This is over the top Gothic pop. Unto Ashes showed on their debut that it was a diverse, extremely eclectic little ensemble that had numerous dark tricks up their collective sleeve that they couldn't quite pull off musically. With Saturn's Return they sound like a different band. Musically Unto Ashes have outdone themselves and exceeded any expectations their debut promised. Using a sophisticated blend of European folk musics, South American and African percussion, found texts and original lyrics, Unto Ashes drafts a Gothic underground music of elegance, seamless grace and dark passion. Here the sounds of Syd Barrett's solo recordings touch medieval courtly love music, Babylonian folk dances and the shimmer and swoon of rock viscera and dynamics.From lushly orchestrated and tightly woven sonnets by Petrarch to instrumental sequences on runes and Michael Laird's own finely honed words on "A Hymn To Pan," where lyrics are worthy of much more than praise. In the end, all you can do is praise this record for the sum of the assembled talent and its taste in selecting and recording its material. The voice of voices in Gothic rock-Ericah Hagle-carries off her share of the material with an aplomb not readily witnessed on the scene today. Finally, the band earns great merit for a sympathetic and moving cover of Coil's "Ostia (The Death of Pasolini). This is the future of a music many thought was dead with the break up of Dead Can Dance and the Cocteaus. Based on the fine, gorgeously wrought pain and pleasure of Unto Ashes, things are just beginning to get interesting. - Tom Jurek
The title may be reminiscent to some listeners of similarly titled releases by No Doubt or Goldie, but unlike those two acts, the band who created Saturn Return likely has more of an in-depth appreciation of astrology and the mystic than most. Unto Ashes' second album easily builds on the promise of Moon Oppose Moon, continuing that record's fascinating blend of styles into new areas of death folk-inspired mystery. Now centered on a core quartet of Laird, Henry, Lincoln, and singer/multi-instrumentalist Ericah Hagle, plus various other guest performers, the group draws on a number of different lyrical sources for its songs this time around, not to mention their own particular talents. The most notable reworking is actually a full cover -- in an inspired choice, Coil's "Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)" -- that features howling wolves and haunting performances on cello and flute adding to the delivery of the unsettling track. Elsewhere, everyone from Petrarch (in the original Italian) to Crowley is used and reworked, nearly always to captivating effect. Musically, there's everything from delicate acoustic guitar to moody synth orchestrations and industrial-level drums, not to mention the continuing variety of lead vocalists, again resulting in a rich combination that explores variety while still maintaining a consistent overall atmosphere. "Serve Me," which blends crisp synth drums and traditional percussion with a low bass crawl, and the romantic piano/hammered dulcimer contrast on "Regret," are two of the highlights in that mix-and-match vein. Laird and company have an excellent ear for space, as "Moon Oppose Moon" showed, and while things are somewhat lusher on Saturn Return, the band continue to operate on the principle of restraint, letting less say more instead of swamping the songs. Even compositions like "Ein Fluch," with its dramatic organ melody and strong drumming and singing, retains a crisp live edge, feeling immediate and enveloping. -- Ned Raggett
Second album leads the listener on a guided tour of the dark ages.
| 8 out of 10 | With Unto Ashes drawing many of their lyrics from ancient and foreign texts and setting them to medieval instrumentation, Saturn Return is the genuine article. Extraordinarily theatrical in tone and presentation, the album resembles the classic Art Bears LP Winter Songs in that both deliver listeners unto the plague-ridden streets of Europe's darkest days. Though tempering the darkness with lyricism, the album is divided between tales of torment and romantic ruination (several instrumental tracks go even further toward setting the mood). Even goth music has its norms, and Unto Ashes ignore them in an effort to create music that is authentically transporting. -Mark Burbey
A review from Deep Listenings, No. 22, Italy:
Shimmering strings of guitar, dulcimer, harp and tamboura mixed with female vocals, Middle Eastern percussion, and the quiet airs of flutes. The initial track is taken from a sonnet by Petrarch and the music is an ancient Persian dance. The arpeggio of the guitar on the unreal "Sonnet 87" brings us the best English folk and medieval music. Music and text on this CD are a tribute to the esoteric culture of lost ages: astrology, pagan religions, runic symbols, mystic cults, all permeate each piece, creating atmospheres of anxiety and terrible beauty. It is no small feat to have covered a track by COIL, nor to have recitations by Aleister Crowley and Pierre de Ronsard. A group to watch for, certainly the most interesting on the Projekt label! Wonderful artwork. - Gianluigi Gasparelti
The highly anticipated new album by this fascinating band. Unto Ashes successfully cross Goth, Medieval Folk, Ethnic signatures and Neo-Classical music in their material with superb results, stocked with rich instrumentation and excellent vocals.
