- by Nathaniel FitzGerald
The last couple years, I've been noticing a trend of female singer-songwriters picking up electric guitars and coating their otherwise gentle compositions with thick layers of doom metal and shoegaze (see also: Chelsea Wolfe, King Woman). It's a simple enough formula, but it works, and I am here for it.
Emma Ruth Rundle is no stranger to heavy atmospheric music, having played with post metal outfit Red Sparowes for a number of years. So while her solo work hits many of the same boxes as these other metal songstresses, there's an undeniable sophistication here—and just a few hints of joy. A few moments are even downright triumphant. The atmospheres are dark and dense, formed through layers of reverb-drenched guitars. Rundle's voice is evocative and heart-wrenching—with less-inspired production, she could be a lauded country singer. The record even has a couple pedal steel licks, no doubt courtesy of Red Sparowes. On "Dead Set Eyes," slide guitars glide around layers of fuzz and thick synths as Rundle sings a chorus that is reminiscent of Emmylou Harris.
It's almost a cliche these days to say that a record defies genre conventions, but in the case of On Dark Horses, there isn't a better way to describe it. It combines elements of folk, country, and post metal without belonging to any of them. It vacillates between solemnity and celebration, always maintaining the same emotional heft. So while I might not know what section to put it under in my record collection, I do know it will be getting plenty of time on the turntable.
1. Fever Dreams
5. Dead Set Eyes
6. Light Song
7. Apathy On The Indiana Border
8. You Don't Have To Cry