Unto Ashes

Songs for a Widow

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Positioned somewhere between Current 93 and Dead Can Dance, Unto Ashes have maintained an amazing track record, releasing one satisfying album after another. Songs for a Widow makes it five in a row and while the band's mix of apocalyptic folk and modern gloom isn't for everyone, this album has the best chance of enticing newcomers. Interludes that bridge tracks and a smart build to the album -- with more approachable numbers upfront, more difficult tracks pushed to the middle and back -- helps a lot, but what really separates Songs for a Widow from its predecessors is the warm, sometimes comfortable feel of the album, and the amazing sound quality, which sorts out the medieval/modern mix of the band better than ever before. Sounding as luxurious as the later Dead Can Dance releases, the album entrances with more organic, more hypnotizing material than usual up until "You Will Never Know" unleashes some jarring theatrical goth metal that's sinister and nihilistic. Longtime Unto Ashes fans are used to these unpredictable bursts of electronics cutting through the dulcimers and hurdy-gurdys, but here the device is used more sparingly, purposefully, and doesn't muddle a cohesive album like it has before. The darker, more militaristic second-half of the set arcs up to a brilliant cover of Covenant's "One World One Sky" which turns a synth-pop favorite into a throbbing pagan anthem fueled by earthy percussion and ethereal harmonies.

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