It’s no question 2020 gave us a lot of total bullshit that still is free flowing into 2021, a year that so far is high on the potential cancellation list after last week. Holy hell. But in the interest of not trying to sound too sad and pessimistic about things, there was a handful a good things that came from last year, the association of Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle being high on that short list.
Lucky for us, the two sides still had some good content they were holding back, and we get that now in the form of four-track EP “The Helm of Sorrow,” a collection that treats us to the rest of the songs they came up with together. Will you be shocked to learn this thing is great, just the thing we need to power us past the darkness we’re all experiencing? On top of that, we get one of the best cover songs we’ve heard from a heavy band in some time, but more on that later. Again, just like their collaborative full-length “May Our Chambers Be Full,” the music is a true meeting point for both sides as they craft a sound that’s truly their own thing, with hefty influences from each participant that meld together perfectly. If you liked the full record, there’s no way in hell you won’t love this one.
“Orphan Limbs” starts off with calm water and Emily McWilliams taking lead vocals, as her voice soars into the atmosphere. She sings of “the puzzles of deformity, ugly and grotesque” as the momentum slowly picks up and finally is full bore in a storm as Thou’s Bryan Funck’s howls enter the picture and take over. His shrieks hammer as Rundle calls in the background, and the band smears you with power before finally relenting. “Crone Dance” is a barnstormer as Funck lurks out front wailing as the band delivers a doomy charge, jabbing and pounding. Rundle slips in behind, adding a level of dreaminess to the brutality, and then sludgy menace crawls ominously, winding its way into hell. Funck and Rundle join up and punish together before the track fades into a bed of acoustics.
“Recurrence” starts in a dark, echoing pocket before vicious howls mar the calm, and the track feels like vintage Thou. Rundle emerges more forcefully on the chorus, injecting even more life as the filth gathers. The growls then get more muscular as the track crashes to a spiraling finish. “Hollywood” is a cover of the Cranberries track, and it’s a fucking volcano of emotion. Rundle handles the verses eloquently, matching Dolores O’Riordan’s quivering intensity, and then the chorus just combusts. Both Rundle and Funck wail away, howling, “Run away, is there anybody there?” blasting fiery magic into song, capping this great EP with this unreal take on an underappreciated cut from a band lost too soon.
One of the real blows of 2021 is losing Migration Fest and Thou’s performance with Rundle, which is something I was looking forward to with great excitement. This “The Helm of Sorrow” EP is at least a nice consolation gift that is a powerhouse for sure, with that absolutely killer Cranberries cover at the end. This collaboration has been an amazing success and resulted in two awesome recordings, and let’s just hope this is the start of a long-running association for both sides. And maybe we’ll all still get to revel in their combined presence live one day.
For more on Emma Ruth Rundle, go here: https://www.facebook.com/emmaruthrundle/
For more on Thou, go here: http://noladiy.org/thou.html
For more on the label, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/