Whenever an EP is released shortly after a full-length album drops, it’s often the case this EP will consist of b-sides that didn’t make the final cut. These B-side EPs often get dismissed as lesser material that a band puts out for their most dedicated fans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean gems can’t be found within these releases. Fans of Counterparts will know this, with their last 2 albums both having companion EPs with material that rivals the quality of the full-length.
Last year, post-rock singer/songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle and sludge metal stalwarts Thou released May Our Chambers Be Full, a collaborative full-length that blended crushing downtuned sludgy riffs with Emma’s ethereal vocals in such a sublime way that the album went down as one of the most memorable records of 2020. Whilst it is currently unknown whether this collaboration will just be a one-off or not, there was an announcement shortly after the album’s release that a companion EP entitled The Helm of Sorrow would be released in early 2021, with 4 songs that didn’t quite make the final cut on the full-length.
Musically, The Helm of Sorrow combines the same musical elements, with huge monstrous riffs and soaring vocals layered over Thou frontman Bryan Funck’s tortured shrieks and screams. Opening track 'Orphan Limbs' is a mostly post-rock song that only gets heavy in the last minute and a half of its runtime, with the following two tracks 'Crone Dance' and 'Recurrence' being far heavier numbers with very little clean passages save for the end of the former and the beginning of the latter. The final track on this EP is a cover of 'Hollywood' by The Cranberries. This cover serves as a reminder that the sound concocted on these two releases is such a good love-letter to the 1990s alternative rock and grunge sounds with the added heaviness of Thou’s mammoth sludge metal. Whilst it may take clear influence from these scenes, the musicians involved in these projects are constantly looking forward and bringing their own personality onto the material.
Whether or not Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou will collaborate again on an album in the future, The Helm Of Sorrow is a great companion EP to one of the most exciting releases from last year, and one can only hope that the material on these two releases will inspire other acts to push heavy music forward in similar ways.
The Helm Of Sorrow is released January 15th via Sacred Bones.