The accomplished blend of dreamed-of past and modern times that Unto Ashes has made its calling card continues with Grave Blessings, another moving and at times surprising combination of musical strands. The core duo of Michael Laird and Natalia Lincoln again find a way to suggest they're not so much recording a new album as channeling something mystic and strange -- yet like role model Current 93, their feet are firmly planted in the present. This can be seen in their choice of cover versions this time out -- reworking the Cure's elegant "The Drowning Man" into a female-sung understated death-folk string-tinged medieval dance, but tackling Flipper's doom-punk classic "The Way of the World" as a gently sung flute-and-guitar ballad is absolutely inspired, equaling Stone Breath's marvelous reworking of Pailhead's "Man Will Surrender." That this can fit on an album that starts with a musical interpretation of a 13th century French poem ("Tous Esforciez") and wraps up in part with part of the Carmina Burana seems appropriate. Lincoln's main singing counterpart and partner is Mariko, whose solo moment of glory appears near the end with "Lesson," which calls to mind the cool beauty of This Ascension at their best. The resultant blend of their alto and soprano vocals as well as Laird's, often in counterpoint, is easily the heart of the album; one can imagine the three doing this as an a cappella effort if they so chose. At the album's simplest, such as "Emptiness," with accompaniment provided mostly by Laird's acoustic guitar, the power of the singing is extremely clear, but the blend on the fuller arrangements is no less enthralling. Along with other entrancing digressions as the instrumental "The Turning," a showcase for Lincoln's piano work, and the murky, dank collage of "Four More Years" -- presumably a non-tribute to a certain 2004 election winner -- Grave Blessings is another powerful release from this astonishing group.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett