Having established a successful collaboration with 2020″s May Our Chambers Be Full (Sacred Bones Records, review here), Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle flesh things out further with The Helm Of Sorrow (Sacred Bones Records). The four songs on this EP are more or less cut from the same cloth. A blend of Sludge, Grunge, and Shoegaze serves as a stylistic backdrop for the dynamic synthesis and occasional clashes between Rundle’s harrowing restraint and Thou’s distorted violence.
With this intended to be a supplemental release, the songs do a good job of tying into the preceding full-length while offering their own sense of fullness. The opening “Orphan Limbs” seems to pick up where “The Valley” left off, projecting a similarly haunting quiet with lonely guitars and echoing vocals until the rest of the band eventually kicks in. “Crone Dance” and “Recurrence” are more structurally blended in comparison, but their heavier blasts would”ve felt just as at home while still getting some extra space to breathe.
Of course, the group’s take on The Cranberries” “Hollywood” ends up being the EP’s most impactful track. Thou’s stomping riffs give the heavier rhythms an extra kick, the verses allow Rundle to channel that Dolores O’Riordan inspiration without losing sight of her own identity, and the chorus provides a brutally cathartic duet. It’s an incredible execution though one that risks overshadowing the other songs’ power. It’s the sort of thing that makes me wonder when Thou will just suck it up and become a full-time cover band.
While The Helm Of Sorrow could be seen as the musical equivalent of DLC for May Our Chambers Be Full, it’s a pretty strong release in itself. The performances are just as powerful and the best songs on here are just as good as those on its predecessor, if not better in the case of “Hollywood.” It does a good job of filling out the album’s rather short runtime but could also serve as a satisfactory sampler for unfamiliar listeners. One can still hope for future collaborations between the pair, but I’m pretty happy with what we’ve got as it is.
8 / 10