Compared to its two predecessors, Empty into White is more ancient sounding, and even more innovative; the album contains an unbroken ring of beautiful and powerful songs and stark soundscapes. As with all Unto Ashes releases, Empty into White is characterized by exquisite instrumention, stirring vocal performances and harmonies, and almost uncanny songwriting. In the face of the Apocalypse, the new album encompasses an even wider range of emotions, crying: "We shall celebrate, with such fearless dancing, the death of your institutions!" Empty into White features original plague dances on medieval instruments, grim apocalyptic folk, songs of Witchcraft, and some spectacularly vibrant tracks which incorporate Persian and Oriental instrumentation. The album is distinguished by a wide array of exotic instruments, such as hurdy-gurdy, dulcimers, Persian saz, tamboura, violin, tabla, and hypnotic percussion. In some instances these sounds are augmented by arpeggiated synthesizers which produce highly compelling, almost irresistable rhythms. Unto Ashes' grim and justly celebrated version of "Don't Fear the Reaper" (first released on last year's Projekt: Gothic compilation) is also included.
Also see: German reviews and an English translation of the Zillo Magazine article.
Unto Ashes Empty Into White is a strikingly haunting album that both caught me unaware and fascinated me. This album is perhaps the quintessential "goth" album. At least as far as what people perceive when they hear the tag "goth" given to a band. The music here is slow and dark and includes many instruments that would seem "odd" to the world of modern mainstream music fans. The overall feel of this piece is largely created by its classically influenced sounds. Without ever really stepping heavily into orchestral pieces, the band does manage to create the illusion of that, be it intentional or not. The songs here are solid for the most part but I found myself wandering in the middle section of the record after repeated listens. There are some moments here that are really astounding but there are more than a few songs here that just seem to pass the listener by without ever grabbing hold of anything. The album does finish strong with a cover of Blue Oyster Cult's mega hit "Don't Fear (The Reaper)" performed amazingly well in a very simplistic acoustic style. The high point ending definitely brings you back in for more listens because you start to feel like maybe you missed something the first 5 times through. All in all, fans of the classically influenced goth artists as well as fans of classical and opera may find some stuff they enjoy here. Key Song: "Witches' Rune"- Mark Fisher
4 Stars | Unto Ashes just seems to keep getting better and better with time, and that's not merely a great thing, it's fantastic. That a band (especially an American band) could so perfectly distill a wide range of influences into its own distinct apocalyptic folk/rock dream and then improve on that is breathtaking; if admitted influence Coil has an even wider cast of the net, Unto Ashes certainly aren't slouches in comparison. The quartet's widest-ranging and most confident album yet, Empty Into White is a swirling, beautiful dream of an album, from its entrancing cover art and design to the lush, majestic progression of the songs. With a lineup now fully stabilized around the core of Michael Laird, Natalia Lincoln and Ericah Hagle — Jeremy Bastard completes the lineup, while a variety of guest performers assist — the band steps up from the already excellent Saturn Return to combine and rework musical inspirations like no act since Dead Can Dance. The sheer fluidity of the group's sound and how it seems to effortlessly combine and recombine quietly stuns on almost song for song. There's the easy slide from Laird's French-sung "C'Y Commence Le Jeu" to Hagle's tour-de-force "Spider Song," the Middle Eastern dreamscapes of "Bathsheba Waiting" and "Persephone, Queen of the Underworld," the dark chimes and subtle threat of "Ah, Sunflower!" and much more. Perhaps the most telling touch is the inclusion of two covers — Tori Amos's "Beauty Queen" and Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper." For the former, the lyrics are translated into Latin and given an entrancing choral arrangement, while the latter becomes an astonishing acoustic guitar lament mixing male and female vocals. When electric guitar does appear, the band touches on the song's legendary sound without exactly replicating it — the type of thing that only a truly individual band can do. — Ned Raggett
