Unto Ashes | The Blood of My Lady

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The Blood of My Lady

by Unto Ashes

After a period of great turmoil and change, Unto Ashes delivers a new CD which can only be described as a neo-folk masterpiece.
Genre: Folk: Alternative Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Blood of My Lady (Part 1)
3:28 album only
2. Who Has Seen the Wind
2:39 album only
3. Echos in den Wald
4:41 album only
4. The Tomb of Your Remains
2:52 album only
5. Vengeance
2:50 album only
6. I Will Lead You Down
3:15 album only
7. Our Palace of Ice
1:49 album only
8. A Cold Wind (February)
3:20 album only
9. For All My Broken Promises
4:21 album only
10. The River and the Hawk
2:48 album only
11. Fly on the Windscreen
3:41 album only
12. The Blood of My Lady (Part 2)
3:42 album only
13. She is Everywhere and Nowhere
3:16 album only


Album Notes
After a period of great turmoil and change, Unto Ashes delivers a new CD which can only be described as a dark-folk masterpiece: this is an album of thirteen spells conjured for the Lady, who is everywhere and nowhere. The Blood of My Lady is undoubtedly the most intimate Unto Ashes CD created hitherto. Whereas Unto Ashes founder and producer Michael Laird wrote and recorded the album in almost complete isolation, the CD has been blessed by a number of stunning musical contributions by Kim Larsen from :Of the Wand and the Moon: (Denmark), and Sonne Hagal (Germany). The new album is distinguished from its predecessors by the fact that all of the lead vocalists are male (Laird, Larsen, Sonne Hagal, Gregory Palmer); the listener is further enchanted by superb backing vocals courtesy of soprano Josie Smith (a capella virtuoso).
“I have seen the blood of my Lady
In small droplets throughout the forest deep
In tracks of hooves the earth and blood are made one
And she comes home to me...”

Following a very successful 2006 European Tour opening for Germany’s darkwave / neo-Medieval gods Qntal, two former members of Unto Ashes emigrated to Germany, where they are now recording with members of Estampie and Helium Vola.

Thus, The Blood of My Lady was painfully conceived and wrought in considerable upheaval (emotional and otherwise). In late 2007, Laird moved from New York City to a large Victorian house in the countryside. In long durations of silence, punctuated by the sounds of birds and wind, the songs formed and began to grow on their own accord.

As would befit the rustic environment of Laird’s new home, The Blood of My Lady was recorded entirely with acoustic instruments; its neo-medieval enchantments will be favorably compared with Unto Ashes’ debut album Moon Oppose Moon (Projekt, 2000). The thirteen songs abound with cellos, French horns, hurdy-gurdy, dulcimers, mandolin, piano, and military drums. The album explores themes of love and loss; of awakening; and of homecoming… But does this homecoming actually occur? Perhaps it cannot be:

“I have seen the blood of my Lady
Falling in a fine mist in the heat of the day
It covers the leaves of the Mourning Tree
And she comes home to me...”

This song - entitled “The Blood of My Lady” - appears as two completely different musical compositions: Part 1 was written and recorded by Laird; Part 2 was created by Kim Larsen, with Laird’s words and vocal harmonies.

Easily the most boisterous song on the album is the infectious and powerful anthem “Echos in den Wald,” a German “military pop song” which involves relentless hurdy-gurdy, snare drums, and a towering men’s choir. Following close behind is an outrageous neo-folk version of “Fly on the Windscreen” which is as menacing – and romantic – as the Depeche Mode original. Long admired by Laird, “Fly on the Windscreen” perfectly captures the exquisite tension between sex and death. Further excursions into warped romance is realized in the stunning “I Will Lead You Down” which invites comparison to early Leonard Cohen.

A foreboding analogue synthesizer on “Our Palace of Ice” beckons arctic birds with tragical eyes. Another stirring instrumental piece is “The Tomb of Your Remains” which was performed entirely on cello; this song was written in the ninth century (!) by Kassia, of Constantinople, who is the earliest known female composer whose name has come down to us. Kassia died ca. 867 AD; she therefore preceded Hildegard von Bingen by almost 200 years.

Two outstanding neo-folk songs were contributed by Germany’s Sonne Hagal: “Who Has Seen the Wind,” with words by Christina Rossetti, and “Vengeance,” which has an almost Elizabethan quality. Originally these songs were submitted as simple guitar & vocal tracks; from these Laird created a spectacular display of male and female vocal harmonies, French horn, mandolin, and hurdy-gurdy.

“A Cold Wind (February),” sung by Kim Larsen, is an entrancing, diamond of a song, worthy of early Popul Vuh, which follows the heart outside its icy isolation. “For All My Broken Promises” presents the heart as it emerges from shadow into raw sunlight. “The River and the Hawk” offers the heart’s realization of what it has lost, and what it longs to regain:

“She is everywhere and nowhere…”

A review from Fearnet:
I’ve only heard a passing mention of so-called “Dark Folk” music, and until now I never really considered the entertainment value of earthy melodies about death, ghosts, pagan gods and occult mysteries… but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed a natural fit. After all, the concept of horror and the unknown is as old as human creativity itself, and probably dates back to the first cave paintings and eerie chants around the firelight… and there’s something about the primal rhythms, vintage instrumentation and timeless vocals of so-called “Neoclassical Darkwave” groups like Arcana (one of my all-time favorites), Dead Can Dance, Estampie, Qntal, Dark Sanctuary and Mirabilis that puts you in the mind of chilling moonlit rituals in the deepest, darkest woods.

