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Emma Ruth Rundle – “Marked For Death” Review

The burning embers of rock are set ablaze with this stunning album
Emma Ruth Rundle
Emma Ruth Rundle

Towards the back-end of 2016 I stumbled across several new artists that blew me away and Emma Ruth Rundle was one of them. She’s been making music for many years but her unique brand of dark guitar driven experimental rock drew me in immediately on first listen and has only grown in intensity since.

Possibly the closest I can place her is a more rock and guitar orientated Chelsea Wolfe. Title track “Marked For Death” opens the album with a writhing guitar riff and Emma’s evocative voice that sing some of the best lyrics written in 2016 throughout the album. When she growls, the guitars do to and it’s a trait that permeates the album. She isn’t afraid of letting her minor key and witchy song structures take centre stage either as both here and in “Protection” she gives time for the guitar to breath and let it all out in a grungy shoegaze way where the sheer power of the guitar smashes through everything.

It’s not all power chords and echoing fuzzy notes as “Medusa” goes for the more melodic rock style with a twang of southern country in it. In fact the album as a whole has a desert quality to it with the dry organs and synth hiding behind a dusty guitar and drum set that feel like they are marching ever onwards. The whole delivery also feels like a lone soldier taking on a battle – or preparing for one and “Hand of God” is where that comes through the most. The guitar is amped up close to your ear and the heavy and deep strings pluck and bend right next to you. It’s an intimate experience and all the other instruments sit behind the guitar making it sound and feel unique. “Heaven” is one of two moments of utter beauty though. For most of the song the gentle guitar flutters around behind Emma’s voice that is allowed to stay calm and less pained as she unfurled a different side to her vast tones. The track slowly builds to a grand finale and it’s a fantastic piece of art.

“So, Come” firmly smashes thing back into the taut and dark side with minimal noise and Rundle’s voice processed slightly through a dirty noise filter to add more bite and snarl to everything. Again, I feel like we’re in the evilest of Western movies walking forward to the bitter end. “Furious Angel” feels more like a calmer ascension up or the final destination of the journey with soft muted drums and a caressed delivery style but the most painful and yet the biggest release comes with the closing track “Really Big Sky”. It’s just a single chugging guitar and Emma’s voice but it’s vulnerable, depressive, emotive and yet actually quietly affirming too as she sings about the terms that she wants to be taken from this world. If that’s her as a person, or the character of the album it’s unclear but its powerful listening and has all the raw qualities of a lost studio demo.

“Marked for Death” is an absolute revelation. A powerhouse of lyrical prowess, angry production and emotive vocal delivery – this is exactly what we need in a world where we need a visceral connection to something to feel alive. Stunning.

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