Unto Ashes encompass the realm of what world music represents to me. They add sumptuous elements from various cultures and vocals styles evident also in the varied instruments they use. From ancient to modern they use hammered dulcimer, appalachian dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy, persian saz, violin, tabla, keyboards, piano, percussion and acoustic and electric guitar. The music of Unto Ashes is richly layered and full of textures. Michael Laird has an enigmatic vocal range and skill with instrumentation is captivating. Female vocalist Ericah Hagle is high up there in the ranks of Lisa Gerrard and Ofra Haza. Keyboardist/pianist Natalia Lincoln also lends her sultry vox as a back up vocalist and Jeremy Bastard handles electric and acoustic guitars on noted tracks. (For specifics be sure to read the cd insert booklet.) To say which are my favorite tracks is surely impossible since I love them all. "Spider Song," "Witches' Rune," "Allu Mari," "Bathsheba Writhing," "Persephone, Queen of the Underworld," "I Am Blind," "De Store Smerte" are among my faves. There's also a hidden track that is keenly untitled. Unto Ashes perform lovely renditions of the following: Tori Amos' "Beauty Queen," and Donald Roeser's "Don't Fear (The Reaper)." Unto Ashes are everything their bio says they are: magickal, ethereal, gothic, neo-classical, experimental, sublime, dark and subliminal and more... Get this album. You won't regret it. -Sophie Diamantis-Fry
This quartet has presented us with their third album and I venture to say most original and unique album to date. Just by opening the booklet and reading the instruments included is an adventure in itself. With the likes of the Hammered Dulcimer, Hurdy Gurdy and Persian Saz, it's easy to see how such an authentic, yet uniquely blended music can be produced.
Each song on this album takes me into a mysterious land of superstition mixed with apocalyptic folk and tales of love and sadness. "C'y Commence Le Jeu" is the perfect intro to this captivating album with it's graceful music that drags you into a dark and moody world. The "Spider Song" is definitely one of these morbidly spellbinding songs with the smooth female vocals and traditional instruments mixed with percussion and synth that hold you ensnared as the listener.
Among these excellent songs full of great lyrics and nice vocals varying between male and female (Michael, Ericah and Natalia on backing vocasl), there is also a plethora of great instrumentals. These include the more traditional sounding "Bathsheba Writhing" and the moving "Persephone, Queen of the Underworld" with it's more noticeable percussion and Persian musical styles. The title track is another of these great instrumentals, this one being more of an experimental dark ambient noise piece. This definitely sets the mood for the latter half of the album continuing on with two more instrumentals "Heralds of War" and "1914".
Interesting inclusions on this album worth noting include the traditional Texas folksong "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie" that I remember singing in grade school. Others are the cover of the Tori Amos track "Beauty Queen" and The Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper". Fans who already enjoy Unto Ashes should rush out and pick up this album. It's another great musical journey you won't want to miss. Others new to their style and music should pick it up if they're familiar and enjoy music by Dead Can Dance, Rajna or other similar groups, but be prepared for a more mystical sound than you have experienced before. Rating: 3.5/5
I love a band that defies easy description. New York's Unto Ashes shares traits with the so-called ethereal subgenre of Gothic rock, with its swooping femme vox and lush acoustic/synthetic textures, and adopts some elements of the main Goth genre as well, with contrasting baritone male vocals and song titles like "I Cover You With Blood," "Flayed By Frost" and "Persephone, Queen of the Underworld." But the bandmembers have also immersed themselves deeply in classical study, pagan religion (which here seems to be a genuine faith, not an affectation) and folk music of many stripes, especially, but not limited to, Medieval. Add to all this a firm command of melody and song structure—tunes come from the pens of group members or from sources like Texas folklore ("Go Tell Aunt Rhodie"), pagan poets ("Witches' Rune") or Tori Amos ("Beauty Queen")—and you have the libretto for a dark, utterly bewitching spell. Flowers blossom, die, and grow again. Fairies dance themselves into dervishes, then collapse in heaps of exhaustion and cardiac arrest. A phoenix rises from the ashes of its own self-immolation only to be shot down by human hunters. Coffins open and disgorge perfumed corpses in romantic finery. Angels and devils share songs, beds, spirits and Isis knows what else while the gods watch in an attempt to disrupt their own ennui. Empty Into White ends with a stunning cover of Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," which pretty much ditches the original melody for one far more mournful and ethereal. It's a beautiful end to a beautiful journey, from a band that crafts its own distinctive magic. Michael Toland [buy it]