Now that I’ve heard Unto Ashes’ new CD The Blood of My Lady – which is set for release next Tuesday from Projekt Records – I’d definitely add them to this list. Read on, and learn what ethereal strains may echo through thee waiting earbuds!

Formed over a decade ago in New York City by multi-instrumentalist Michael Laird, Unto Ashes has featured a revolving group of collaborators over the years, blending traditional folk instruments like hammered dulcimer, violin & cello, hurdy-gurdy, the Persian saz (a kind of long-necked lute) and various indigenous percussion with electronic elements like synthesizers and electric guitars. For this album, the group scaled back most of the modern aspects to put more emphasis on old-school instrumentation.

Laird reportedly composed all the tracks from The Blood of My Lady alone, while sequestered within a Victorian house in rural New York during a period of emotional turmoil. But that didn’t stop him from seeking musical contributors from several countries – including legendary Danish rocker Kim Larsen, German experimental outfit Sonne Hagal and acclaimed soprano Josie Smith.

The result is what Laird and company describe as “an album of thirteen spells conjured for The Lady,” which comes across like a ritualized meditation on the dark and chaotic forces of man and nature, love and death. It’s a simpler, more elemental work that calls back to the group’s earliest recordings, particularly their first full-length release Moon Oppose Moon.

The title track is divided into two separate movements – the first performed primarily by Laird, the other by Larsen – which serve to bookend the album with a tragic theme of lost love. Interestingly, Laird’s rendition bears a striking similarity to some of the quieter songs from early Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, while Larsen brings more than a hint of Lou Reed to the table. The tracks framed between these two songs represent a wide assortment of moods and styles – from the somber ballad “Who Has Seen the Wind,” the Michael Nyman-like “For All My Broken Promises” and the quietly regal “The River and the Hawk,” to the deceptively gentle-sounding anthem “Vengeance.” Pastoral instrumentals like cello solo “The Tomb of Your Remains” and warm piano piece “She is Everywhere and Nowhere” add some midnight-meditation moments.

The haunting ambient swells, swirls and distant bell-tones that accompany the beautiful but unsettling “I Will Lead You Down” move to front-and-center in the warm synth pulses of “Our Palace of Ice,” which transitions into the goosebump-inducing spoken-word piece “A Cold Wind (February).” This middle trio of tracks to me represents the full realization of the haunted mood I believe Laird was striving for here, and prove that a perfectly Gothic tone can be achieved without a lot of glammy posturing.

It’s not all hushed, melancholy tones, however; the vigorous jingling bells, horns and odd vocals of German-language march “Echos in den Wald” manage to be eccentrically upbeat and sort of creepy at the same time, and there’s even an inventive acoustic-guitar cover of Depeche Mode’s “Fly on the Windscreen” that fits nicely with the band’s sex & death themes (“Death is everywhere/There are lambs for the slaughter… Come here, kiss me now”).

There’s a haunting vibe to these thirteen “spells” that transports you to another time and place… and not necessarily a safe place, either. As you listen, you get a sense of shadows being cast by fading firelight, imagery that works its way into your mind over the album’s 43 minutes, and for me it results in a more lights-out, incense-burning experience than, say, casual dinnertime background music (although those are usually one and the same at my house). It doesn’t aim to unsettle you immediately, but you can feel the darkness creeping in around the edges of your perception.

It goes to show that the right artist can pull off subtle but very real chills with a touch of class – think of it as the sonic equivalent of Carl Dreyer’s surreal, dreamlike 1932 film Vampyr. If low-key vintage chills are not your poison, then this probably won’t win you over… but if you’re craving a sense of quiet, elusive dread, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

A review from Liar Society:
The musical progression of Unto Ashes is like a study in sonic reincarnation except instead of each incarnation coming closer to a state of blissed-out nirvana, every new iteration is darker and more grim than the last. Which is really saying something for a project whose previous offerings yieldings songs with such dour titles as “Teach Me How To Drown,” “I Cover You in Blood,” and “Song for a Widow.” In a sense, the Unto Ashes oeuvre is like Dante’s Inferno–only there is no end to the descent, just a bottomless well of misery. And so it is with the latest release from Unto Ashes, The Blood of My Lady. This incarnation of the project find most of more baroque influences stripped away. In its place is a bare, spare apocalyptic sound with rich acoustic guitars and occasional cello and horn to round out the palette. Again in contrast to past albums, on The Blood of My Lady Michael Laird has assumed the main vocal duties; the effect is much more solitary and much more personal. And amazingly, the result is the most melancholic Unto Ashes album yet. Perfect for thinking about days gone by, and days that will never arrive. Rating: 4/5



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Pier Paolo Conconi

Uno dei miei preferiti!