Review / Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle – The Helm Of Sorrow

It goes without saying that 2020 was a dark year, but a shining light beckoned us on – the sheer volume of amazing music released in such a desperate time. One such project which got us all buzzing was the collaboration between Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle. Their record May Your Chambers Be Full brought together a perfect blend of Rundle’s ethereal style and hauntingly beautiful voice, and the obliterative doom stylings of Thou. The album appeared on countless end-of-year lists, and rightly so.

So when news came that there was more material from this partnership to be released, fans started salivating in anticipation. This new four track EP, The Helm Of Sorrow, are tracks which were recorded from the same session which produced May Your Chambers Be Full. Now if you are thinking, “Why weren’t these on the first record? Are this just cast-offs which weren’t good enough?”, then you couldn’t be more wrong. These four cuts have a completely different feel to them, and demonstrate the depth and breadth of the artists’ imaginations. Rather than a continuation to their last effort, this finds the collaboration extending their territory.

The Helm Of Sorrow opens with ‘Orphan Limbs’ which puts Rundle’s voice front and centre with very minimal instrumentation, but in the flick of an eye the track switches, Thou turn up the volume and Bryan Funck’s demonic howls take over, begging the question as to why this project hasn’t been a thing for years. Much like May Your Chambers Be Full, this EP brings out the best in both artists, each amplifying the best parts of the other’s musical expression.  

But just when you didn’t think this project could throw up any more surprises they throw out a song like ‘Hollywood’. For a track that runs longer than five minutes and has absolutely crushing riffs, you wouldn’t think that it would have pop sensibilities, but that is exactly what it has. It has a catchy hook, guitar solos, and at times Rundle seems to embody the likes of Alanis Morissette or Dolores O’Riordan. And what makes it even stranger to say is when Funck comes in for the chorus, it actually makes it sound grander. I for one think if you stuck this track on mainstream radio it would not seem completely out of place.

Everyone already knows how great these artists are in their respective wheelhouses, but the more we hear from the collab the more we want. “Match made in heaven” doesn’t quite cut it; rather, the law of large numbers has blessed the listening public with a rarity, a project that tantalises with a wealth of new creation from artists who’ve already raised the bar.

The Helm of Sorrow is out now via Sacred Bones and can be ordered here.

Words: Tim Birkbeck

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