Emma Ruth Rundle

Marked for Death

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The follow-up to 2014's dreamy post-folk gem Some Heavy Ocean, Marked for Death finds Emma Ruth Rundle both dancing with and exorcizing a slew of personal demons via a brooding blast of icy alt-rock and doomy sludge metal. A far heavier, both figuratively and literally, affair than her weighty debut, Marked for Death can hardly be described as a mood stabilizer, but Rundle is able to contrast that lyrical vulnerability with huge, empowering blasts of sonic might. Those moments are more often than not preceded by stark declarations of existential grief, most of which seem predicated by a recent breakup or loss of a loved one. Her fluid voice -- a beguiling amalgam of Chelsea Wolfe, Tori Amos, and PJ Harvey -- can go from broken to soaring to feral in a single measure, and when paired with her atmospheric guitar pyrotechnics, the effect renders much of the first-person fretting moot. Those seismic layers of loud/quiet/loud self-therapy are best represented on the slow-burn title cut and the shoegazey "Protection," both of which benefit from strong melodies and stellar vocal takes. The quietly powerful "Medusa" and "Furious Angel" impress as well, as does the spacious, almost ambient "Heaven," but Marked for Death certainly isn't an easy listen. Its charms are darker and lie deeper, like a dense fog hinting at storms to come, only to leave a chilly, overcast afternoon in its wake.

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