March 17 saw the release of The Rule of Thirds, the latest LP from England's Death in June, the brainchild of Douglas Pearce (alias Douglas P). As I continue to delve into the Neofolk genre, I have learned that Death in June is one of the pillars of the style. Along with Current 93 (a project in which Douglas Pearce is also heavily involved), Death in June was a pioneering Neofolk act, helping to define the genre in much the same way that Bathory helped to define Black Metal (and Viking Metal, for that matter, but I digress).
A bit of a disclaimer is in order: when it comes to Death in June (and Neofolk in general), I am an unmitigated neophyte. From what I have read, longtime fans of Death in June have given The Rule of Thirds a notably lukewarm reception. It's entirely possible that D.I.J. veterans know many things that I don't, but I found The Rule of Thirds to be an engaging and enjoyable listen. It's been on heavy rotation over the past several days.
Each song consists entirely of three elements--acoustic guitar, Douglas Pearce's subdued vocals and an unobtrusive blend of sampled bits of dialogue. Where some have criticized the vocals for sounding as though Pearce is bored, I find them not in the least bit so--subdued, certainly, and detached, but in a way that fits the emotional tone of the music. This brings me to the second major complaint I have happened across: as the have for his vocals, some have chided Pearce for dull and repetitive guitar techniques (too much strum, they say). Far be it from me to be a qualified judge of guitar techniques, but here too I find that the criticisms are vastly exaggerated. Pearce may not be on par with David Gilmour, but he is a perfectly good guitarist in his own right.
The Rule of Thirds is a solid album. I might become more critical of the album as I become more enlightened through exposure to Pearce's older and more esteemed releases, but I can't really see how that would be the case.