ALBUM REVIEW:  Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full

Roadburn Festival, largely due to the impetus of its main organiser and curator Walter Hoeijmakers, has often acted as a hub for all manner of interesting collaborations between artists who sit in the arty or experimental corners of the heavy music world. May Our Chambers Be Full (Sacred Bones) the new collaboration album from Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, is the latest creation which owes a debt to the festival, conceived as it was in the wake of the two artists’ joint set at 2019’s Roadburn.

Before getting into the detail of the record itself, it is worth providing a bit of background for the uninitiated. Emma Ruth Rundle, based in Louisville, Kentucky, and once a member of Red Sparowes and also the frontwoman of Marriages, has pursued a solo career as a singer-songwriter since 2011. Her songs are sometimes presented as sparse dark folk and at other times as heavy and hypnotic post-Rock. Thou, formed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has released five albums (plus innumerable splits and EPs) since 2007. Their music is often described as sludge metal but their influences stretch from black metal to alternative rock.

May Our Chambers Be Full manages to simultaneously embody several apparent opposites with grace and purpose. It is both monstrously heavy and beautifully delicate. It is abrasive yet also melodic. It is riff-laden but the music exists in support of the absolutely faultless songs. It often feels both bleak and euphoric.

The musical arrangements and dynamics are key to the success of this record. One stroke of genius is the way that Rundle’s voice – pure, melodic, and emotive – is often layered up with the harsh and feral screams of Thou’s Bryan Funck. The two meld together to create an otherworldly effect that is utterly captivating. Some musical sections are intimate, subtle, and sparse, but the songs often build to a crushing black metal-esque onslaught of multi-guitar chaos. Even during the heaviest parts, there is often a wealth of melodic interest  – interesting harmonies and catchy little hooks – weaving around underneath. At times the album recalls Tori Amos, Soundgarden, and Darkthrone. All at once. Highlights of the 37-minute opus include the strangely uplifting and empowering “Killing Floor”, the impossibly heavy “Ancestral Recall”, the slow-burning build of “Magickal Cost” and mournful album-closer “The Valley”. 

Powerfully visceral and emotionally deep, May Our Chambers Be Full is both explosively heavy and delicately tender. It is also, crucially, held together by some of the very finest songwriting you’re likely to hear this year. 

May Our Chambers Be Full is released via Sacred Bones Records on 30th October 2020. Purchase the album here:

8 / 10