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. - Dave Aftandilian
This third album from Unto Ashes reveals the affirmation of their maturity and personnality. Through the years, they have continuously refined their music to the point of finding a true balance between the tradition of their roots, the contemporarity of their creativity, the intellectual depths of their lyrics and the sensibility of their melodies. On "Empty Into White", they celebrate the heritage of Medieval music that gets reinvented through Folk incantations, tribal mysticism, Middle Eastern influences... all blending together to create a Gothic rendition of The Arabian Nights transcended by majestic string arrangements and the beautiful male and female vocal harmonies that enhanced the musicallity through their poetry and their various linguistic expressions. Each composition has an evocative quality, each song is a confidence like a story telling; fables, tales are brought to life with every notes and every words that take the form of many languages such as French, Latin, Italian, Norwegian and of course English. Unto Ashes give their own musical interpretation of the work from The Mother of Modern Witchcraft Doreen Valiente, Wicca poetess Catherine Madsen, Norwegian poet Olaf Bull, and English poet William Blake. They also offer us surprising covers of songs from Tori Amos and Blue Oyster Cult. A listening experience that grows on you in a sacred ritual that opens the senses and the mind.
After the fantastic quality of their Moon Oppose Moon and Saturn Return albums I guess its no great shock to report that this too is a work of great beauty, but if, like me, you're something of a stranger to Old Forms of music fret not, for although its only now I'm getting to grips with the styles, I know I love it. Ataraxia have an ancient slant to some of what they do, but the harshly curving vocals accommodate those influences and not the other way round. With a band like Unto Ashes the ancient flavours are very deliberate and youd easily consider this a reverential act, which makes it hard to have an actual connection with.
When I received some material from the Fossil Dungeon label last year I was intrigued and applauded the artistry but found that they had such a stark approach to style and content, that I only listen to them (and I have) when I want something confrontational snapping at my head. With Unto Ashes, who unravel some Persian influences here, apparently, I find they really work on the emotional side. There are sly, imaginative Goth themes and atmospheres, but there are also stirring cinema epics flitting through the imagery, and where else are you going to get original Plague dances? So, don't be put off by what you many have seen of them before, or their use of dulcimers and tamboura. Laugh, even, at the press release giving them the full Other Worldy build up, and then notice its classification advice (file under Pop Rock), because Unto Ashes actually specialise in songs. Songs of the heart and the mind, with a wiggling spine of mystery.
"I Cover You With Blood" is a truly addictive number, you probably won't recognise the Tori Amos song unless a true fan, and you'll be amazed to discover you are already familiar with a traditional Texan folk song! And what odds on hearing an interesting cover of a Blue Oyster Cult song? If this doesn't sound like an intriguing mixture to you, or an impossible mess, then you're simply not adventurous enough for this journal and should leave now.
I hope I wasn't the typically verbose critic quoted in the press release as there's nothing typical about my verbosity. It's just my way of covering up the swearing. You bastards! And here I sit, a man who loves his noise and attitude, captivated by every minute of this demented record, which will probably be the most beautiful new thing you sample all year if you're not au fait with music from off the beaten track. The vocals mainly, Plague dances aside, deal with relationships, in obscure enough a manner to let you implant your own thoughts after a few listens. The Witches Rune is just one of many songs which take on a brittle dreaminess all their own, and if Pullman needs any music for the soundtrack of his books, when they reach the cinema, he should contact Unto Ashes first. "Dont Fear The Reaper" turns dolorous, becoming compassionate advice, allowing the song real dignity, the title track is the weirdest of slivers, giving their overall mix another weird tweak, and the genuinely martial Heralds is quiet, committed drama. Even "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie" is a respectful lament. "Ah, Sunflower!" is so light it all but blows away, a touch of the sturdy-gurdy strengthens the vocals in "De Store Smerter" so any Ataraxia fans would certainly approve, and the outdoor zoological soundscape of "Flayed By Frost" is like a house haunted by exotic birdcalls.
