My initial reaction on seeing this band’s name was Blackwater Park. The band’s take on their name, which I have to say carries more authority than my reaction, is that it’s about contrasts: “heavy, psychedelic, pop, shoegaze, doom, grunge, melodic and more” is how one of the band members describes it.
Fuzz meets doomy goth to start. The vocals float on the heavy air, adding a potent edge. The ending is strange, taking us back to the 1970s for a bit of heavy psychedelia. More weighty stuff follows, but “Motorcycle” threatens to break out of funereal territory. The break in the clouds isn’t a complete one as the hypnotic, retro riff saves us from over excitement, and then we’re weighed down again by more dark and ponderous fare. The female vocals and chorus have that dreamlike quality but add to the spookiness of it all. And what could be more creepy than “Spiders”. The repetitious and haunting riff is suggestive of a dark place, which is what all of it sounds like. I don’t know what the good people of Oregon, Blackwater Holylight’s place of origin, would call this, but here we’d associate it with goth. Whatever it is, it’s very interesting.
“The Protector” is another piece of sombre drabness, but coloured by its instrumental patterns. Winds whistle, and the vocals continue to haunt and spook us. “Daylight” seemed an unlikely concept, given the nocturnal and shady fare so far, and its funereal beginning suggested this was going to change very much. Indeed it is a melancholic and haunting (that word again) hymn. Where are the razor blades? It does pick up subtly towards the end but it remains disturbing as the sounds are obscure, no doubt deliberately so. Suitably depressed, we move on to “Death Realm” so no laughter was likely there. Indeed there isn’t any. I read that this is the “poppiest” track. In so far that it has a fairly straight line rhythm, that’s the nearest it might get to pop, but dreamy Katatonian goth and pop don’t really mix. It’s a “nice” and soothing sounding number, although I can’t imagine a song called “Death Realm” has anything soothing about it. That doesn’t seem to be the way with Blackwater Holylight from what I’m hearing. Its vibe is in fact that of a lullaby, which happens to be the title of the next track. “Lullaby” is utterly hypnotic and straight out of the school of 60s and 70s hippie psychedelic prog. I had visions of those BBC 4 programmes with grainy black and white footage of spaced out prog tunes from that era. Love it. “Moonlit” has the vibe of Jethro Tull about it. Bordering on folk, it is a prog rock track with a cosmic feel and constructed in such a way as to mesmerise us. Simple at heart, it epitomises the sophistication and quality of this band’s creative spirit.
Although I felt a strong 1970s psychedelic influence, the structures are original. This is a very interesting and powerful album. I understand this is the second one from Blackwater Holylight. I liked the fact that “Veils of Winter” doesn’t go off at tangents and sticks to its overall dark theme while exploiting imagination and playing with our minds. This is a band I’d very much like to hear from again.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)