Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine of Hell

Despite featuring only acoustic instruments, Emma Ruth Rundle's Engine of Hell is a heavy album that reaches unflinchingly back into the past

Album Review by Tony Inglis | 03 Nov 2021
  • Emma Ruth Rundle - Engine of Hell
Album title: Engine of Hell
Artist: Emma Ruth Rundle
Label: Sargent House
Release date: 5 Nov

Emma Ruth Rundle’s music bears a great weight. That’s clear on her previous full-band records with her textural guitar work, and on her recent collaboration with sludge metal band Thou. In the video for Return, the first single from her new record Engine of Hell, the black-cloaked figure from the May Our Chambers Be Full cover makes a reappearance, caressing Rundle. It’s a call back, that shows how dark figures from the past can remain stuck to you.

That’s a fitting image to return to, as Engine of Hell is also a heavy album that reaches unflinchingly back into the past, though this time Rundle’s music is stripped of the sonic indicators of heaviness, using only acoustic instruments; she has likened piano – prevalent across these eight songs – to a time machine.

Sparseness can often lend a chilliness, but Rundle’s work here can be grippingly hot and suffocating – the feeling of air being sucked out of a room – as she recalls past traumas, as on Blooms of Oblivion: 'Down at the methadone clinic we waited, hoping to take home your cure'. The lack of adornment underscores the strength required to convey the vividness of painful memories often left unspoken.

Listen to: Return, Body, In My Afterlife