This isn’t a good album. It’s very good and we should really have been prepared for it given the quality of its preceding singles, ‘Protection‘ and ‘Marked For Death‘, which clearly set the bar high. With hints of Chris Isaak and occasional Country undertones, Emma Ruth Rundle proves herself to be a fine songwriter over eight tracks which, whilst disappointing in quantity, don’t fail to impress in quality.
Fear, heartache and self-destruction are prevalent themes within an album oozing with feeling and passion. Gritty and dirty, it is a step up from 2014’s solo debut Some Heavy Ocean and the co-production of Sonny DiPerri is clearly one of the contributing factors which help the former Red Sparowes, Nocturne and Marriages guitarist present raw guitar songs which juxtapose her sweet, angelic voice particularly on tracks likes ‘Protection‘ which tear and rip at rock convention whilst providing a subtle vocal angle.
It’s not all loud gnarling guitars though as tracks like ‘Medusa‘ show. Sure, it rises like a once forgotten phoenix, but it also holds on to a refined and methodical twist, stopping it from spiralling completely out of control. Indeed, Rundle’s voice is quite something; it is pitch perfect and lingers for just the right amount of time and exemplifies in equal shares of power and sensitivity.
Further themes of suffering and wanting reverberate through the album as guitars do on ‘Medusa‘, an expanse of naked beauty which shows a further side to the versatility of Rundle’s craft. ‘Hand Of God‘ slows the pace with a passionate blues tinged prayer based around further shame and inner torture, and ‘Heaven‘ glides beautifully along for three minutes before breaking into a wall of sound which cavalcades like a musical waterfall from enormous heights.
‘Furious Angel‘ is far from angry and may possibly have been influenced by Rob Dougan’s plural sounding album of the same name, but the real cruncher comes with album closer ‘Real Big Sky‘ which appears in its demo form. A black, almost angry guitar with a superb vocal performance brings an impressive album to an end. Emma Ruth Rundle may not be a household name yet, but with songs like this in her repertoire it is surely only a matter of time.
Marked For Death is out now on Sargent House.