Blackwater Holylight’s third LP is a referendum on what heavy music can be. Equally concerned with introspection as it is with letting spaces build naturally in compositions, Silence/Motion is paradoxically stripped down and high fidelity, benefiting greatly from its focused writing and often sparse ideas. The band’s at ease with using softness and quiet as much as they are hammering massive chords, the album’s intention and contrasts immediate and parsed out with specific grace.
The anatomy of this album tends to spool forward in interesting ways. “Delusional” lens into morose string compositions, while guitars from Allison Faris and Mikayla Mayhew seethe, writhing in beds of fuzz, giving in to the glory of stoner rock and doom sonics. This conquering suite of craft and precision is only further enhanced by the clean vocals of Faris and unclean vocals of Thou’s Bryan Funck. What would sound almost incongruous on paper feels elegant in execution; it’s not a mere guest appearance but a proper and measured inclusion.
The vocals are all woven into the textural fabric of this album, rarely taking over a channel, and producing a discomforting eeriness throughout. The sonic mood of the album, and especially its aesthetics, is often anything but sinister. From subtle analog synths that thrust above guitar laden compositions, to a muted percussive channel, this album revels in retro/mono conceits. The engineering behind it is just as significant to the overall creation as the band’s own instrumental abilities, with amp and pedal configurations that are rich and decadent, an immersion of focused subtlety.
Though ostensibly the entirety of the album exists within a realm of heavy rock, Blackwater Holylight shift styles with ease. From evocations of blissed out psychedelia to creeping monuments of doom metal, Blackwater understand that restraint is the most vital element in making such fluctuations not only work but seem effortless. Tracks like “Falling Faster” for all of their gleeful harmonizing, quiet and steady, bury the initial melody behind it, trailing along a mist like apparition of sound, an audible haunting of sorts. It’s genuinely beautiful.
Much of what makes this album so special isn’t found entirely on its glorious and spacious closer, “Every Corner,” but elements of the tracks that come before it combine to create a delicate dance that shifts between lo-fi and astute clarity, sonorous and terrifying. Self-assured and thoughtfully concise, Silence/Motion shows both maturity and ownership of the band’s aesthetic, the kind of bold work that can only come with time, experience and a certain confidence to take on a bolder approach. A complex studio effort, Silence/Motion reveals that Blackwater Holylight have done an expert job of translating something else that is difficult to capture, something more than graceful melodies, but a spirit that haunts the listener between them.
Label: Riding Easy