Collaboration albums can be a strange proposition. Individual tracks can be less of a risk, but it takes a lot of courage to release an album’s worth of material together. There is a genuine possibility that the material might not be up to scratch, or you run the possibility of alienating your fanbase by deviating from a signature sound. However, a collaboration between Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou makes perfect sense. Rundle’s bleak folk and Thou’s miserable sludge may seem worlds apart upon first glance, but they have a surprising degree of aesthetic commonality; whilst they may swim in different waters there are few who would deny that they are inhabitants of the same sea. Both tug and tease at a grim underside of American life, weaponising its own symbolic language (Americana in ERR’s case, Puritan woodcuts in Thou’s).What they have created with May Our Chambers Be Full is an album that is greater than the sum of its parts and a truly remarkable piece of art, something that rises and falls with incredible grace before taking the skin off your teeth.
Rundle’s 2018 record On Dark Horses demonstrated a tremendous strength of songcraft, blending progressive metal and doom with haunting vocal performances, while Thou have released two covers albums this year that show not only their diverse influences, but also how adaptable and creative a force they are. Clearly then, these are performers on the top of their game; when the two combine the results are breathtaking. Both bands complement and enhance the other, Rundle adding highlights and subtle melody to Thou’s primordial sludge, whilst they add some crushing weight and force to hers. It is impossible to see the welded joins between each band’s input; rather, this feels like the work of musicians who have known each other for decades.
Tracks like ‘Killing Floor’ and ‘Magickal Cost’ take the fundamentals of both groups and create a different beast entirely, roiling with passion and poise. Present throughout is an earthy, warm atmosphere, grounding the listener even as it tempts us towards transcendence. May Our Chambers Be Full has both sonically and emotionally some of the heaviest moments of the year, which is no small boast. It is a spectacular work that draws us back in constantly – don’t try and fight the tide.
May Our Chambers Be Full is out via Sacred Bones on October 30th and can be ordered here.
Words: Nathan Tyler