Guitars navigate lower chords like a crosshair skulking behind its prey. Emma Ruth Rundle‘s vocal joins the hunt, a dark and smouldering scale ready to feed. And then comes the bang: “Who else is going to love someone like you that’s marked for death? Who else is going to take my place and hold and keep you safe?” Strings circle in the aftermath, assessing what’s been said like a picked-apart carcass.
Marked For Death starts in a more visceral, memorable way than any other record this year, the title track a furious, uncomfortable baring of the soul from a woman no stranger to such a thing. That title track alone is worth a thesis: whether you read it as straight villainy or a harrowing account of co-dependency, it never fails to sear in all its layers of details.
But Rundle isn’t done with us yet, no no. The heavy guitar of Protection coats pounding drums as she sings “he’s got everything I’ll ever need”. As ever with Rundle, there’s a potent mix of vulnerable (“I am worthless in your arms”) and the incredibly powerful, like the music is the five-strong backup army she needs for her words.
There’s light respite (at least musically) in the cracks of sunshine on Medusa, but there’s still the unflinching personal revelations throughout the record. There may be accusations of there being perhaps too much overblown drama on Marked For Death, but Rundle keeps it level even as waves of production crash around her on Hand of God and Heaven. By the time Furious Angel closes in, it feels like there’s nothing else left for Rundle to bare – in the wake of devastation behind her, she’s not only exorcised a great deal to repurpose as strength, she’s also held a mirror up to every failed relationship and every dark moment we’ve all had. Do not miss it.