Like alchemists of a distant past, Unto Ashes effortlessly meld foreboding apocalyptic folk, the warmth of early instruments, the coldness of the electronic age, and the power of the occult. Sensitive and bewitching male and female vocals shine against a hypnotic, unsettling atmosphere of early and arcane instruments. "Saturn Return" is driven by medieval themes and textures coupled with a sense of mystery and enchantment; a perfect continuation of the melancholic, elegant doom which first captivated listeners on their 2000 debut, "Moon Oppose Moon".
Unto Ashes blend ancient texts and original lyrics with startling ingenuity. The album's opening track, "Morte o Merce," weaves an Italian Renaissance sonnet by Francesco Petrarch into a hypnotic Persian dance. From "A Hymn to Pan" (words by Aleister Crowley) and an exotic cover of Coil's "Ostia" - appearing with the enthusiastic blessings of Coil themselves - to the beauty and cruelty of "They Killed Three Little Maids" and the sinuous, club-friendly "Serve Me," Unto Ashes weave an eclectic and compelling tapestry: sublimely beautiful, powerful, intelligent, and occasionally disturbing.
The talented New York ensemble, Unto Ashes, produced a brilliant first album, Moon Oppose Moon, but the latest rises to a new degree of sophistication. A variety of literary sources are raided for lyrics including the words of the beguiling opening track, 'Morte o Merce', which is a mediaeval sonnet by Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374). A renaissance sonnet, 'Sonnet 87 ("When As Man's Life")' by Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke (1554-1628) is given a more modern and less compelling treatment. Rather more compelling is the full-on gothic 'Ein Fluch' ('curse') featuring operatic female vocals (Ataraxia-style), organ music and percussion, and 'Serve Me' with its nightmarish keyboard washes. 'They Killed Three Little Maids' has a mediaeval quality with a simple and repetitive melody reminiscent of the 'Lyke Wake Dirge'. Other highpoints include the Coil cover, 'Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)', a brave and adventurous undertaking which captures the essence of the original whilst being a masterpiece in its own right, the short '2nd Lunar Runic Calendar' which features smotheringly dark cello music from guest musician Catherine Bent, and the troubadour-style 'A Sa Maitresse' which was inspired by Current 93's 'Let Us Go To The Rose'. 'A Hymn To Pan' (I'm always in favour of them) is a magickal incantation lyrically attributed to Aleister Crowley. Would Crowley be surprised that a whole genre of dark folk artists both exists and treats him as a major source of inspiration? I don't know, but if he was still alive he would certainly be after them for royalities. The CD cover reproduces an original oil painting by the talented Madeline von Foerster. - RIK
Combining elements of dark moods, neo-classical, folk, ethereal and gothic music, Unto Ashes is one of the many diverse groups found on the Projekt label. Having just released their second full-length album, they have made an impression on the gothic world in a total span of about two years. If you've never heard Unto Ashes and you pick up this album and look at the cover art, just think of a soundtrack that goes with this art. The art and sound fit perfectly. Both are beautiful, both are moody, both emanate a dark and foreboding feeling like something out of the medieval ages. The album begins with the perfect introduction with "Morte O Merce". It combines all of the above elements into a wonderful soundscape that captivates you for the duration of the album. "Sonnet 87 (When As Man's Life)" features Michael with the vocals and a beautifully written acoustic guitar piece, combined with a wonderful Cello arrangement. There are many wonderful features on this album. Some of the highlights for me are the previous two tracks I've already mentioned as well as "Ein Fluch (Curse)" with the beautiful female vocals and instruments. "Glass" is another favorite for many of the same captivating reasons. "Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)", which they give credit to Coil, is very interesting in it's dark, somber way. Many other tracks are captivating and beautiful, but I will leave it up to the reader and listener to form their own opinion about them. A very interesting group indeed. Combining so many elements and styles of music into the lush soundscape described above, they've managed to pull it all together into another great album. I highly recommend this album if you enjoyed their first album or if you enjoy any of the dark, gothic ethereal groups that release similar music.
There ought to be a warning label on this CD: "Seriously Spooky Shit." If descents into shrilling, demon-haunted madness unnerve you; if eviscerated maidens, their entrails spread wide open upon the table of reason, offend you; and if golden rivers staining the coast blood red and setting men's cracked bones to humming give you pause, then do not enter here. But if you find yourself longing to taste the vampire's kiss or be the lovely witch's willing slave, to feel the spirit of darkness writhing slowly and sensually deep within you, then step out of the straitjacket of your innocent soul and discover the shining blackness of Unto Ashes.
