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Holy Esque: At Hope's Ravine

The buzz for '80s-indebted goth rockers Holy Esque is very much real, but with any luck, they'll convert all their UK adulation into an actual career.

Holy Esque

At Hope's Ravine

Label: Beyond the Frequency
Release Date: 2016-02-26

It's pretty damn obvious that Pat Hynes ain't much of a singer. This is a good thing.

For Hynes and his Glasgow cohorts in Holy Esque, having a strong sense of melody and a love for all things Jesus & Mary Chain simply doesn't cut it these days, as college radio promo piles are filled to the brim with young upstart groups who wear their influences proudly on their sleeves but do little with them, instead pantomiming their beloved post-rock figureheads and hoping success will follow (it worked for them, didn't it?). Yet for Hynes, his unsupported, strained rock vibrato may very well be the thing that entices -- or in some cases repel -- potential fans, but sweet lordy it is still distinct as hell.

While Hynes lyrics are that of the post-collegiate poet that has forgone any sort of peer review (the lines to opening track "Prism" are as follows: "Cold broken child on a path through the wild / Holding life on your way to the light / Whisper away all my dreams, they decay / Winter it came and my thoughts filled with shame" -- you know what you're in for with this), they nonethless remain a part of the pseudo-gothic atmosphere the band is trying to create on At Hope's Revine, their debut full-length following their self-titled EP in 2013.

Sometimes, the band stumbles around with their influences, with the servicable-but-unimaginative chord progression of "My Wilderness" sounding like something Robert Smith scrawled on a napkin before throwing it away, a sort of bland imitation sound that carries over to other tracks like "Tear". On the flip side of that, the group's best song "Rose" features a lively percussion pattern that helps anchor a truly modern four-chord loop that sounds like a blacklight anthem from an alternate universe, this and songs like lead single "Hexx" remembering that the reason why groups like Joy Division and the Cure are as lauded as they are isn't because they were de facto gloom merchants so much as they were artists who could marry dark subject matter to occasionally catchy, occasionally joyous pop hooks.

So when the guys mold waves of distortion into a distinct melodic shape on "Covenany (III)" or make pure C86-indebted garage pop like on "St", one can't help but imagine what the group might be capable of going forward, with the closing title track showing that for all the band's fuzzed-out fervor, they can handle quieter, more considered moments just as well, making you wonder how by-the-numbers fare like "Doll House" or "Tear" managed to make it on the album when so much of it is unquestionably distinct. No matter: the buzz for Holy Esque is very much real, but with any luck, they'll convert all their UK adulation into an actual career, because as it stands, these moody Scots might very well be onto something.


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