Empty into White

Unto Ashes

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Empty into White Review

by Ned Raggett

Unto Ashes just seems to keep getting better and better with time, and that's not merely a great thing, it's fantastic. That a band (especially an American band) could so perfectly distill a wide range of influences into its own distinct apocalyptic folk-rock dream and then improve on that is breathtaking; if admitted influence Coil has an even wider cast of the net, the members of Unto Ashes certainly aren't slouches in comparison. The quartet's widest-ranging and most confident album yet, Empty into White is a swirling, beautiful dream of an album, from its entrancing cover art and design to the lush, majestic progression of the songs. With a lineup now fully stabilized around the core of Michael Laird, Natalia Lincoln, and Ericah Hagle -- Jeremy Bastard completes the lineup, while a variety of guest performers assist -- the band steps up from the already excellent Saturn Return to combine and rework musical inspirations like no act since Dead Can Dance. The sheer fluidity of the group's sound and how it seems to effortlessly combine and recombine quietly stuns on almost song for song. There's the easy slide from Laird's French-sung "C'Y Commence le Jeu" to Hagle's tour de force "Spider Song," the Middle Eastern dreamscapes of "Bathsheba Waiting" and "Persephone, Queen of the Underworld," the dark chimes and subtle threat of "Ah, Sunflower!," and much more. Perhaps the most telling touch is the inclusion of two covers -- Tori Amos' "Beauty Queen" and Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." For the former, the lyrics are translated into Latin and given an entrancing choral arrangement, while the latter becomes an astonishing acoustic guitar lament mixing male and female vocals. When electric guitar does appear, the band touches on the song's legendary sound without exactly replicating it -- the type of thing that only a truly individual band can do.

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