Unto Ashes

Saturn Return

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This is over-the-top gothic pop. Unto Ashes showed on their debut that it was a diverse, extremely eclectic little ensemble that had numerous dark tricks up their collective sleeve that they couldn't quite pull off musically. With Saturn Return, they sound like a different band. Musically, Unto Ashes have outdone themselves and exceeded any expectations their debut promised. Using a sophisticated blend of European folk musics, South American and African percussion, found texts, and original lyrics, Unto Ashes draft a gothic underground music of elegance, seamless grace, and dark passion. Here, the sounds of Syd Barrett's solo recordings touch medieval courtly love music, Babylonian folk dances, and the shimmer and swoon of rock viscera and dynamics from lushly orchestrated and tightly woven sonnets by Petrarch to instrumental sequences on runes and Michael Laird's own finely honed words on "A Hymn to Pan," where lyrics are worthy of much more than praise. In the end, all you can do is praise this record for the sum of the assembled talent and its taste in selecting and recording its material. The voice of voices in gothic rock -- Ericah Hagle -- carries off her share of the material with an aplomb not readily witnessed on the scene today. Finally, the band earns great merit for a sympathetic and moving cover of Coil's "Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)." This is the future of a music many thought was dead with the breakup of Dead Can Dance and the Cocteaus. Based on the fine, gorgeously wrought pain and pleasure of Unto Ashes, things are just beginning to get interesting.

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