Sophomore spells with the dark ambient overlords from Phoenix.
Words by Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar):
Immersion can play a key role in establishing a group as a heavy hitting ensemble, and today we'll be covering the current pinnacle of autumnal saturation. They're known as Holy Fawn, and for listeners that have been waiting, this is their second foray across the chasm of genres, a fifty minute trek, entitled Dimensional Bleed.
Arriving almost exactly four years to date after its predecessor, DEATH SPELLS, this group has doubled down on virtually everything that has made their presence meteoric in its rise. A slew of electronic foregrounds guide audiences through a dusky landscape of calm, cool tones that recede only for a tide of bouncy choruses that give even the exceptional post-rock groups a run for their money.
At times only a rumor on the wind, the vocals are almost always an ethereal echo that turn to the howls of a wildcat, a trick that not only transfers well to the stage, but builds anticipation across each track, in a manner that works anthemically in their favor. Fun harmonies slither across the forest floor, used only at their most subdued setting, perhaps to inspire future crowd participation, maybe just for atmospheric impact, but its felt in spades, being crushed beneath a sinking anchor of broad, pounding pedals, and decaying guitar tones that hiss and crackle like a fire giving out in evening cold. Multiple keyboard appearances stake out a marginal territory in this opus, adding a tubular bells medley to an already haunting soundscape. It's the kind of subtle step that functions as a springboard for a bombastic overture of disharmonic riffs, all over the top, until they drop out like a predator. Holy Fawn has managed to hide their loud and heavy sound like a predator in the brush, an entrancing signature that marks continuity of their original formula.
Rhythms play to the pendulous strength they possess, often stretching the question of their influences into strange contortions of sound that always feel liminal, and comforting. Whispers of Katatonia? Alcest? Drab Majesty? All of these, and more make sense peripherally, but nothing tends to capture the essence of what is being executed with melancholy flourish in this ten-track journey through the sinews of a creature that could easily camouflage itself within most peoples' daily soundtracks.
Dimensional Bleed accomplishes all it sets out to do, and more. Without tripping over itself, or its first offering, Holy Fawn takes an unburdened detour through the forests of shoegaze, electronic, and post-rock music, and comes out the other side with a fresh glimpse at the budding renaissance of atmospheric magic that never feels like it would grace the radio, and never feels like someone could do it better. By the third track, Lift Your Head, it's self-evident that they came without filler to this showcase; there are melodies that must be hummed or whistled, words that must be replicated, a studied appreciation of how tones can be endlessly replayed, yet engaging, and an album that closes out the season with a bow on top.
This is a record to beat. Not because there's a growing community attempting the same sound. On the contrary — such music is damn difficult to find. It's the one to beat, because it is doing the most while focusing on several key aspects that they do best, and they've proven once more that one can be loud, and pretty, as they have claimed themselves to be, and that's an accomplishment that none of us should take lightly.