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Death In June - The Rule of Thirds

The past years have seen a shedding of layers around Death In June, and, most noticeably, a slipping of the mask of Douglas P., who since 1985 has single-handedly steered Death In June through a flurry of seminal releases including Brown Book, But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter? and Rose Clouds of Holocaust, that have courted controversy and birthed a genre of music, initially referred to as apocalyptic folk and now more widely known as neo-folk. In the DVD Behind The Mask a frank and revealing interview laid bare the history of Death In June for posterity, for potential biographers. Concurrent with this, Death In June toured extensively with a stripped down sound featuring Douglas P. aided by John Murphy on percussion. These events have culminated in the release of The Rule of Thirds, the first full-length release from Death In June in 7 years.

And in many ways it's a very different Death In June to the scathing vitriol that clouded All Pigs Must Die. Instead what we have is a pared down sound and some of Douglas P.'s most introspective lyrics capturing the pure essence of Death In June. There's little concession to the neo-folk genre; no martial drums, no trumpets. In fact, there's very little in the way of embellishment or musical adornment, beyond the occasional use of sampled dialogue and echoed/reverbed treatment on the vocals. In interviews Douglas P. has referred to The Rule of Thirds as Kampf Fire Music and for that alone The Rule of Thirds stands out as a singular release in the vast canon of Death In June. So how does it fair?

For the most part The Rule of Thirds succeeds. 'The Glass Coffin' and 'Forever Loves Decay' are strong entries; Douglas P.'s hazy, lazy baritone drenched in birdsong and couched in haunting harmonies on 'The Glass Coffin', while 'Forever Loves Decay' has the chorus draped in handclaps and slight vocal treatments. His affection for sixties West Coast pop is apparent on 'Jesus, Junk and the Jurisdiction'. It's excellent; an intriguing tale combining Christian and sexual imagery with ringing guitars and harmonious "bah, bah, bah, bah" accompaniment. Boasting a lovely melody, 'Good Mourning Sun' is awash with that melancholic feeling Death In June do so well. The title track features that familiar acoustic strum but the voice here is distant and defiant and far more fired-up, especially on the lines: "This has to stop, And, it must stop now", when compared to the usual precise intonations associated with Death In June. It like many of the tracks on The Rule of Thirds is woven with a myriad of sampled dialogue.

However tracks such as 'The Perfume of Traitors' and 'Their Deception' really cry out for fuller arrangements. The all-too familiar voice and guitar approach yield little surprises to the seasoned Death In June listener, to the extent that they appear just derivative and lacking when compared to most anything Death In June have recorded before. Worse still is 'Truly Be' - which is just lacking and particularly uninspired. Things pick up again on 'My Rhine Atrocity' - the familiar quick strum, overdubbed with progressing chords, climaxing in carnival music. It's particularly reminiscent of classic Death In June.

What's unmistakable and alarming is the unerring sense of resignation and the spectre of death that haunts The Rule of Thirds. Barring the exception of 'Idolatry' - a most blatant love song couched in sun, stars, moon and universe metaphors - The Rule of Thirds is riddled with references to death. "With 13 glasses and 1, last toast...We say Goodbye" Douglas sings on 'The Glass Coffin'. "Scan, doctor, lying? Living on borrowed time?" goes the title track, while 'Jesus, Junk and the Jurisdiction' is introduced by the taped dialogue: "Carry on living for a bit longer". And then there's the final track with shimmering guitar, little guitar fingerpicks and gentle meandering bass lines with the harmonious mantra of 'Let Go', sliding out on the same train samples that signalled the introduction of 'Heaven Street', the first ever Death In June release. Make of that what you will.

The Rule of Thirds needn't be seen in relation to the seminal releases referred to earlier. They were a long time ago. It deserves to exist and be viewed in its own right and truth be told it is something of a slow burner. It took some time for the subtlety and sparseness of approach to filter through. For that it may be regarded as a demanding listen but stick with it and it reveals itself to be captivating in its simplicity. It's definitely more worthy than being a footnote in the history of Death In June. Perhaps The Rule of Thirds acts as a dividing tool, separating those caught up in the mystique and allure of Death In June, the themes and historical events that shaped so much of their output, with those who genuinely adore the music.

The Rule of Thirds is available as a CD in an embossed gatefold softpak with a 16 page booklet. In addition it is available as a double 10-inch LP with embossed gatefold sleeve in an edition of 1500, and a double 10-inch picture disc in an edition of 500. Both vinyl editions include a large double-sided foldout poster. I purchased the entire set, and I'm not at all disappointed. For more information go to or