While the Misfits cover set wasn’t the first meeting of Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, those shows had everyone waiting expectantly for a collaboration. A year later, the band and the singer-songwriter are ready to drop their debut joint project. It’s good timing, two years after Rundle rose to the top of post-rock-tinged folk with On Dark Horses and Thou sent the bar for philosophizing sludge/doom into outer space with Magus. The two artists' styles are more connected than they might seem on first listen, as proven by May Our Chambers Be Full. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou bring the best out of each other, with plenty of sonic staples for fans of both artists to chew on.
Given the spacious weightiness of Rundle’s recent output, and Thou’s 2018 acoustic EP Inconsolable and 2020 Nirvana covers compilation, this musical meeting is quite natural. Opening cut “Killing Floor” takes on a glacial, shoegazey sheen, as Rundle’s voice glides over oceanic distortion like the doom equivalent of Bilinda Butcher on Loveless. Thou vocalist Bryan Funck’s ghoulish rasp layers over Rundle’s singing, offering a riveting amalgamation of extremity and serenity. Even when drummer Tyler Coburn locks into a mid-tempo sludge metal stomp on “Monolith," there's a warm ambiance to the crushing low end of bassist Mitch Wells, supporting the addictive riffage of guitarists Matthew Thudium, Andy Gibbs, and KC Stafford. The thickness and dissonance punch through at opportune moments but never overshadows Rundle’s angelic voice.
While the simultaneous vocals offer a unique timbre, Funck and Rundle take a good-cop-bad-cop approach on “Out of Existence." This serves to polarize bludgeoning beatdowns and dreamy post-rock soundscapes. In the same way, “Ancestral Recall” provides more riff-tastic hatred for those who can’t get enough of Thou’s suffocating darkness. The Thou-ish passages meet the band’s high standard through explosive drum fills and evocative guitar work, but the money moments center on the cross-pollination of Thou's doom and gloom and Rundle’s enveloping passion. The former track's doomy guitar leads dance with her forlorn singing, while her nimble melodicism augments the latter's punishing, violent groove.