed to and stepping in when they needed to. We let them dictate where they wanted to do stuff.’ (Full interview can be read here).

Thou carry an unrelenting threat in their guitar line up and the three guitarists in their ranks know what their credo is; to pummel. Out Of Existence and Ancestral Recall have towering, monolithic riffs in their DNA and boy do they use them to devastating effect.

When Out Of Existence hits it’s stride with the main riff of the song, the results are so satisfying. Screamed vocals, devastating drumming and a fiery fury make the song truly irresistible. Throw in sections of guitar melody and Emma Ruth Rundle’s vocals and you have one hell of a piece of music. The song clocks in at less than four minutes but to have so much happening in that space of time and to make it sound so good is a testament to the skill of Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle.

Ancestral Recall follows in much the same vein with cascading riffs and more tension building furore. Whilst the vocals take centre stage amongst the guitars, the drumming on this album is stupendous; and Ancestral Recall demonstrates this perfectly.

Magickal Cost opens with the tone and timbre pendulum swinging firmly towards Emma Ruth Rundle, however the genesis of the piece reveals another Ace. The song style shifts towards the blast beats of black metal and showcases another collocation that will wow you.

Although Out Of Existence is a highlight of bluster and bombast, the album closer is a song of truly epic proportion. The Valley is a mite under 9 minutes and rounds off May Our Chambers Be Full in great fashion.

Like many of the compositions, the dexterous layers of sound mesh perfectly, but The Valley steps everything up a notch. The slow build of the song adds a different element with every passing minute including an inspired use of melancholic violin.

Over the course of the song, Emma Ruth Rundle uses her expert use of vocal phrasing to tap into the emotion of the song, and when the screamed vocals appear, the effect is something dastardly evil sounding. The trick here is that less is more so when the styles clash again, it really makes you sit up.

Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle have created something spectacular on May Our Chambers Be Full. It’s relatively short, but to pack so much into the duration of the album means that you will return for repeated listens to see which new parts you can pick out on each new listen.

Listen to The Valley from Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle, below. You can also read our interview with Thou about the album here.

Thou: Website / Instagram / Bandcamp

Emma Ruth Rundle: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

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