Religious To Damn creates a universe that is at times expansive, at times intimate, but always compelling.
Hailing from psychedelic, otherworldly places where dim fires illuminate the night, Religious To Damn is that rarest of jewels --sophisticated gypsy rock and roll that is tender and aggressive, elegant and raw all in the same melodic burst
Religious To Damn's central force, Zohra Atash, took to the studio with a small collective of fellow New York musicians who soon made their debut in WIERD Record's live series in 2008. That show was followed by an intense performance alongside kindred spirit/sometimes collaborator Tamaryn and Finnish songstress Vuk (aka Emily Cheeger of Dirty Projectors). It wasn't long before they garnered the attention of notables like Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds/Grinderman), who contributed drums as well as his sage mentorship in the studio, resulting in 2009’s Falls Down Again (M'Lady's Records) seven-inch mixed by Warren Defever (His Name Is Alive).
Soon after, Atash finished up work on Religious To Damn's debut full-length, Glass Prayer with a new supporting cast. Josh Strawn of Vaura took up guitar and partnered with Atash on production duties, Charlie Schmid, a classically trained percussionist and composer, brought his eclectic drum sensibilities to the table, while Secret Machines' Brandon Curtis co-produced, mixed, and played keyboards. A profound expansion on her vision, Glass Prayer combines thunderous swirling guitars, painterly atmospherics, and diverse rhythms, reflecting her own brand of bewitching tunecraft. Throughout, you can hear the musical influence of Zohra's Afghan heritage as it sits intriguingly alongside Western rock elements. Her vocals range from the sweet and fragile, to the kind of ferocious you would expect from someone who filled Jarboe's shoes as a touring vocalist with post-metal doom metallers A Storm of Light.
While Religious To Damn's sound is distinctive, one-dimensional it is not. There lies a lot of depth and variation in the songs and structures throughout Glass Prayer. Expect songs befitting of her name: Zohra, Arabic for 'blossom,' and Atash, Persian for 'fire.'
"Drifter" and "Sunset" could be dystopian radio pop in some alternate dimension, sitting comfortably in a sweet spot between Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and classic 4AD releases (Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins). What Atash does well is package songs of high drama and tension into affecting melodies and lush textures, allowing the songs to seep in further into your head. While the album's darker shades remain consistent, Religious To Damn knows where to turn up (and let up) the tension with ethereal moments like "Black Sand" or "To Love The Machine" complementing the driving shoegaze/spaghetti western-isms of "The Wait" or the frantic gallop of "Terra". The drama reaches peaks with contributions from Zohra's longtime friend Tamaryn on "The Bell" and "Let The Fires Burn", nicely rounding out an album that stunningly delivers.