[sic] Magazine

Religious To Damn – Glass Prayer

Let it be said, the world isn’t short of Kate Bush copyists, but at least Zohra Atash brings something a little different to the table thanks to her Afghan heritage. It’s a pity then that it only really appears once during the intriguing, rhubab-backed closer “The Bell”, itself a extract that uncoils in and out of tight, Eastern ethnics and back into drug-den drone all too soon.

Religious To Damn are filled out to band status by nuclear guitar, bass and drums, but the project is almost entirely Atash’s own for she plays a total of nine instruments on Glass Prayer as well as having written all of its tracks. Together, the Brooklyn-based ensemble more commonly dabble in understated synth-pop (synths and “magic” that come courtesy of The Secret MachinesBrandon Curtis ), supplementing their sound with lightly gothic tones and chimes, such as those that herald the drafty “Serpent Song”.

Atash now rightly earns equal column inches as her close friend and in-demand shoegaze/dream-popper Tamaryn , who, with her wind-blown backing vocals, duly strengthens both “Let The Fires Burn” and the shoegazing cut “The Wait”. And, on the otherwise atmospheric, breathy, PJ Harvey -ish opener “To Love The Machine”, Atash has a decent stab at that same stagefloor-bound swish herself, landing it slap bang in the middle of the unearthly Tamaryn canon.

Then, happily, amidst a sea of imitation – the title track reverts to Bush-type chirruping, “Sunset” to Tori Amos -style emoting – “Terra” leaps forth from the running order, chugging along on fast-paced bass pulses and frayed guitar, riding irrepresibly onwards like all four immaculately made-up horseman of the apocalypse.

It’s news to no one that a single track does not an album make, but this one sure as hell gives Glass Prayer a backbone, which is why we’re left feeling a little cheated elsewhere. Largely safe, even in comparison to polished contempories such as Bat For Lashes , Atash finds herself squaring up to unfair competition. With the caged banshee Nika Danilova of Zola Jesus still on the field, the bar remains impossibly high, and despite her best efforts and prayers – glass or otherwise – Atash won’t be going home with the gold as a result.

Advised downloads: “To Love The Machine” and “Terra”.

~Glass Prayer is out now on M’Lady’s .~