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BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT

Blackwater Holylight

Silence / Motion

    Empty surrounds all of me. It’s a poignant line from the third album by Blackwater Holylight that encapsulates the search for self when suddenly everything has changed. There’s a theme of processing vast personal trauma throughout Silence/Motion that eloquently — both lyrically and musically — and simultaneously embodies the crushing emptiness, sorrow, strength and rebuilding of recovering from personal devastation.

    “There was so much grief both in the world and interpersonally during the process of creating Silence/Motion,” says vocalist/bassist Allison “Sunny” Faris. “The four of us gave one another more space to be ourselves, to experiment with each other’s ideas and to be gentle with one another more than we ever have before. So, we knew this tenderness would manifest in extremely honest arrangements, and I think that you can hear that throughout the record.”

    Curiously, considering the dark times in which it was created, this is the band’s most melodic and catchy music so far. Blackwater Holylight, as the name suggests, is all about contrasts: It’s a fluid convergence of sound that’s heavy, psychedelic, melodic, terrifying and beautiful all at once. And, Silence/Motion finds the band honing those contrasts, letting ideas and moods fully develop from song to song, rather than filling every song with a full range of their capabilities. It allows the band to go fully prog-rock here, and simply stay hushed and intimate there. There’s a new confidence to the band in how seamlessly they wield their stylistic amalgam.

    “Writing this album was extraordinarily difficult emotionally, however it did come to fruition fairly quickly,” Faris says. “In the past, the theme of vulnerability has always been a big player and it definitely showed up full force while writing this album.”

    Blackwater Holylight recorded the album as a four piece: Faris on vocals and guitar (on “Silence/Motion”, “MDIII”, “Around You” and “Every Corner”) and bass for the remainder, Sarah McKenna on synths, Mikayla Mayhew on guitar (and bass when Faris plays guitar) and drummer Eliese Dorsay. New second guitarist Erika Osterhout will perform the songs with them live. For Silence/Motion the band chose to work with a producer for the first time, bringing in A.L.N. (of Mizmor, Hell) to produce, along with recording engineer Dylan White — who also helmed their previous album Veils of Winter (2019) — at Odessa Recording Studio in Portland, OR. Guest vocals on album opener “Delusional” are by Bryan Funck (Thou.) Mike Paparo (Inter Arma) and A.LN. (Mizmor, Hell) lend guest vocals to album closer “Every Corner.”

    Silence/Motion opens softly with interwoven folky single note guitars over an ominous sounding drone for the first minute, akin to moments from Pink Floyd’s Echoes. Suddenly an irresistibly head-nodding, groovy droptuned riff kicks in with the drums and it’s a full on blackened rocker with soaring synths and Funck’s witchy whispers over the top. “Who The Hell,” the track quoted above, takes proceedings into a Krautrock direction, centered around McKenna’s arpeggiated synth loop and Dorsay’s tom-tom triplets, while 16-note guitar strums add tension as Faris wearily sings, “So tell me who the hell would want to live this way — so afraid/ To feel this void, to dwell in it… I can’t describe this pain I wear/ It suffocates and you left it here.” It’s an incredibly powerful 6 minutes. The title track delivers the 1-2-3 punch of the album’s brilliant opening trilogy. It starts with lightly plucked acoustic guitar, plaintive piano chords and Faris’ voice gliding so softly it sounds more like a Mellotron. The song builds slowly toward crescendo, led by a swinging tom pattern, that abruptly switches back to a heavier version of the opening melody.“Silence/Motion” is about digesting and healing from sexual assault. As Faris explains, “It is an ode to the juxtaposition of feeling paralyzingly blank and and like your entire life is moving through you simultaneously.” Elsewhere, Black Metal guitars collide with dreamlike melodies. “Around You” brandishes a hopeful, hummable synth melody and shimmering shoegaze guitars like throwing down a gauntlet. In the end, it becomes undeniably clear just how completely into their own Blackwater Holylight has come.

    “The analogy is that with our first record (Blackwater Holylight, 2018) we were getting into to the car and buckling up,” Faris says. “The second (Veils of Winter, 2019) we were turning the car on, and with this third we have kicked into drive toward our destination. Our destination is a bit mysterious and has the ability to change from day to day, but we’re on our way.”

    TRACK LISTING

    01. Delusional
    02. Who The Hell?
    03. Silence/Motion
    04. Falling Faster
    05. MDIII
    06. Around You
    07. Every Corner

    Blackwater Holylight

    Veils Of Winter

      Blackwater Holylight, as the name suggests, is all about contrasts. It’s a fluid convergence of sound that’s heavy, psychedelic, melodic, terrifying and beautiful all at once.

      As a heavy band, their songs aren’t anchored to riffs, but rather riffs come and go in waves that surface throughout the band’s meditative, entrancing songs. It’s a hypnotic sound, with orchestral structures that often build tension and intrigue before turning the song on its head — not by simply getting louder or heavier, nor by just layering elements. They expertly subvert the implied heaviness of a part, dissecting it and splaying the song's guts out to seep across the sonic spectrum.

