Veils of Winter by Blackwater HolylightRelease date: October 11, 2019
Label: RidingEasy Records
After the release of their self-titled debut album on RidingEasy Records, Blackwater Holylight’s Allison Faris informed Echoes and Dust that the band would not rest on their laurels but ”will explore their sound even more.” The bespoke debut had immediately captured a woozy, shoegaze inflected psychedelic rock which projected the thematic sound of vulnerability rather impressively. For album number two, sees Allison (bass, vocals), Laura Hopkins (guitar, vocals), Sarah Mckenna (synths) now joined by Mikayla Meyhew (guitar) and Eliese Dorsay (drummer), indeed deliver on Allison’s words.
As well as a line-up change, the process of writing and recording also took a different turn as the whole band democratically collaborated ideas to the song-writing and production, while they instead recorded over a period of a few weeks as opposed to previously recording over the course of a year. The resulting Veils of Winter sees the band further imbed their uniqueness of sound with a strong authority and confidence.
As the band’s name suggests theirs is a sound which overtly focuses on contrasts. To ram this home, the first notes on album opener ‘Seeping Secrets’ is a splurge of filthy, down-tuned distortion, which is then juxtaposed with soothing, angelic vocals. While the band’s ability to bridge quality riffage with harmonising vocals to heighten a melody is in good supply in the excellent ‘Motorcycle’, which evokes the musical fantasy of the Mama’s and Papa’s fronting a stoned out and heavy Steppenwolf.
The idea that songs can merge, twist, blend into different soundscapes, eroding conventional song structures, not only remains from their first outing but emerges on Veils of Winter with a greater sense of belief. Therefore, this album works at a higher plane for indulging in its entirety from beginning to end; to sit-back and immerse oneself into its frequency. ‘Protector’ and ‘Daylight’ create the right ingredients for mentally drifting. The former’s use of Eliese’s cymbals higher up in the mix, along with Sarah’s swooping synths are detrimental for effective atmospheric building. On the latter, clear sounding piano tinkling creates a fine musical accompany for dreaming along to.
But they haven’t forgot how to rock. The splendid ‘Death Realms’ adds a sturdy hard driven edge to the inverted dreamscapes of shoegazers Lush melting in with Slowdive. And they impress with traces of Television guitar interplay on ‘Spiders’ (not to be confused with its namesake on the latest Slipknot album). What never lets up are the impressive dreamy, haunting, sumptuous vocal melodies constantly airily wrapping around for earworm pleasure.
While I was unable to catch Blackwater Holylight at their early Friday performance at this year’s Desertfest; by the number of t-shirts consequently seen worn for the rest of the weekend indicated they made a good impression. The band’s newly democratic approach has cemented a deeper, richly rewarding second album. A soundtrack to a mysterious, ambiguous dream. Their upward trajectory should continue for a band who are nestling nicely into splicing an array of influences into their own idiosyncratic sound.