Monday 1 February 2021

Thou & ERR - The Helm of Sorrow (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Sludge Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 15 Jan 2021
Thou: Bandcamp | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website | Twitter | Wikipedia
Emma Ruth Rundle: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter | Wikipedia

I appreciated last year's collaborative album between Baton Rouge sludge metal merchants Thou and folksy post-rocker Emma Ruth Rundle, May Our Chambers Be Full, more than a 6/10 rating suggested. I loved how the two disparate styles worked together, each rendered more interesting by the other. It was the lead male vocals of Bryan Funck that stopped me going higher, partly because they just grate on me but partly because they didn't seem to help the album at all. The haunting voice of Rundle over the darkness and weight of Thou was enough to work and the best songs did exactly that.

This EP contains four songs recorded during the sessions for that album that didn't make the final cut for whatever reason. They do much the same thing and don't sound to me like throwaway versions. I'm impressed once more by how they merge the two styles within the first four minutes of Orphan Limbs, which is neatly atmospheric until it goes batshit and screams to an abrupt finalé. At least when Funck takes over, he doesn't do so fully and his voice does play better for me when Rundle is there as a solid counter.

My favourite song here is easily the closer, Hollywood, a Cranberries cover with Rundle doing her best Dolores O'Riordan impression, full of lilting Celtic inflections, and Thou delivering a neatly ominous backdrop of beats. It's an appropriate subject for a song told this way, as the beauty of Tinseltown has always been a notable contrast to the seamy underbelly of Los Angeles and the dirty industry fuelling it. This covers both sides at once, the drums of Tyler Coburn, which shine throughout this EP, tolling a remembrance for everyone Hollywood has destroyed.

The pair of songs in between, Crone Dance and Recurrence, left me dry on a first time through but the former grew on a second. Recurrence is the closest to regular Thou, so their fans should appreciate it, even as they wonder why it's on this EP. Crone Dance is more interesting, a sort of midpoint between a more Thou song like Recurrence and a more Rundle song like Hollywood. Funck gets the lead at points but also fades to texture at others, letting Rundle take over without too much of a fight. The midsection is the heaviest the EP gets too, churning away effectively, and it ends really effectively, dropping tempo all the way to the end.

So I'll give this one a 6/10 too. It's a worthy partner to May Our Chambers Be Full, doing some of the same things in the same way and both shining and disappointing for the same reasons. If you bought the Diehard version of that album, this should have showed up as a bonus already covered. If not, but you dug that album, as so many clearly did, it making quite the dent on the end of year lists, it's safe to say that you're going to dig this too.

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