Empty into White
There are very few bands that can work magic with their music. Unto Ashes is definitely one. Like their previous two albums with Projekt, Empty into White is a deeply rewarding blend of hypnotic drums and percussion, mesmerizing female and male vocals and exquisitely played archaic and contemporary instruments, from dulcimers and guitars to keyboards and hurdy-gurdy. Some recognizable signposts might be goth or apocalyptic folk, Fire and Ice or Dead Can Dance, but really Unto Ashes charts a territory that is uniquely its own.
In the realm of Unto Ashes, falling in love and falling into the final darkness of madness or death are one, linked by the same ecstatic obliteration of the self. On the brilliant “Spider Song,” Ericah Hagle’s intoxicating voice tempts a man to sacrifice himself and become one with her web, surrounding him on all sides with the musk of her desire, pinning him against a glorious backdrop of tablas and bells, hammered dulcimer and string-synths.
You never know quite what you’ll run into next as you delve deeper into Empty into White — from invocations of power (“Witches’ Rune” or “Allu Mari”) to a cover of a Tori Amos song (“Beauty Queen,” here sung Latin), a Texas folksong (“Go Tell Aunt Rhodie”) and a very spooky version of “Don’t Fear (The Reaper).” You’ll also encounter deeply disturbing visions painted with instruments alone. On “Persephone, Queen of the Underworld,” daughter of the Earth goddess is forced to endure the endless delights of Death, depicted with drums and the demonic buzzing of the Persian saz. “1914” evokes the image of a beautiful young maiden, paler than the moonlight and dressed in all white, playing a lament for her lost love on a grand piano in a room draped in black velvet, as the tears of the sky roll down the ivy-shrouded windowpanes. All that is sure is that by the time you step through the final gate on the unnamed 19th track — a deeper blackness yawning in the night at the edge of a wood, shimmering and rippling as crickets chirp all around you and strange cries buzz from beyond the opening — you will never be the same again.