ALBUM REVIEW: Blackwater Holylight – Veils Of Winter

Blackwater Holylight (RidingEasy Records), the début album from the Portland, Oregon-based doomstresses of the same name, delivered not merely an enlivening quality but also realised founder member Alison ‘Sunny’ Faris‘ intent of giving heavier rock a new lease of life by incorporating more tuneful, lighter music into that sound. With second album Veils Of Winter (RidingEasy Records) the band, now a quintet with the addition of guitarist Mikayla Mayhew, aim to expand on that formula and the buzz created by that first release.

The slow, crushing riff of opener ‘Seeping Secrets’ contrasts beautifully with the ethereal vocal tones of Faris and fellow harmoniser Laura Hopkins, while new drummer Eliese Dorsay pulverises her kit with a healthy sense of groove. Lead release ‘Motorcycle’ follows, Faris’ growling bass resonating through Sarah McKenna‘s Occult organ blasts as the tune rattles through at a trot, with each hoof of the mid-section carrying the weight of Sleipnir. ‘Spiders’, meanwhile, blends the feel of The Addams Family with the weird, hippy Pop of Purson and hints of L7‘s deadpan Rock for a journey which nevertheless remains in the sinister side of Town.

This mix of lightness and gravity is Blackwater Holylight‘s calling card and it is delivered wonderfully with ‘The Protector’: a maudlin early backdrop fired by that hefty riff and rhythm section and given delicious sensibility by those airy voices and McKenna’s psychedelic warps of energy; the track maintaining a ghoulish feel throughout the hypnotic atmosphere. The standout ‘Daylight’ follows a similar if more Doom-laden path, its sadness bleeding through dreamy yet oppressive overtones created some huge, occasionally Eastern-tinged string work. Adding to the myriad influences is ‘Death Realms’, which exudes 80s Gothic Indie, its Siouxsie and the Banshees-esque base invigorated by jingling bells and a more upbeat progression that nevertheless maintains its emotional intensity.

The penultimate ‘Lullaby’ returns to that trance-like aura, with luscious lead and synth work complementing Faris’ exquisite Susanna Hoffs-style delivery and staggering harmonies, while riff and rhythm turn the tempo on a dime with more eastern melody and crushing heaviness. It’s akin to feeding The Bangles or The Mamas and The Papas through a thunderstorm, which is probably the only quality either of those bands were short of. Closer ‘Moonlit’ increases that latter reliance on Arabian flavours while showing incredibly nifty switches in pace given the might of the track’s underbelly, and signs off on an album of utter delights: one much more innovative than a single listen suggests. There’s a whole host of beauty and aggression here, and now there’s no band more adept at seamlessly blending the two than Blackwater Holylight.

8 / 10