Emma Ruth Rundle
Engine of Hell


5.0
classic

Review

by Dewinged STAFF
November 8th, 2021 | 150 replies


Release Date: 11/05/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: From the other side of the abyss.

I remember being petrified, sitting alone on the cold floor of what used to be the living room of the house where I had spent most of my life. Lights were dim, and the night wind howled through the open windows with a gentle late summer breeze. It was September 2019, my mum had died three days ago, and my dad, standing accused of having let her die by the rest of my family, had been consequently punished with exile. Parked in his wheelchair in some remote nursing home in the outskirts of the city, he now withers away without revealing what really happened the day she died. This, I will never know. I felt her presence like someone feels the embrace of the sea under the waves, or better said, her absence, and the impossibly heavy burden that came with it. I felt it so heavy, that for a moment I thought my heart would rip though my ribs, falling through my holed body and unto the floor like a black mass of organic sorrow. How could silence be so deafening, so cruel, and so unbearably unnerving...

Engine of Hell somehow feels like this. The author, Emma Ruth Rundle, an artist whose music and art I've been making a part of me since the release of Marked For Death in 2016, might have her own motives to write an album like this, reasons that I will leave untouched here, as she has done enough interviews about it elsewhere, but her last work has breached through the walls I have been building around my mother’s passing for years, just like scissors cutting silk. Emma's fifth album is difficult to judge, to critic, to write about. How can anyone treat a collection of songs that come from the deeper corners of the heart with something as banal as an objective take on it? I refuse to do so. I listen to "Blooms of Oblivion" and I feel the kind of vertigo I felt when the last tie with she who brought me into this world was severed without a warning. Emma has recreated with a few notes, a few chords, and a few words, the sound of a scream lost in the abyss. Even the Bandcamp page for the album features a black background and no description whatsoever. This is the artist in her purest and most essential form, and no press release, promo material or review could ever describe what lies beyond the music.

The Engine of Hell indeed, is what powered the shadows closing in around me in my old home, my Christmas sanctuary, now turned into a tomb of memories and treasures of my youth that burned in a dumpster close by, leaving behind only ashes, silent dust and creeping echoes. Every piano note Emma lays her fingers on since "Return" falls like the instrument was thrown through the window over you hits like a punch on the deepest core of the spirit, her voice devoid of effects, singing sometimes tiredly, sometimes feverish, letting her sharp lyricism weave a tale of change and salvation.

Surely, it's not the first time Emma Ruth Rundle draws from anguish and solitary pains. Some Heavy Ocean and Marked for Death weren't exactly music for birthday parties, but she did turn a new page on 2019’s On Dark Horses with an album that felt like she was finally riding on the fragile wings of love and ephemeral happiness. Her last record featured a whole band, and the songs were built around that concept, resulting in a blissful wave of shoegazed folk that if anything, resembled her sound with Marriages.

Not here. All that has been removed in Engine of Hell in favor of intimacy, of honesty, these are moments between you and Emma, and nothing else. Most of the songs are built around the piano, an instrument she used to play in her younger days and that she has recovered for this last album. There also are callbacks to the early folk of her past albums in tracks like "Blooms of Oblivion" or "Razor's Edge", although even these sound very different from the Emma of those past recordings. There's a frail sensibility that wasn't present then and her melodies are not as immediate as songs like "Shadows of my Name" or "Real Big Sky". One of my favorite cuts of the album, "Citadel", might be the closest sound to that era, her guitar down tuned to hell as always and with only stark violin arrangements lurking behind her voice as she strums the instrument with uneven intensity.

It makes sense that the final track is titled "In My Afterlife". The Engine of Hell powers a deep change in Emma's life after a series of events that demanded it so. The same way I closed the door of my former house never to return, Emma has done so with everything that preceded this last album. It has been beautifully (and cryptically) represented in the videos she has directed herself for “Return” and “Blooms of Oblivion”, a step further in the realization of her newfound artistic vision, which was partly (and coincidentally?) featured in the cover of her collaborative effort with Louisiana sludge masters Thou last year. "Now I'm free..." are the last words she exhales before the album comes to an end leaving me somewhat breathless for a few seconds until I return to my body. It’s another impressive piece of art from the everchanging Emma Ruth Rundle, and the beginning of something entirely different from the wandering artist. Engine of Hell is out through Sargent House and she’ll be sharing these songs with you live next year around Europe if the world still stands. You’d be a fool to miss it.




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user ratings (157)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2021


26843 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Had my doubts about publishing this but it's how it came out, so there it is.



Against all my expectations, it will probably be my AOTY.



"Return": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFLoVW_J0lM&ab_channel=SargentHouse



"Blooms of Oblivion": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pn12FvaaRMI&ab_channel=SargentHouse

Digging: Tomb of Annihilation - End of Time

Trifolium
November 8th 2021


29179 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very promising! Nice review Dewi 💚

kevbogz
November 8th 2021


3902 Comments


intro paragraph just socked me in the jaw

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
November 8th 2021


10256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"I remember being petrified"

first i was afraid

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
November 8th 2021


10256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

damn my joke sucks now that i read the first para. beautiful rev Dewi

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2021


26843 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nah I actually laughed dex ;)

Jordy76523
November 8th 2021


2 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Emma truly is like no other. I believe this will be one of my favourites for the decade.

fogza
November 8th 2021


4100 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Damn, intense review.

Digging: Tusks - Dissolve

fogza
November 8th 2021


4100 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I'm loving the influences she's leaning into here, blending her sound with shades of Chris Whitley and big strokes of Tori Amos

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2021


16202 Comments


I have been sitting, waiting for this review. It hath arrived.

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
November 8th 2021


3822 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

damn dewi, hope you're okay :[ review is beautiful, album is beautiful

Digging: Bliss Fields - Slowly, Forever

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
November 8th 2021


3822 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

edit: fixy

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2021


26843 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm ok!



Good stuff Jesp, thanks, will get on those rn.

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2021


1758 Comments


If I could figure out how to post hearts on this site without them being sucked into an antiquated digital black hole circa 2005 I'd be posting fucking hearts right here right now. Heartbreaking, apt review. The cathartic, healing quality of music deserves more frank discussion than it tends to get; thanks for your bravery.

Question: are there singalongs? Real Big Sky is a car jam for emotional cats and I need more of that

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2021


26843 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Catharsis! That's the word I had on the tip of my tongue all day and couldn't figure it out, tx Milo!



Singalongs, uf, hard to say brother. The album takes its time to sink, but when it does is hard to stop spinning it.

Ectier
November 8th 2021


518 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Wonderful review Dewi

Ectier
November 8th 2021


518 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Blooms of oblivion is about as sing alongy as this gets for memory.

Gyromania
November 8th 2021


33449 Comments


No fucking away... Actually? I'm so pumped for this now

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2021


16202 Comments


Any tracks here that are good for medium long car trips?

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2021


26843 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Return" on repeat makes up for a seamless unending jam fit for any car ride, including an ambulance ride or a hearse.



About the 5: Please take on account that I wouldn't have even rated this if Sput had allowed it. My reasons to dim this a classic is because of the weight and meaning it has in her career, and the accidental connection to events of my own, which I believe it will resonate with each one of you differently depending on your own experiences, etc..



That been said, this is not my favorite ERR record, but a very special one for sure.



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