Dai Eastwood

Holy Coves from Holy Island have a new record and it’s wholly amazing.

Hailing from northern Wales, Holy Coves is a difficult band to describe. They refer to themselves as Indie-Psych, but to my ears, this new album has considerable touches of Punk, Hardcore, and even Noise Rock thrown in. One thing is sure though… the sound that this band sports is mature and honed. With an exceptionally good and solid delivery, Druids and Bards is a long-anticipated release; ten years in its making has certainly added a lot of expectations that burden its shoulders, and today we’re gonna take you through it, and figure out how it fares under that pressure.

The starter Away We Go is a proper send-off into the sonic universe of this entire album as it introduces most of the elements that are to become mainstays across most songs. Chief among them is a dense layer of reverb that adds a lot of expansiveness and size. Prominent, heavy-handed drums that straddle across the line between total control, and hectic flails. It’s all intentional, and all tasty. The singing is full of character and the lyrics are introspective and play well against the arrangements, being a solid part of it and of the composition itself. The sophomore song, The Hurt Within, is a foreboding slow burner that features simplistic beats and one of the most washed-out compositions of any song here. It’s the only song here that made me feel slightly uninterested, but it only gets better from this point on. Grey has a catchy beat and melodic guitar riffs, a sweet, melancholic composition, and equally sweet and melancholic words. It was released as a single, and with the stunning Britpop sound that’s compelling and driving, it’s easy to see why this choice was made. Small and Nothing get the pace rocking again with a swaggering riff played on the guitar and the bass, the singing is impressive and high reaching on the choruses. Here is a good point to admire how consistent the mixing has been on this record. Having compared the washed-out sound to that of a slightly less hipster ‘The Black Angels’, I was amazed when I found out that the production was indeed done by the infamous Erik Wofford, who works with The Black Angels. The sound is cohesive, and the vibes created in the first bars effortlessly carry over across the whole album. Another Day is a simplistic Alt Rock opera. With gargantuan proportions to the sound, the chords are mythical, and the singing is pained, all in all creating a grand atmosphere that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the noise-filled coda ends.

Desert Storm has a dense, unrelenting riff that repeats and repeats, and along with solid, driving beats, the song marches forward with a rock-steady pace that’s an absolute joy to the senses. The wish-washy synths on the chorus make this piece sound, particularly like The Black Angels. A pounding affair. Welcome to the Real World is a special one. The clean, sparkly rhythm guitar is a brand-new invention. A jangling, steady verse gives way to manic pre-choruses with peculiar guitar riffs, which then evolve to stunning choruses which feature one of the most infectious grooves and some of the nicest and most capable singing moments of the album. Be on the lookout for the skeletal guitar instrumental. A hard-hitter, and easily lead-single material. The closer is the long and characterful Taste the Wine. The sound has calmed and matured even more, with strained, challenging singing, and an emotional composition. The performances are consistently simple, but effective, and the sound is familiar and by this point, soothing and pillowy. The long, repeating ending gets hypnotic as the soundscape gets continually more saturated with heavier reverb and a plethora of musical elements that puff up the mix.

Druids and Bards is an album that’s been waiting for quite some time. The band has taken their time to develop their sound and to explore their musical identities, and along the way managed to craft a sound that’s identifiable and memorable. Their songwriting is top-notch, and the lyricisms are catchy and easy to follow, yet not watered down or dumb. This album is getting massive attention from British radio station hosts, and it deserves every minute of it. 

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