Into the Unknown is an occasional series in which I select an album I have never heard before and write down my initial impressions.
I guess I’m in a writing mood today, because I’ve written an unprecedented amount of posts in the last little while. It has dawned on me that I’ve only really done one of these Into the Unknown posts, and I would really like to do more because I find them a great deal of fun to write. It’s also an excuse for me to break out of my comfort zone and listen to something different for once. There are things I like within every genre of music and limiting yourself to one specific genre has the potential to really limit your growth, whether that be as a musician, a music fan or just a person in general. Lately I’ve been drowning in black and doom metal and I just really needed to get out of the box for a while.
Emma Ruth Rundle
Emma Ruth Rundle is a Los Angeles based artist and musician. She has been involved with a few different projects, including Marriages (post-rock/psychedelic metal), Red Sparowes (post-metal) and Nocturnes (atmospheric psych-folk/slowcore). A multi-instrumentalist, she released the first album of her solo project in 2014 followed by a second full-length in 2016, entitled Marked For Death–best described as post-folk rock with a unique sort of ambient glaze–which will be the focal point of this post.
Marked For Death
This is a discovery I owe to a good friend of mine. The album itself was released back in September of 2016 and, as previously mentioned, features a spacy, dark sort of post-folk rock. But Rundle has also dabbled in metal with some of her other projects, and as such, this album toys with a more aggressive sludgy tone in certain moments. That aspect really works well with the feel of the album by adding force and passion to the places where the emotions rise in intensity.
The overall theme of this album is very dark in every way–from the title to the album art even down to the sound of her voice. Speaking of, Rundle’s vocal performance on this album, without having heard anything she has done prior to this, is more than impressive. Her voice is both gritty and airy; though delicate and at times faint, there is not a moment on the album where the power behind her voice is not inferred. This restraint of power lends an almost ghostly overtone to the album, especially on top of her poignant guitar work, which weaves gracefully through glassy post-rock tones to folky acoustic sections and even to a menagerie of deep, sludgy, ragged-edged sounds–this is, among other things, that which separates Rundle’s work from that of the dime-a-dozen female fronted folk rock projects which seem to be overrunning the planet.
Oddly enough, Rundle’s voice is both the strongest point of the album and its biggest weakness in that it sounds a little too restrained.`There are a select few moments on the album that I feel could have been made better if she would have let a little more force show through in her voice instead of holding back.
The production on this album really allows for a developed bottom end in order to accommodate the heaviness commanded by such a dark release. It also sounds very wistful due to the amount of reverb it employs–in that regard, Marked For Death sounds huge and spacious. It’s definitely something best listened to through a good sound system or a pair of high-quality headphones if you have one of those two options at your disposal. The album was recorded in the home studio at Sargent House, an indie rock label with whom Rundle worked in 2012 for the release of Marriages’ debut album Kitsune.
Though dark in theme and sound, Marked For Death comes across as oddly uplifting and therapeutic. It is not an oppressive manner of sadness; rather, it’s a type of sadness that is indicative of a therapeutic presence–a recovery from dark times by means of working through the pain in order to come out on the other side. This is by no means a metal album, but it is definitely something that would appeal to fans of the genre without any stretching of the imagination.
I would highly recommend this for fans of musicians or bands such as Chelsea Wolfe, Darkher or Trees of Eternity.