Review Summary: Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?
Metal is a shi
tty guest at any party. Even if extended a mere pity invite from a friend-of-a-friend, you can expect metal to kick the door off of its hinges on arrival, announce itself with a gurgling pig squeal, and then parade its trussed up hussy of a plus one genre around the party on a leash, heading straight for the master bedroom while proclaiming to all with ears, “you can come watch if you want.” Inevitably, music forum-dwellers will follow, while other attendees look on incredulously, murmuring seven shades of “did you see that?” in each other's ears before calling the local authorities.
Considering this fact, it's strange how metal is perhaps the most overrepresented genre at any given musical swingers party. Metal often acts as the dom in its tangles with other genres, and in these endeavours gimmickry has a tendency to trump artistry. As the saying goes, you can lead a bluegrass fan to Panopticon, but you can't force them to enjoy the guy pummelling the drums with incel-brand ferocity and screaming like its his eighth day on the rack.
What's rare and exciting to me these days is the other end of the spectrum: bands from other genres that have managed to slip a chastity device over metal's humid, pulsating genitals and a collar tight around its neck, subjugating its tendency for theatrical savagery to utilise if and when needed. 'Sup Holy Fawn, how you doin'?
As the album title Death Spells
might imply, Holy Fawn have employed some kind of unholy blood magick in order to bring metal under their heel on this release. As a song like Drag Me Into the Woods
plays, I can imagine metal struggling to gain consciousness, limp body scraping over the forest floor, scalp stinging where its captor grips a handful of hair, tugging metal back to its lair. When the dragging stops, metal is hog-tied and blindfolded. The rough sound of rocks scraping against each other is heard, and a sickly sweet smell fills the air. At the song's raucous conclusion, I picture metal deprived of most of its senses, but aware of the warm blood trickling over its skin as Holy Fawn wildly slash at it with a coarse, sharp blade. Strangely, metal seems to actually be enjoying itself through its psychotropic death-haze.
Yes, Death Spells
gets more hectic than the band's previous album Realms
ever did, but Holy Fawn also know when to leave the gimp in its box. It seems a disservice to paint them as post rock/shoegaze outfit with the occasional wild metal bit, as their songwriting chops extend far beyond some clean guitars ringing out between dick-kicking sessions. For every manic moment like Drag Me Into the Woods
' thunderous conclusion or Arrrows
' gargantuan, lumbering closing riffs that get post-gazed and screamed all over like a hot pink slu
t, there are songs which call for different approaches, such as Vespertine
's eventual transition from serene gorgeousity to jaw-dropping shoegazing right as the track hits its vinegar strokes. The pacing and sequencing exacerbate these contrasts to full effect, allowing individual moments to be indulged at greater lengths without risking listener fatigue, as something fresh is always just around the corner. Put simply, Holy Fawn have a tangible artistic vision that makes Death Spells
feel like a complete and seamless album experience.
Holy Fawn's creative vision is apparent on the micro level too. Details accrue as songs progress, such as the driving guitar line and picked 16ths that define the second verse of Yawning
, the show-stealing bass tone that fu
in half after a patient build-up, or the electronic percussion that skitters its way into Vespertine
. Thoughtful attention to detail stretches across almost the entire hour that Death Spells
lasts, with only a couple of weaker moments exposing themselves in the likes of Same Blood
's extraneous late-album interlude or Yawning
's (brief) misplaced outro. If their latest EP, The Black Moon
is anything to go by, this micro level of detail is something that the band is looking to elaborate on in future releases. In addition, if eagle eye producer Matt Bayles sticks around for their next LP, expect something truly special.
Ultimately, Death Spells
' occultish charm and cohesion override my pathologic need to find faults to write about at excessive length. Even the lyrics- buried under walls of distortion, reverb, and delays- build upon consistent themes and images of nature, death, and the corporeal form, furthering the album's power to conjure visions of blood orgies in grey, misty woodlands, wherein the participants are levitating humanoids with curiously bark-like skin. Stumbling upon the scene, I'm aware that I shouldn't get involved, yet I find myself airborne, sailing toward the erotic tableau in a manic and unshakable trance.
You are the smoke
Taunting the moon with its curious vespers
You are my breath
Gasping for light at the top of the stairs
It always stung when you turned away
Like a short storm crashing
It always stung when you turned away