Saturn Return is Unto Ashes' second album with Projekt, and as you can probably tell from the above, it more than measures up to their first, Moon Oppose Moon. Unto Ashes has much more in common with European than American goth bands, especially those affiliated with the World Serpent label, such as the venerable Current 93. For one thing, Unto Ashes sings lyrics in other languages than English -- on Saturn Return there's a song each in French, German, and Italian. And of course, there are the many references to occult and esoteric knowledge of various sorts, and to pagan spirituality. They also share with European goth bands a fascination with the words, music, and cultures of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
But you don't need to know any of that to be blown away by their music -- the gorgeous, operatic female vocals, hypnotic percussion rhythms, and suffocating synth atmospheres. Every track here shines with its own dark brilliance, from their cover of Coil's twisted tale of the bloody renewal of the world on "Ostia" to their terrifying, Bacchanalian (Saturnalian?) setting of Aleister Crowley's poem "A Hymn to Pan." "Serve Me" casts a spell on you from the very first hollow thumps of the tabla and enveloping notes of the brooding synths, ensnaring you with a witch's blood-red fingernails raking your back as you service the needs of her body and the thirsts of her soul. "Glass" pairs gentle, harpsichord-like keyboards with fragile, breathy female vocals, slowly descending deeper and deeper into its tale of love and murder as warped carnival music and heavy, throbbing synths fill your head with whispering, maddening voices. And like all their instrumentals, the closing "Witches Ruin" was just amazing, with deep-space synth isolating you in the endless void, the wind of the abyss whistling all around you, and a droning cello marking the last, fading notes tying you to the world of the living. - Dave Aftandilian
A review from La Fte Triste (Belgium):
Unto Ashes just released a second full length CD which is entitled Saturn Return. The CD appears on the much-praised ethereal gothic label Projekt, where amongst others, Love Spirals Downwards and Lycia belong. When you look at the cover you probably recognize that the present CD contains gothic music with ethereal, medieval, eastern and dark folk influences. All fans of Sol Invictus and Death In June, as well as fans of Ataxaria, Dead Can Dance and The Soil Bleeds Black, must listen to this CD! It's the perfect music to listen to at night in your candlelit room. Everything bathes in a quiet dark atmosphere; it is not really suitable for parties, with the exception of the song 'Serve Me,' which is a club-hit in America (and we will play it at our party!!!). Unto Ashes is to me the discovery of the year 2001 in the dark-ages / folk-gothic area. Rating: 9.5/10
What impressed me most about Unto Ashes debut, Moon Oppose Moon was the accessibility of Medieval and ritualistic music. The songs had a dark beauty and the ancient chants were laid over melodies that gave the words new life. Unto Ashes have done it again with their sophomore release, Saturn Return. These multi-talented musicians play a plethora of instruments and have guests fill in on flutes, harp, cello, and other instruments. The archaic instruments and styles, ranging from Middle Eastern to folk to renaissance and earlier, blend together to create a veil of mystery behind which is hidden the occult and western European history. Voices are carefully chosen to fit the appropriate feeling of each track. Many of the words come from tomes and texts, reworked into a new creation. Within these reincarnations, there is one that is very special: their cover of Coils "Ostia" from Horse Rotorvator. Originally, this song was on a limited-edition tribute to Coil. Most of the covers on that compilation were awful, but this gem made it worthwhile. It is now widely available to the public on this release. A lot of artists with remarkable debuts dont live up to the high expectations with their next offering. Unto Ashes have enchanted me with their magical spells and I willingly let myself be enthralled a second time. - DJ Arcanus
fulfills all the promise and potential that the band's debut, Moon Oppose Moon
, suggested last year. Alternately complex and simple arrangements drenched in mystic textures and allusions played on an array of acoustic string and percussive instruments, detailed by minimal synthetic backdrops, the fifteen tracks of Saturn Return are rich soundtracks to another world.
