Review Summary: Not as critically regarded as some other Death in June releases 'The Rule of Thirds' stands out as an under appreciated gem if given the time needed to crack its shell.
Ahhh Death in June…. Something about this band is a total guilty pleasure for me. It’s not the clear possibility that Douglas P may be a crypto-fascist… No, I find those politics no more or less offensive than overblown political correctness or Geldof-ian “save-the-worldliness”. It’s not the fact that in like 5 decades of playing the guitar he either hasn’t bothered or is unable to get any better at it… No, it’s that even while I have an ever burgeoning closet love of NeoFolk it has a tendency, even at the best of times, to be… well… kind of pretentious and boring. That being said, I am truly happy to have a copy of ‘The Rule of Thirds’ in my collection. It was my first full exposure to Di6 and still remains my album of choice out of the handful of albums I have devoted time to. Yeah, I know… lots of Death in June fans hate me for life now and to that I say “eat it, you pussies”.
This album, as described by Di6 enthusiasts, is an apparent return to the minimalism of the “Brown Book” days of Douglas’ career. The album is stripped of almost all flourishes found on releases like ‘Rose Clouds of Holocaust’ leaving its delivery resting squarely on the shoulders of Mr. P and his generally 4 chord guitar strumming. I will admit that at first listen I found this album painfully close to turgid. However, something about it kept me intrigued… At first it was the one or two songs I did find genuinely interesting that kept drawing me back. After repeated listens I began to take the album as a, rather hypnotic, whole.
Hidden in amongst Douglas P’s intentionally monotonous, albeit soothing, voice and simple guitar patterns are pockets of vocal over-dubbing and sound samples that provide a trance-like effect. Oftentimes, these vocal samples are made up of distant continuous chants that when coupled with Douglas’ recognizable voice, imbue this album with an undeniably occult atmosphere. As an aside, the lyrics on this album are very effective! I have found that on many of Di6’s previous releases, even their most critically acclaimed, the lyrics have a tendency to feel richly cheesy. Not in like a Gouda or creamy Brie way either. More like in a bland ‘mild to medium cheddar’ cheesy kind of way. For me, this album does not suffer from the same affliction throughout the bulk of it. There are still moments (‘Idolatry’ will always remain unforgivable!) but for the most part the lyrics feel natural and pleasantly dark.
This album is not going to create a lot of Death in June converts. The guitar playing is pretty much what you expect if you know anything about the band, as is the lyrical delivery. It is all the little, barely noticeable things hidden in the seams and the rich magickal atmosphere that make this album stand out for me. Death in June will always be an acquired taste, and one many people will not develop, but as an entry way into the NeoFolk scene ‘The Rule of Thirds’ can really deliver if you let it! It’s not as awesome as almost everything by Sol Invictus, it’s nowhere near as overwrought and plainly ridiculous as most Current 93, but it definitely does not deserve the hate that it gets!