Engine of Hell: Live at Roadburn 2022 by Emma Ruth Rundle

Release date: July 7, 2023
Label: Self-Released

It’s super emotional to be at Roadburn. I’m sure everyone’s feeling that. For me Roadburn was really a transformative moment when I played here by myself the first time. It really changed my life and the kindness and the respect that I was shown by you. Roadburn gave me the permission to do that.” It is April 23, 2022 in The Netherlands. Emma Ruth Rundle comes onstage in front of audiences who welcomed her back to bring the sense of loss, tragedy, and sadness by performing her fifth studio album Engine of Hell in its entirety.

The first time Emma came to Roadburn was six years ago and she blew the festival away during that time. Then she came back in 2019. And in 2020, she and Perurbator’s James Kent were curating the festival. But it came to a screeching halt. COVID-19 came, and everything was in lockdown due to the pandemic. And it was a massive shut down, right there and then. No festivals, no concerts, no comic-con’s, no going to the movies (except the Drive-In’s), nothing.

It was like being caught inside this cocoon, with no chance in hell of getting out. Until 2022 when Roadburn came back. And for Emma, she came full circle during this live recording at the festival to perform Engine of Hell in all of its glory. Playing both acoustic guitar and the piano, her compositions don’t just simply move you, they hold onto you for dear life.


This is exactly the reason whenever you put on a live album. You can just close your eyes and imagine yourself being at the festival, or at the venue. And being in awe of a band or an artist, they’re bringing down the house with pure enjoyment. But I’m off-topic. Let’s get to the centrepieces that are heavenly.

‘The Company’ has a darker appeal to the acid folk genre. Bundle’s vocal structures have a ghost-like figure inside this abandoned house that was stuck in time in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s. I wouldn’t compare it to Kurt Cobain’s lyrical textures because it would be more of a cop-out, but she has a striking resemblance to Van der Graaf’s Peter Hammill, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tori Amos, and Trees’ Celia Humphris.

‘Blooms of Oblivion’ opens up with a tragic play, coming to life. We witness this actor suddenly going downhill as he loses everything to drugs, depression, suicidal attempts, and ending it all with this dramatic twist. Rundle takes it a step further by striking the match with a wild-firing arrangement on her acoustic guitar, playing this improv for a brief moment and paying tribute to Porcupine Tree’s ‘The Joke’s on You’.

When she walks on the ‘Razor’s Edge’ she channels Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. She takes this massive challenge to be on this tightrope in the middle of the Grand Canyon, not losing her step. Emma walks very carefully, but plays and sings very beautifully at the festival to bring a sense of moving forwards and never looking back.

‘Body’ goes into this ice-skating dance in the middle of winter where the snow starts to drop as Rundle channels the textures of Vince Guaraldi. She evokes an autobiographical arrangement where she portrays this character for being the only misfit in high school. Never fitting with the cool crowd, students talking behind her back, being picked on, and surviving through your senior year as you begin to fight back. Emma sings gently at the end of the song before she begins to fly across the northern hemisphere.

The live recording at Roadburn is Emma’s return as a soldier who has fought through many wars, bloodied, injured, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but bringing it all there to have audiences witnessing her, coming back in full strength.

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