PICK OF THE WEEK: Darkness leads Emma Ruth Rundle to strength with galloping ‘On Dark Horses’

Travelling at dusk, when the horizons mix purples and orange and the sun is swallowed whole is an experience that’s always haunted me. It’s the perfect time to explore very personal, haunting music, because it feels like the art enters your veins like an IV drip, intoxicating you as you gaze at the night’s first stars.

That scene has run over and over in my head with each trip to Emma Ruth Rundle’s stunning new record “On Dark Horses,” her fourth solo album overall. There’s something about the music in these eight songs that drape you in darkness, romance, loss, confusion, and strength, and yes all of those things can work together. I’ve always found Rundle’s music enrapturing, and that’s a major reason we’ve always examined her music on this, what’s normally an underground metal site. Yes, there are edgy, bloody moments of her music, but much of what is here is haunting and delicate, a step in a different direction from her amazing last album “Marked for Death.” Some things have changed in Rundle’s life, including her relationship with Evan Patterson of Jaye Jayle and Young Widows, who lends his baritone voice to the album in spots, giving the music a different edge. Related to that, Rundle also embraces horses on the album (see the cover) and their strength and ability to run and sprawl great lengths, though many remain tethered somewhere and not truly free. These elements paint different colors over the music, some of that contributing to this record sounding so great at night.

“Fever Dreams” starts the album with Rundle singing immediately, sinking right in, as she recalls, “A life spent uneasy, in pieces, always in pieces here.” Guitars spill in as lighter tones are worked in before guitars spread their wings as Rundle calls, “Release me from fever dreams.” “Control” has a late-afternoon sunburnt feel, with an excellent chorus that’ll replay in your head. Elsewhere, Rundle urges, “It’s only the devil you know, it’s only the spirit you taste,” as guitars unleash gaze before burning out. “Darkhorse” is a showstopper, as dark clouds move in, and the verses pushing toward the night’s edge. “It’s the dark horse you give legs to, no one else can ride,” Rundle wails over the chorus, her voice splitting with emotion. The tempo of the song even has a dark pattering, as if horses are working their way toward you either to rescue you or drag you away. Excellent song. “Races” is awash in Americana vibes, as Rundle pushes, “I’ll take the wheel, but it’s the hunger that drives.” The track feels like being on a quiet train, rumbling and sending smoke into the lonely night sky.

“Dead Set Eyes” has drums driving, slurry guitars, and a harsher chorus that leaves a burning in your throat. Guitars burst and gaze later, as a dreamy darkness settles over the land and spends the evening. “Light Song” has guitars quivering, as the melody lines are burlier, and Rundle sings, “I outlive the day, I outrun the night.” Later on, Patterson’s voice joins hers, as his words slip underneath, while guitars moan, and a ghostly ambiance is tangible. Guitars power up toward the end of the song as noise gathers and fades away. “Apathy on the Indiana Border” is quiet and reflective, as Rundle observes, “I cannot go anywhere without you just following.” The track feels like an old spirit returning to old stomping grounds, as the guitars light a pathway before the visions disappear. Closer “You Don’t Have to Cry” comforts a grieving friend, and its slower, more delicate pace is that warm embrace of sorrow. “Now, you will sing to them,” Rundle urges, while spacey guitars layer hurt and hope, and the song offers a final hand to soothe a broken heart.

Rundle continues to slightly reinvent her sound each time out, staying true to her base but never repeating herself once. “On Dark Horses” is another excellent chapter of her ambitious career, and these songs eventually will work their way into your heart each time you listen. Fittingly on “Races,” Rundle declares over the chorus, “It’s my time to shine.” It definitely is that, and this record is one that should draw more disciples to her temple.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.emmaruthrundle.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/emma-ruth-rundle

For more on the label, go here: https://sargenthouse.com/

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