      Now, having toured together extensively following the band’s wildly-successful breakout self-titled debut in 2018, Blackwater Holylight has honed their sound and identity to a powerfully captivating beast. Their live set is all about the slow build, seeming to combine the melodic tension of early Sonic Youth crossed with the laconic fever-dream blues of the first Black Sabbath album, and wiry experimentation of post-punk and krautrock.

      The lineup on this album is Allison (Sunny) Faris (bass/vocals), Laura Hopkins (guitar/vocals) and Sarah McKenna (synths), with new guitarist Mikayla Mayhew and drummer Eliese Dorsay fleshing out their sound in exciting ways.

      “The process of this album was vastly different from our first record,” says Faris. “One, because we recorded it over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first record was over the course of about a year. And two, this album was a true collaboration between the five of us. Each of us had extremely equal parts in writing and producing, we all bounced ideas off each together, and we all had a say in what was going on during every part of the process.”

      “One of our favorite things about this album is that because it was so collaborative, we didn't compartmentalize ourselves into one vibe.” She continues. “It’s heavy, psychedelic, pop, shoegaze, doom, grunge, melodic and more. The whole process was extremely organic and natural for us, we were just being ourselves.”

      Veils of Winter opens with fuzzed-drenched, drop-tuned bass and baritone guitar leading a dirge riff on “Seeping Secrets.” Faris’ lilting and funereal vocals drop in, adding to the mournful atmosphere until a short turnaround progression hints at changes to come, as Faris and Hopkins harmonize eerily and the tune suddenly turns into a krautrock charge. “Motorcycle” kicks off deceptively with a heavy grunge riff building up for about 40-seconds before the song abruptly shifts gears into a synth-led post-punk harmony, sounding something like Lush meets Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. “Death Realms” is perhaps the poppiest track, based around soaring shoegaze guitars and interwoven light vocal harmonies. Soft piano notes, occasional woozy whammy bar dives and a driving tom-tom beat solidify its hooks. “Spiders” is a creepy-crawly guitar riff and counterpoint keys, while “Moonlit” explores prog-structures with a shredding guitar solo crescendo. The penultimate track, “Lullaby” is exactly that, a lulling, expansive tune exemplifying Blackwater Holylight’s genre smashing sound as it subtly moves across a vast sonic landscape atop a hypnotic 6/8 beat and repetitive 3-note motif. Throughout the album, their songs shirk traditional verse-chorus-verse structure in favor of fluid, serpentine compositions that move with commanding grace.

      TRACK LISTING

      Seeping Secrets
      Motorcycle
      The Protector
      Daylight
      Death Realms
      Spiders
      Lullaby
      Moonlit

      Blackwater Holylight

      Blackwater Holylight

        The notion of 'heavy music' is continuing to expand of late, with many intrepid artists finding new ways to incorporate the power of traditional metal into new music, but without all of its trappings. Enter Portland, OR quartet BlackWater HolyLight to further swirl musical elements into a captivating hybrid of emotional intensity. Heavy psych riffs, gothic drama, folk-rock vibes, garage-sludge and soaring melodies all collide into a satisfying whole with as much contrast as the band’s name itself.

        'I wanted to experiment with my own version of what felt ‘heavy’ both sonically and emotionally,' says founder and vocalist/bassist Allison Faris. 'I also wanted a band in which vulnerability of any form could be celebrated.' BlackWater HolyLight — Faris, guitarist/vocalist Laura Hopkins, drummer Cat Hoch and synth player Sarah Mckenna — formed upon the breakup of Faris’ longtime band and she sought a fresh start. 'In my last band I was the only female in a group of 6, so I wanted to see how my song writing and vulnerability could glow taking the drivers seat and working with women.'

        The band’s self-titled debut begins with a simple, almost grunge-like riff as a chorus of voices introduce a melodic line in call-and-response until the band kicks in, slowly building into crescendo like a lost outtake from Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. Elsewhere, “Sunrise” begins with a chorus-drenched post-punk groove until a sonic boom of heavily distorted guitar skree erupts out of nowhere. Nearly as suddenly, the song returns to its lulling core, subtly building the tension until it ruptures completely in a blast of noise. Likewise, “Carry Her” establishes a dark, sparse melody and distinctly thin sounding drums not far removed from early work of The Cure. However, BlackWater HolyLight’s penchant for surprise attack finds a sudden shift into a doom-like dirge, colored with eerie synth notes and pounding shards of fuzz. Throughout the album, their songs shirk traditional verse-chorus-verse structure in favor of fluid, serpentine compositions that move with commanding grace. The band expertly, yet subconsciously, incorporates hints of Chelsea Wolfe, Celebration, Captain Beefheart, The Raincoats, The Stooges, Pink Floyd, Jane’s Addiction and more to form their unique brand of dark’n’heavy transcendence.

        BlackWater HolyLight was recorded by Cameron Speice at Gold Brick Studios and The Greenhouse, and with Eric Crespo at Touch Tourcher Recording in Portland. 

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Willow
        2. Wave Of Conscience
        3. Babies
        4. Paranoia
        5. Sunrise
        6. Slow Hole
        7. Carry Her
        8. Jizz WItch


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