Named after the dark matter that makes up black holes, its quite a dangerous game of nominative determinism naming yourself after something so dense, utterly mind shatteringly huge, complex and unfathomable. You’re going to have go some to live up to your own band name. It’s almost like naming yourself ‘The Best Death Metal Band Since Obituary’. So, with expectations at an all time high, let’s take a plunge into The Holeum and see what these Spaniards have to offer. ‘Sublime Emptiness’ represents their second full length effort and like their non de plume, they have been described by the accompanying PR nonsense as ‘…the tension between post-metal and -rock, doom/downtempo, dark ambient, drone and cineastic sounds’ whatever the fuck that means? So, any good?
On first listen as opening track ‘Obsidiana’ swirls through the mist, it has a touch of the throaty/epic metal voice of Gojira frontman Joseph Duplantier, as the band edge gently into the album before an none more guitar hero guitar solo cuts through proceedings like a sticky knife through a wedding cake. It changes track then into a cacophony of harmonised Greek chorus esq vocals as the tempo slows and oblique chord changes bring things to an epic end. Initially at least this feels more like soft rock in scope and touch and seems to be slightly at odds with the proceeding descriptions of the band, with more emphasis on the keyboard/samples than guitars aside from the histrionic solo.
Second track ‘Geometric Dance’ ups the heaviness slightly with a definite crunch and edge to the guitars and vocal delivery before things slide back into the previous soft rock/prog groove (did I hear a trumpet/saxophone also?) and it all settles down once more and despite a sprinkling of double bass…..seems to peter out into a shower of nothingness. It’s at this point that you often find yourself at that dangerous point of going all in, a veritable dog pile of abuse because after a few tracks you’ve got this album pegged. But no stay with it, things will get better, improve, change, deviate and up its game….it doesn’t.
Each song seems to follow the same tempo, template and paradigm. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, like a fool’s guide to Strictly Come Dancing. There’s nothing wrong with the musicianship here, that’s all good, especially on some of guitar solos which are epic, grandiose and highly competent it’s just a shame that it’s surrounded by mundanity. And that’s the worst crime of all here. I’d love to be able to slag this to the high hills and pull out the virtual thesaurus for variants on ‘fucking rubbish’…but it’s not. It’s just a bit dull and slightly pompous if truth be told. It has delusions of grandeur, where the band take an absolute eon to get a song started and then decide not to take it anywhere except into the next song.
I can only wish The Holeum the very best, but this is very much a case where the band’s collective heads seems to have existed up their collective ‘Holeums’ during the writing of this album and lost a sense of adventure, perspective and what their listeners are after. Not terrible…just deathly dull, well played, slices of powder puff soft rock nonsense.
(3/10 Nick Griffiths)