Incorporating both original lyrical works and borrowing from the 1300s, the Renaissance and the modern age, Unto Ashes abolish the barriers with their musical compositions. Borrowing from Lord Brooke, Francesco Petrarch, traditional 16th century folk music, Maurice Maeterlinck, Aleister Crowley and Coil, it's clear the Michael Laird and company have a unique musical vision. Fortunately, the overtly pagan themes of the album are never over-blown or gimmicky, as often happens with such material. The medieval-styled Morte O Merce (Sonnet 135 by Petrarch) opens the album with a swirling mystic air and intoxicating vocals from Ericah Hagle and moves through the quiet acoustics of Sonnet 87:When A Man's Life into the dark Teutonic bombast of Ein Fluch (Curse). Thus a strong mood is set for all that follows. A cover of Coil's Ostia (The Death Of Pasolini) is a remarkable highlight, instilling an otherworldly Eastern feel on an array of acoustic stringed instruments and percussion and Laird?s vocals admirably carry the song in a lullaby-invocation hybrid. An interpretation of Crowley's Hymn To Pan also appears, though it's fairly lackluster, particularly when one recalls the powerful rendition that Rhea's Obsession recorded a few years ago.
The female vocalists, Ericah Hagle and Natalia Lincoln provide a gorgeous focal point for the band, signing in grand beauty and splendour. Hagle's operatic singing (her rendition of a tradtional 16th century French aria, A Sa Maitresse is breathtaking) is stunningly adept and is the real vocal prowess of the band; which is not to say Lincoln pales in comparison, as she possesses a gorgeous and rich voice.
Saturn Return possesses a grand scope of character and sound, bringing centuries of musical variation into a concise album. Enchanting, epic and beautiful, Unto Ashes have written and assembled a masterpiece (minus a couple of songs) of darkly transcendent music.
This band were made for Projekt and vice versa, for if you like bands who see everything musical as a cycle or circle, in that East can meet West in the way the past meets the present, nudging us into a new future in the process, this is a classic example. From Asian instrumentation, tied to contemporary western vocal refrains, to the folk tradition dragged forward and set against ethereal tableaux, to Tibetan invocation and magic with a (k), its all trapped here and fluttering against the bars.
The Asian feel is initially decorative during Morte O Merce, but becomes wholly piquant when delicate vocals curl around the music rather than ululating. Small, reflective vocals go with the subtle acoustic flow for Sonnet 87, the church horror music operating as a wholly modern composition makes Ein Fluch a hypnotic entity: lantern-lit sprall n thrall and power, made creepy by the twinkly keyboards. The main winner as far as Im concerned is Serve Me which could be a sunlit Portishead, or a less angular Tricky, with highly catchy, arresting vocals and a filmic approach which is far shorter than it feels, as it anaesthetises you. Call it queasy listening. Then on They Killed Three Little Maids they naturally move harmoniously with fin-de-siècle feyness as its words are by Maurice Maeterlinck. Low and hushed, like a fairy tale gone wrong, think Buffys Hush episode and youre almost there.
All of these tracks slyly follow along as high quality treats, and there are many emotive whispers slipping through this record. Much is hushed, with elegant melodies seeping through the pleasantries, but at its heart is something solemn. There is disappointment couched in restful beauty with Glass, and the desolate wispy Invisible is as delightful as it is short. And so you hit the first of two instrumentals 1st Lunar Runic Calendar, both creating slender atmospheres. People do this sort of thing, for purely personal reasons, and as it doesnt interrupt the overall feel, but enhances curiosity I see no problem with it.
In fact as the record continues there are more surprises, and some elements which dont maintain the same flawless standards. Covering a Coil song, Ostia they make it work musically, as it is suitably attractive, without becoming sumptuous, but the casual vocal pattern doesnt fit well with their own style. Similarly, A Hymn To Pan featuring the words of ludicrous loser Crowley is slightly more twangey and clanky than anything else, presumably because thats supposed to fit the enigmatic category, but it comes to a concise, moody end, so even when they stir into their own mix outside influences they manage to make them adhere to their sound, with only slight jarring edges.
You Say Youre Happy Now is a fleeting, unpleasant snapshot, A Sa Maitresse is good enough to be by Ataraxia, were it not for the female vocals seeming surprisingly bland, and Regret is another masterpiece of faded pain and melancholy. Normally youd write off a track like Witches Ruin as a half-formed idea which has yet to be turned out as a finished work, but in this collection of material it works as a closing track, because the album had to end somewhere, somehow, and the somewhat perfunctory nature of this piece makes for a decent full stop, leaving you to sit and ponder just what a fabulous record this is.
It is musical entrapment, keeping you on tenterhooks, as tender hooks work their way under your skin.
GOTHIC AND NEO CLASSICAL FOLK:
| 4 out of 5 | With guitar, cello, dulcimer, and a variety of percussion, as well as keyboards such as pipe organ, piano and harpsichord, Unto Ashes invoke a macabre embrace between the ancient and modern. Saturn Return follows the recent release of this band's awe inspiring debut album, Moon Oppose Moon. Once again they prove their versatility, creativity, and passion. Lyrical inspirations include esoteric mysticism, dark emotions, and grim lullabies. Indeed, there is much probing of the strange depths of personal sorrow, wonder and desire; it may be safely said that this is not a light hearted album. Male and female voices alternate their strange tales, giving Saturn Return a well rounded and deeply human feel. Furthermore, operatic and choir style vocals and chamber music compositions exchange atmospheres with slithery modern gothic songs, implying a universal thread among humanity of weirdness and woe. Relative to Moon Oppose Moon, Saturn Return offers considerably more of this eerie, synthy goth sound; conversely, there is somewhat less stylistic tribute to the classical/folk traditional. Nevertheless, this band creates and performs marvelously within the full scope of their genre, and this new album stands as the solid evidence. - Lara Haynes
Simply put, this CD transcends music. The idea behind the title of this CD, as gleaned from the their press release, indicates that every 29 years, Saturn completes a rotational cycle through ones birth chart. Basically, the planetary restoration to that position signals the end of our youthful period, bringing with it judgment and destruction, harvest and rebirth.
For those with a penchant for astrology, Saturn is also a no-nonsense planetary energy steeped in melancholia and art on a grand scale. This sophomore release continues the proclivity of apocalyptic, pagan-inspired, medieval folk music that accompanied their first release, Moon Oppose Moon, however it veers miles ahead of that release on many levels.
The songs delve into hypnotic rhythms that are at times layered against a backdrop of disconcerting surroundings that vacillate from searing to indifferent emotions. Each track of medieval themes and textures are chiseled with a sculptors uncanny precision. The harmonization between ancient texts and original lyrics is tantamount to flawless as are the craftsmanship of the musicians and the accompanying vocalizations.
"Morte o Merce" is an Italian Renaissance sonnet by Francesco Petrarch. This song simply shimmers with magic and mystery from some forgotten time. The lyrics flowed from Ericah Hagle as though this was her primary language... "Sonnet 87 ('When As Man's Life')" delves into the medieval folk aspect that this band has become well known for... "Ein Fluch ('Curse')" begins with church style organs, which paint a macabre medieval tone. Hagle sings the lead vocals on this track; softly at first and then charging with the essence of all the great operatic divas who have ever graced a stage. The backing choral of the other band mates is nothing short of astonishing. Overall, this tune encroaches towards music that is bombastic, furious and complex and is one of the tracks that I cant stop marveling at... "Serve Me" can best be summed up as macabre, mid-eastern trip hop tune of carnal desire. Unique in its execution and lyrically sung as though the incubi of the sensual realm have taken partial human form, floating above the bed within a harems tent... "They Killed Three Little Maids" is a musical fairy story of beauty and cruelty. It utilizes medieval tones and enchanting background choruses to fully enmesh Lairds lead vocals into an essence of full resonance... "Glass" undertakes the more macabre elements of medieval music once again, delivering a morose love ballad delivered by Hagle. Odd noise effects simulate the stretching and breaking of glass, which reverberate in the middle and end section of the song... "Invisible" seems to take a simple piano recitation, wrapping it with the steady dark emotive passion of Ms. Lincoln with swaths of sublime backing vocals... "Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)" is a cover song from Coil, who bestowed their blessings upon Unto Ashes to record this track. It opens with the Mid-Eastern shimmer, giving rise to some background life sounds such as a dog barking during the opening segment. This then traverses towards a hybrid of medieval music and Middle Eastern tones, making this quite good for those into belly dancing. "2nd Lunar Runic Calendar" is even darker than the last segment, bordering on the oppressive melancholia of Schubert. "Regret" opens like raindrops splattered against a windowpane during an overcast spring day. This is the type of sadness that is gut wrenching and all consuming. Droning tones envelope the vocals, which are harmoniously blended into a haunted reverie... "A Sa Maitresse" is noted as an inspiration from Current 93's "Let Us Go To The Rose." The track is delivered with operatic vocals with chords that seem to beckon from some collective unconscious memory. "You Say You're Happy Now" meanders with simple introspective guitar notes. Michael Laird sings this song in an almost sotto voce style, delivering a tortured, heartbroken intonation of a poet whose dreams have been permanently shattered... "A Hymn To Pan" is lyrically credited to Aleister Crowley and used with the permission of The Ordo Templi Orientis. The track is similar in style to the highly popular Conjuration To Lilith only with a bit more added mid-eastern percussion that creates a whole other body of dark sensuousness. "Witches Ruin" is an instrumental track that seems to travel inward while also delineating a sloughing of energy through some sort of catabolic process. Wind effects dance between very barren strings until all that is left is the sound of the wind, sweeping away ones ashen remains. As the wind chimes that brought this recording to life at the beginning, so we have traveled to the end of the disc. The wind of Saturns return reclaims our youth, along with our desired longings and regrettable blunders.
Unto Ashes deliver a thematic message for those with ears to hear. Apart from the mournful essences that envelopes each tune, there was quite a bit of the exotic and tastefully erotic skillfully woven through the utilization of Middle Eastern instrumentation. All acts, whether sacred, profane or sensual ultimately lead towards and ending or demise of sorts.
The subject and title gives further rise to personal introspection where we are gently nudged to correlate the path of our life every 29 years.
A review from The Guardian (UK):
Unto Ashes are a band that leave me with an unsettled feeling. There is something profoundly disturbing about their mix of medieval dirges with more up-to-date instruments. Maybe it is because they quote Aleister Crowley on one song "A Hymn to Pan", but then I always found DJ and ex-BMX Beat presenter Gary Crowley much more intimidating than the self-styled Great Beast. Starting with "Morte o Merce" which is based on an Italian Renaissance sonnet by Francesco Petrarch, you can't accuse Unto Ashes of being obvious. There is plenty of variety on offer, even if the mood is always black. Things turn folky with second song "Sonnet 87" which features a plaintive plucked acoustic guitar and a forlorn male vocal, but the mood is a little too bleak for me. The horror is turned up a notch on "Ein Fluch" which features a operatic female vocal, played over a mad scientist's organ, and that's before the huge-sounding drums come in. It's all powerful stuff, but not something I'll be looking forward to hearing again. Unto Ashes are very good at creating atmospheres, and there is plenty of depth if you are brave enough to look deeper into the abyss, but be wary, as Nietzsche warned, the abyss may look into you. - Stuart Moses
Unto Ashes continues to impress me. After being initially enthralled by Unto Ashes' debut output, Moon Oppose Moon, I can hereby say that this NY apocalyptic folk outfit, on this, their sophomore album, has released an album that rivals - if not, at times, surpasses - their debut. Only somewhat hinting at the bleak folk found on the debut, Saturn Return is much more lush and "worldly" (reminding me even more of Dead Can Dance than Moon Oppose Moon did) than its predecessor, providing more than its fair share of orchestrated synth melodies and chimey, echoing acoustic guitar lines. Accompanying the conventional synths, percussion, voice, and acoustic guitars are a slew of assorted other instruments, such as dulcimers, Nepalese flutes, the saz, the tamboura, and harps, among others. Of the many standout tracks on this release, the brilliant cover of Coil's "Ostia (the Death of Pasolini)" comes to mind, as well as the Middle-Eastern tinged "Morte o Merce" and the beautiful all-acoustic "Sonnet 87 (When as Man's Life)." Lyrically, much like the debut, Unto Ashes is providing a perfect bridge between classic and traditional poetry and equally evocative original compositions. In conclusion, Saturn Return is a mystical, cohesive, and haunting album that should rightfully earn the attention of many a person. - Alec A. Head
A review from The Sentimentalist:
Divine melancholia Divine opulence and stripped-down melancholy unite to form a perfect balance of extremes in Unto Ashes' latest release. There is a cool and distant beauty which surges and wanes throughout the disc. The listener, however, remains separated from a few tracks such as "Hymn to Pan," as if on the outskirts of a circle in which a secret ritual is being performed. The rich soprano of Ericah Hagle, the soothing voice of Natalia Lincoln, and the gentle, folkier singing of Michael Laird are both featured in different tracks which range from the seemingly innocent to the seductive and sublime. Tracks such as "Sonnet 87" and "They Killed Three Little Maids," the latter with lyrics borrowed from the great symbolist playwright Maurice Maeterlinck, are some of the sweetest, with a meditative sensitivity which sets them apart from the rest, acting as respite from the epic grandeur of other songs. The cover of Coil's "Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)" is especially intoxicating. It opens with the crying of "wolves," sounds which are actually being played on a saranghi by the Beat poet Louis Landes-Levi. Such attention to detail is part of what makes Unto Ashes so unique. This release is rare in its ability to incorporate such an array of emotional nuance, periods and texture. Impressive. -MVW