Review Summary: For the long winter.
Artistic polygamy has seen a rise in the last decade, and we, the world, should be thankful for it. In 2016 we were gifted the cosmic maelstrom that was Mariner
, the affair between post metal titans Cult of Luna and American banshee Julie Christmas. The Roadburn festival edition of the same year was blessed by a one-time conjunction of evil forces summoning a project aptly called Blood Moon, with renowned mistress of darkness Chelsea Wolfe fronting a possessed version of the legendary Converge, among other guest musicians. And just last year, the very same festival saw the spark that ignited the collaborative effort that brings us here today.
No longer than a year and a half after Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle presented the project live, followed by a raucous performance on a skate-park doing Misfits covers, the studio version of those tracks finally takes shape in May Our Chambers be Full
. Whether this is one of the consequences of the world-scale pandemic that has crippled their tour plans or just one more outlet for their incombustible creative energy, the truth is that this union has translated into a truly incredible record.
May Our Chambers be Full
marries perfectly, and I say this in the fullest meaning of the word, the grunge-tinged sludge metal of the Louisiana swamplords and Rundle's shoegazed brand of post folk. But before I keep going down the rabbit hole of aimless genre tags and impossible classifications, let's just dive into the seven tracks that constitute Thou and ERR's first effort together.
"Killing Floor" kicks things off without hesitation, no warm up is needed for artists of this caliber. Rundle assumes the central vocal role while Thou's Bryan Funck mirrors her singing with his habitual, rabidly evil screams. Thou display their usual bone-crushing waves of down-tuned strings and pummeling drums while still leaving space for Rundle's melodic spells. For anyone familiar with any of the two bands, it is clear, from this very first track, that they have crafted something really special. Thou's KC Stafford, who had a prominent vocal role in the band's past set of EPs, is the one fronting the thriving "Monolith", which is probably the most up-tempo both bands have gone in years. Even in doing so, they still manage to pull the heaviness all the way to the very end for a glorious beatdown finale.
"Out of Existence" may start as a Rundle solo work but it's soon stomped by Funck's diabolical growls until they vanish, inviting Rundle to take the reins again for a memorable chorus. "Ancestral Recall", released as a single along with astonishing closer "The Valley", continue to expand on this new but somehow familiar sound. At times Thou, at times Emma Ruth Rundle, every song in May Our Chambers be Full
bounces between the pure sound of each of their independent works, but it's when they meet in that sweet middle point where the true magic happens, as shown in the end section of "The Valley" or even through a deep cut like "Into Being". While "Magickal Cost" is about extremes, with Thou going on a semi-blast beat mid-track, Emma Ruth Rundle's quiet sections are treated with care and brevity, serving as an air-sucking breath before Thou punches your brain with their usual hammer of Baton Rouge approved sludge.
For all the destruction and insanity that the year 2020 will be remembered for, it is strangely comforting that it has also allowed many artists to expand on their craft. May Our Chambers be Full
may be a spur of the moment, a one-off that will never have a second part, but it is also a moment captured in time, a work of withered beauty that only artists like Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle, and the love and respect they both have for each other's music, could have made possible during one of the darkest periods in modern history. So yes, may our chambers be full of music like this, because we are gonna need it, for the long winter ahead of us.