The whole thing plays out on idling, attractive piano and you're going to have to trust me that this isn't like anything else, which is part of the pull, but the real thing is the depth. It seems picturesque and delicate, but theres a dangerous current which will suck you in, which is the least you deserve.
Have fun. - Mick Mercer
(9/10) LUSH MEDIEVAL FOLK: As the icy chimes herald in this album, it is clear that we are in for another journey into Unto Ashes' world of breathtaking yet haunting beauty. Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms on "Spider Song" sway and give way to the hammered dulcimer cascade of "I Cover You with Blood." The album continues to move in and out of various folk styles without repeating itself or losing the trademark sound that has marked this unique act since their debut album. Aside from the diverse and elegant instrumentation, the key to Unto Ashes' sound is the rapturous vocal work by Michael Laird and Ericah Hagle. Michael's voice is clear and calm, while Ericah's is pure sensuality, a perfect combination that works just as well solo or in union with backing vocalist Natalia Lincoln. Beyond their own compositions, Unto Ashes also offers some unique interpretations of three very different songs. Tori Amos' "Beauty Queen" gets a stunning makeover, with the lyrics translated into Latin. Later, the band offers an utterly mournful rendition of the standard "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie," and a blissful, half-speed take on Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear (The Reaper)." A sterling recording completes this elegant picture, making for a nigh perfect collection of songs that hint at faraway times and places, yet strike a rich and very immediate chord in the soul. -- Daniel Hinds
Unto Ashes is an ethereal band with a lot to offer, as each song stands uniquely on its own. Their delicate music is complemented with violins, keyboards, drums, percussion, acoustic guitars, soundscapes, and soft male and female vocals. They also use exotic instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy, Chinese gong and tabla.The highlight of the album is their chilling remake of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” It was a smart move not duplicating the sound, but presenting it their way by slowing it down and allowing bewitching vocalist Ericah Hagle to sing lead. - MARY ANNE CHRISTIANO
(vol. III, no. 12) Empty Into White opens with a sparkling dulcimer piece and spoken word (in French), immediately flowing into "Spider Song," with its arabesque vocals and Persian melody. The CD is certainly a wordly one. It lifts you and brings you on a magic carpet ride over stark landscapes, with timeless instrumentation and hypnotic, obscure language and rhyme, then transports you to a mirage-like setting of exotic sounds and dark uncertainties. This might not be the kind of disc you'd throw on for a summer barbeque. It's one more appropriate for a sunset seance, or at least a meditative afternoon in a room strewn with centuries-old books and maps of lost worlds. Ericah Hagle's rich vocals bring out the depth of the music brilliantly, and the composition and sheer skill of Michael Laird and the rest of the band enliven the ancient, mystical nature of the songs, giving them breathing room while allowing them to maintain their gravity -- Celine
Unto Ashes, perhaps the only band to ever attempt folk/electronic fusion (definitely the only group to ever do it successfully), have released their third album, Empty Into White If you're unfamiliar with Unto Ashes‚ music, fans of dreamy landscape sounds in the vain of Dead Can Dance and Depeche Mode will enjoy this post-punk foursome's fearless voyage into primal rhythms that somehow manage to evoke ultra-futuristic imagery. The band is at its best and most distinctive when they jam with their impressive arsenal of medieval and Arabic instruments (a few of their toys include the Persian saz, dulcimers, hurdy-gurdies, tambouras and tablas). Blend those archaic tools of sound with modern synths and sequencing equipment and you get a groove that's a perfect fit for our apocalyptic age. Case in point: Unto Ashes‚ hauntingly un-ironic cover of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper."