Unto Ashes – Burials Foretold

January 01, 1970





It’s been three years since the mysterious medievalists in
Unto Ashes have convened for a new set of hymns. Perhaps as a result of the
band’s absence, Burials Foretold plays
to the group’s strengths: acoustic arrangements, ethereal male and female
vocals, melodies that sound retrieved from centuries-old sources – and lyrics
that sometimes are just that. The lilting “Worms’-Meat” derives from Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, while the brief,
seemingly sweet “Fire + Ice” comes from Robert Frost. The haunted,
pagan-flavored “Spring Magic” illuminates words from fairy-obsessed Anglican
artist Cicely Mary Barker. Composer/main instrumentalist Michael Laird gives
each lyric the setting it deserves, with ghostly tunes that float between past
and present.


But it’s not all ancient texts. Artist K. McClain (AKA Silk
and Bone) provides the libretto for several tunes, including the luminous
“Night is Coming Soon” and the traditionalist poem “Young Men Leave For Battles
Unknown.” Laird himself contributes the arpeggiated folk song “Too Late to
Begin” and the downcast ballad “I Remember Happiness” (“Though it’s fading from
my memory”), which are as reminiscent of Brendan Perry’s solo work as they are
of old Celtic folk songs. In what has become a quirky tradition, Unto Ashes ends
the record with a classic rock cover, wholly transforming Van Halen’s “Running
With the Devil” into a gentle, wafting dirge of vocal harmonies, acoustic
guitars and droning pipes.


Joy is in short supply in these songs, as might be discerned
from the titles, but the tracks aren’t suicide notes. Quiet and gentle on one
hand and haunting and unsettled on the other, Burials Foretold is a quintessential example of Unto Ashes’
extraordinary ability to construct beauty from darkness.


is Coming Soon,” “I Remember Happiness,” “Running With the Devil” MICHAEL


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