Marked For Death is the intense triumph of a record that has the feel of a thousand pounds through each track. Emma Ruth Rundle is the singer/songwriter for not just her two solo works, but also for the bands Red Sparowes, Nocturnes, and Marriages. Rundle combines ambient, indie, and near concerto music all wrapped into one intense package.
Marked For Death begins with the self-titled track “Marked For Death.” The immensely slow build up between the soft-spoken vocals from Rundle and the guitar work create this wonderful balance until the percussion and the rest of the instrumentation comes crashing in with a wall of sound. It is a drastic and constant change between the tracks instrumentalists and Rundle working off of each other to create a tranquil environment to then pounding and much louder use of space. Emma Ruth Rundle is obviously going to be the centerfold of the tracks presented on Marked For Death, but that is not to say that the instrumentation is lacking behind her. They work in tandem, and while Rundle is the center of the attention, the instrumentation is still able to back her up in such a way that they can complement each other.
Rundle then proceeds with the following track, “Protection.” The percussion leads the track into the almost drained sounding guitar that plays behind Rundle’s downright gorgeous voice. With a vocal performance that reminds the listener of something like Björk, Rundle is able to produce some meaningful lines about being “I am worthless in your arms, but you offer this protection no one else has given me.” The end of the track then falls into this large noise-fest with the guitars blaring, the drums pounding, and Rundle taking a back seat to let the instruments destroy the rest of the track.
“Medusa” then follows and this is one of the more up-beat tracks on Marked For Death. The way Rundle presents her vocals and continues to shine through even as the strings and percussion behind her continue to make make for great background noise. Emma Ruth Rundle then uses reverberation on her voice to give the effect of background vocals being used. The reverb is slight, but just enough to give Rundle’s vocal performance enough layering and depth to the rest of the track. The final minute of the track is a primarily instrumental jam-session that uses what sounds like synth leads to give some more ambiance to the backing of the instrumentation before finally succumbing to silence.
Following is the track “Hand Of God,” which focuses with a slow electric guitar build up that almost lingers on the verge of blowing out the rest of the track with its powerful bass chords. Rundle then jumps in and the entire track is much slower than the other previous tracks on Marked For Death. In a way this track segues into a more bravado style with the instruments and Rundle’s voice going for a more-straight forward approach.
Marked For Death sounds similar to if The Smiths tried their hand at Drone Music. The very ambience heavy album from Emma Ruth Rundle is outstanding, featuring some depth and real fleshed-out ideas on each and every track. They transition near perfectly and it feels as though the album was recorded all in one single session rather than individual recordings.
Tracks like “Heaven” and “So, Come” are an example of this transition or segue in which the album moves without taking more than a few seconds to break. Rundle’s vocal performance stays about the same through-out Marked For Death and her voice is truly the star of this album. The instrumentals backing her are still great, but the resonating factor is most definitely Rundle’s vocal performance.
The next track, “Furious Angel” immediately begins with Rundle and the guitar setting the tone for the rest of the song. “Furious Angel” and Marked For Death as a whole feels rather daunting and somber. There are uplifting points in the record, but for most of the time spent on it, there is primarily a focus on these slow, and near sludge sounding tracks. They move gracefully but at the same time they are much more sedated.
The final track, “Real Big Sky” features a what sounds like a dirty, broken, mistuned guitar starting off the action of the track. Rundle brings her beautiful voice into the frame and there is this contrast in the track. It feels like Rundle and the instrumentation are always battling each other, Rundle brings some incredible vocal performances that were downright beautiful, while the instruments are grungier and filthy sounding. This constant comparison and duality is the strongest point on Marked For Death, and it allows for one of the most powerful combinations in music.