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Review: Holy Fawn – “Death Spells”

August Greenberg, Music Staffer

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Holy Fawn – Death Spells (Whelmed) [blackgaze/shoegaze]

The easiest way to describe Holy Fawn would be to make the observation that they combine dreamy shoegaze with dark post-rock/metal. Yet if someone were to tell that to me before I heard the music, I would have no idea how that sounds. Assuming this isn’t for any lack of imagination on my end, it’s fair to say that the worlds that Holy Fawn bring together aren’t ones that go hand-in-hand that often.

The ‘dreamy’ descriptor applies to the large, swirling, often psychedelic soundscapes that the band builds with it’s guitars and (I can only assume) many, many pedals. The melodies often have that perfect touch of reverb and delay that allow them to hang in the atmosphere of the track, painting a large and, yes, dreamy sonic picture. Similarly, the vocals are doubled and verbed to the point where they are rarely the main attraction of a song. This is not to say that they are boring or non distinct, for they aren’t either, they are just so deep in the mix that the guitars become the focal point.

The dark metal edge comes from the creeping distortion that makes small but memorable appearances on most tracks. At the climax of songs like “Arrows” and “Drag Me Into the Woods” are a harsh, distorted wall of sound sits just behind the melody. This wall of distortion appears to include guitars, screamed vocals, feedback, and likely a lot more. And although it is dark, and raucous, and loud, it is mixed extraordinarily well with the softer, more shoegaze aspects of the album.

Truly mixing is the star of this show. No doubt the performances serve the project well, but what makes it work sonically is how carefully, skillfully, and precise the sounds weave throughout the hour of run time. The loud, energetic moments tend to happen at the same volume as the quiet, swirling moments. And more than once on the project, the two are happening at the same time. If you are a fan of dreampop and want to hear a darger edge of that sound, if you are a dark metal fan looking for a wider, more expansive sound, or are simply interested in well-crafted sonic landscapes that bring together two ideas in a new and inventive way, give Death Spells a listen.

Recommended: 1, 2, 5, 10.

RIYL: This Will Destroy You, Russian Circles, Deafheaven

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Review: Holy Fawn – “Death Spells”