Emma Ruth Rundle - On Dark Horses

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2018-09-14
Emma Ruth Rundle - On Dark Horses
Emma Ruth Rundle - On Dark Horses

The last ten years or so, Chelsea Wolfe has had a stranglehold on the female fronted gothic rock area. Her string of albums over the last few years have found her employing more electronic elements while moving further from the gothic folk she started with. Those yearning for a replacement can look no further than Emma Ruth Rundle, as On Dark Horses is the dark and brooding answer to tepid alt-rock we’ve been begging for.

Rundle is the lead singer of Marriages – a band that, well, “marriages” post-rock and gothic Cure style melodies to create something within the realm of post-punk sort of. Her solo output since 2014’s Some Heavy Ocean, though, has been increasing in quality. Whereas Marriages allows Rundle to travel further into the rabbit hole, On Dark Horses reigns things in. Drawing comparisons between Wolfe, as well as a sprinkle of Zola Jesus, Rundle’s crafted her best album to date.

“Fever Dreams” storms the barn, feeling at home on any 90s PJ Harvey album, before the full guitars come thundering. Rundle’s execution of her vocals is forceful and ready to make a statement, a far cry from how her whispery and echoed vocals are handled with Marriages. And while the influences can be felt from the small to the big, Rundle’s in control and pits herself against the instruments not unlike some great battle – they merge wonderfully on “Fever Dreams,” and this is a common factor with On Dark Horses, something that Some Heavy Ocean was lacking in.

Things don’t let up either, “Control” sees Rundle incorporating dreamy, shoegaze-like chords like she’s been displaced in time for years and ready to burst through. This has all the ingredients of a radio rock single, but Rundle isn’t demanding or cocksure, she’s emotive and fighting like Hell to keep her disposition strong. It’s grungy, it's dirty, it’s riveting. To a casual listener, it might seem that Rundle’s merely tapping into that tried and true genre that pays dividends on purely immature song structures, but this isn’t the alt-rock bros are lining up for with their date rape pills and PBR. Rundle’s not a tourist of the genre, she’s been at the game long enough to know what fits where, hence the epic atmosphere of “Darkhorse” towards its latter half.

Rundle represents an emerging approach to rock for women. The pool of indie rock that women have been dominating lately finds them paired with sprite and catchy elements, accessible and maybe even dancey pop. Rundle meanwhile is forcing her audience to live in her world, and it might be somber, it might be cold and dark, but Rundle represents that light at the end of the tunnel, present heavily on “Races” as she penetrates our souls.

Everything about On Dark Horses displays Rundle coming into her own as a musician. She’s never played the balancing act between darkness and lightness so profoundly than on here. She has an almost folk-meets-early-NIN feel, a harder Wovenhand, with sprinkles of Priests and even Julien Baker level emotion. On Dark Horses is that rare alt-rock giant that has the sound and potential to lift Rundle from the indie ranks to opening slots on major rock tours, but she’s still grounded and desires only to get her message across – the album soars when she’s at her most aggressive, but it’s lighter tones help elevate those moments even more. Rundle has arrived, and she’s breaking all Hell lose with her.

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