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Religious to Damn

Glass Prayer

(M'Lady's; US: 8 Feb 2011; UK: 28 Feb 2011)

Moody, swirling, breathy pop with a slightly Eastern twist

Religious to Damn’s lead singer, Zohra Atash, is an Afghan-American whose breathy vocal stylings are reminiscent at times of Kate Bush or Dead Can Dance. She swoops and coos and glides across a varied sonic landscape, formed for the most part by strummed guitars, layers of synths and rumbling drums. Other elements are stirred into the mix to good effect, including unusual bits of percussion, Eastern instruments like the rhubab and an unexpected interlude of chimes, but Atash herself remains in the foreground. This is as it should be, as she is the band’s most compelling element by far. On songs like “Let the Fires Burn” and “Black Sand”, her voice guides the listener across surprising territory both lyrical and emotional, while “The Wait” is a tasty, uptempo piece. The only weak song here is album closer “The Bell,” which ramps up the exotic instrumentation (good) while also focusing on Atash’s voice (oops), with the unintentional effect of revealing that voice’s limitations. Still, Religious to Damn is well worth a listen for its intriguing blend of Eastern-trad elements and pulsing, moody pop.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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