Formed in 2012 in Portland, Oregon, doomsters Holy Grove follow-up their 2016 debut Holy Grove (Heavy Psych Sounds) with the rather imaginatively titled Holy Grove II (Ripple Music). Thankfully, the music contained on this weighty slab of metal is far more inventive than its moniker, as the band delivers five mighty tracks of absorbing progressive Cosmic Doom.
If you’ve never heard Holy Grove before, opener ‘Blade Born’ serves as a perfect introduction. Black Sabbath meets Kyuss and Candlemass with singer Andrea Vidal‘s voice soaring above it all in a style similar to that of bands like Huntress or Blood Ceremony. The shortest track on the album by some distance, ‘Aurora’ is an uptempo stomper in the vein of Sabbath’s ‘N.I.B.’ which possesses an appropriate amount of cowbell.
Classic Metallica meets The Dark Crystal for the intro to ‘Valley of the Mystics’ before slowing down into something slower and crushingly heavy. One of the standout moments on the record, the song takes a breather towards the end, but returns strongly for its climax. Vidal puts in a superb performance on the Candlemass-y ‘Solaris’. Another song of near epic length, there may be moments when you want things to progress, and the band seem to know this, with certain sections staying right up until the moment they possibly begin to outstay their welcome but never beyond – a fine balancing act indeed.
With its quiet bass intro and use of mellotron, twelve and a half minute closer ‘Cosmos’ sounds like a beautiful wedding of Opeth, and Black Sabbath’s ‘Hand of Doom’. Ethereal, weightless passages of cosmic splendour punctuated by moments of dense, crushing gravity, the two intertwine with a wonderfully bluesy guitar and guest vocals by Mike Scheidt of Yob enhancing arguably the finest track the band have recorded to date.
Recorded with producer Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis) Holy Grove II breathes, constricts, expands and explodes with an almost self-aware consciousness. An album filled with tight, controlled riffing, but one which is also allowed to breathe with gentle interludes, a warm groove and awareness of its own space.
Coming soon: Holy Grove III. Hopefully.
8 / 10