Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 21/4
Emma Ruth Rundle
Marked for Death
Written by: MIN on 21/03/2017 13:17:19
With her second solo album, “Marked for Death”, the Los Angeles, CA-based Emma Ruth Rundle (Marriages, Red Sparrowes) has stretched far and wide, incorporating elements from goth, shoegaze, post-rock and folk into the music. The album moves between ethereal atmospheres, furious guitars and somber instrumentation and is, as such, both despairing and invigorating. Rundle’s lyrics focus on the larger themes of life such as death, faith, love and self-loathing, taking the listener through a rite of personal transition by way of her thoughts and feelings, ultimately providing you with an album that stirs your emotions and rattles your skull.
Straight from the start, the record’s opener and title-track presents the setting, with Rundle having fallen in love with someone who’s terminally ill, and as you can imagine, the lyrics are sung in a manner that is equal parts bitter and mournful: ”Who else is going to love someone like you that’s marked for death // who else is going to be with you when you breathe your last”. The atmosphere is hollow and reverb-laden, making room for fuzzy layers of guitar to wash over you as soon as the chorus kicks in and slams you right into the nearest wall, bruising both your body and your mind. As fragile as Rundle’s music might seem at first glance, as quickly does it smash a tidal wave of sound upon your corpus once you look away.
“Protection”, on the other hand, tells the story of an unhealthy relationship (perhaps with the same person?). Musically, the song perfectly reflects the wanting to leave but needing to stay; when Rundle sings ”I am worthless in your arms // but you offer this protection no one else is giving me” and the guitars raise a storm, you can feel her need for staying in the eye of the hurricane, watching everything around her obliterate. The song underlines the fact that “Marked for Death” is an album that works best when Emma Ruth Rundle juxtaposes fury and frailty the way she does here and on the other album highlight, “Heaven”.
The final cut, “Real Big Sky”, however, stands out from the remaining songs by only featuring Rundle, her guitar and a cranked-up amp. It works as an excellent closer, letting a little light into an otherwise depressing album. Having faced that he/she (the lover) is about to die, you get a sense of hope and redemption, as Rundle sings the track’s chorus:
I don’t want to be awake when it takes me // but I can’t wait to see you smile on the other side // I can’t wait to kiss the face of the big sky // won’t you stay here for a while with me
That being said, “Marked for Death” isn’t always as consistent or exciting as one could’ve hoped for. The album never fails to be decent, but some of the songs simply aren’t as thrilling or as interesting as others. “Medusa” opens up nicely, with slow-tempo percussion and an interesting interplay between guitar and bass giving the listener some room to breathe, but once “Hand of God” tries to follow, it simply fails to impress, being sandwiched between two excellent tracks. Furthermore, neither “So, Come” and “Furious Angel” are as emotionally poignant or climatically cathartic (the latter even bordering on the overdramatic), thus resulting in a less satisfying listen.
After having heard the album somewhere between 10 to 15 times, I still have trouble differentiating between some of the songs when looking at the titles. Emma Ruth Rundle has definitely made an album in which atmosphere engulfs the listener, but at the same time, she’s run the risk of letting it be all-encapsulating and -dominating at the risk of having some of the songs sound too much alike. The airy, hollow ethereality suddenly becomes an example of exterior over interior, where some of the tracks’ cores aren’t strong enough to break through and stand apart as entities of their own. However, let it be said that when the album works, it knocks the ball right out of the park. Every song below in the “download”-section is excellent, and it’s a minority of the album that fails to raise itself from blending in too much.
Download: Marked for Death, Protection, Heaven
For the fans of: Marriages, The Cranberries, Chelsea Wolfe
Release date 30.09.2016