Holy Fawn – Dimensional Bleed

A revelatory record...

Four years ago, Holy Fawn slid loudly into the Arizona scene with their self-produced, heady blackgaze and made a deep impression in a scene full of ‘old guards’ with ‘Death Spells’. Bolstered by their 2015 EP ‘Realms’ and later their lauded ‘The Black Moon’ (2020), their uniquely atmospheric combination of foreboding swells, translucent clean vocals and chilling black metal yelps sent ripples down listeners’ spines. The standout track ‘Dark Stone’ sent the release stratospheric, combining jarring noise with slow, crescendoing intensity and still to this day holds its own as one of their greatest tracks. However if ‘Death Spells’ was Holy Fawn setting sail, their latest venture ‘Dimensional Bleed’ is the anchor being thrown overboard.

The record is a substantial, affirming project that plays with influences from post-rock, blackgaze, post-hardcore and ambient to willingly forge a vast, Homeric saga and attest to Holy Fawn’s rightful claim to the ‘metalgaze’ crown. To label the Phoenix locals as pioneers of ‘metalgaze’ would be a disservice to their elders, but what Holy Fawn have produced on ‘Dimensional Bleed’ is the most approachable yet colossal record in that genre to date.

Having formulated their own post-rock niche, the record is more approachable than the 10-minute plus songs of Deafheaven and Cult Of Luna, and thematically cohesive enough to carry a transcendental narrative that requires less lore and world-building than their contemporaries. It veers into pop brilliance lead single ‘Death Is A Relief’ and intersperses heavily indulgent seven-minute sagas with three to four-minute tracks with daringly beautiful hooks and masterfully layered production.

This particular record feels overdue in some sense. Whilst previous work has painted an abstract, rough-shaped picture of the band, this record instead serves to depict a hyperrealistic, vibrant group with a cohesive hive mind. There is an element of grittiness that was not apparent in prior releases, capturing a more vulnerable intensity to the outfit’s sound. The scratchy bass tone and fax machine ambience on ‘Empty Vials’ is as unsettling as it is intriguing, presenting a far more experimental soundscape for vocalist Ryan Osterman to deliver his elongated sentences, whilst elsewhere they play it safe on the opulent layered outros of ‘True Loss’ and ‘Sightless’.

‘Amaranthine’ could have easily jumped on the soundtrack to any mildly atmospheric first person video game in the 2010s (e.g. Death Stranding or Bioshock Infinite), with Holy Fawn creating a full band backdrop to a stunning side quest. The track floats in and out of potency, often quaking into life but elsewhere disappearing into white noise scattered with interstitial clicks. It feels like it never reaches the full potential of Osterman’s epic songwriting, blurring more into an interlude track than was intended. ‘Lift Your Head’ has a sleeper hit resonance to it, boasting the most maximalist swell on the record, underpinned by a repeating minimal reverb guitar riff.

The closest track to being a single is the uncompromising ‘Death Is A Relief’, a near pop song when viewed in contrast to the remainder of the record. In close second is the higher tempo ‘Void Of Light’ that sees drummer Austin Reinholz come into his own with thundering snare slugs and eventually, a floor tom riding coda that teases the emotive ‘True Loss’. There is an unknowing maturity to this work, that although it does not punch as hard as its competitor ‘Death Spells’, it serves to show a more yielding, pliable band that can conjure emotions far outside of deep sadness.

‘Dimensional Bleed’ is a revelatory record for the branching Phoenix outfit’s legacy. It carries a deeply insidious atmosphere, never revealing what is coming round the corner before exploding into either a flurry of motion or into a whispering, ephemeral moment.


Words: Alisdair Grice

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