PICK OF THE WEEK: Grief, trauma have Blackwater Holylight in reflection on ‘Silence/Motion’

Dealing with grief is a complicated process, one that is not the same for everyone who experiences it, one that very often makes no sense at all. The five stages, yeah, they don’t go in order. They happen all at once sometimes. They fill you with sorrow, anger, hopelessness, sometimes nostalgia, and they can make getting through a single day a seemingly insurmountable task. I don’t recommend it.

But it’s not like we have a choice if we’re going to face it, because burying the emotion is far worser and more destructive, so having an outlet to express these feelings can be the best thing for your health. Blackwater Holylight use their third record “Silence/Motion” as a sort of vessel for their grief, be it personal or the pain the world has been in for the last 18 months, which has just crushed so many people. Over seven tracks, the band—vocalist/bassist/guitarist Allison “Sunny” Faris, guitarist/bassist Mikayla Mayhew, synth player Sarah McKenna, drummer Eliese Dorsay, (Erika Osterhout will join as second guitarist live)—poured themselves and their frayed and bruised emotions into what turns out is their most impactful and varied work yet. Yes, their doom thunder remains, as does their power, but they’ve also delved deeper into folk territory and softer, more vulnerable sounds to make a more well-rounded, realized sonic picture. It’s a high point for this year for my listening, and I don’t think I’ve gone a day without visiting since I got the promo both for the music and the deeper meaning within.   

“Delusional” begins the record fairly inauspiciously at first, letting the music drip through a crack in the window before the power is released, and we’re on our way. Faris’ vocals have a way of getting into your bloodstream and calming you, while Thou’s Bryan Funck lends his instantly recognizable scowl to the background as the track really reveals its power. Melodies jar as the chorus melts anew, the guitars trickle, and strings create a haze. “Who the Hell?” spirals in as the singing haunts and cold waves wash upon you, giving you instant gooseflesh. A crystalized vibe is achieved as their dreams enter yours, and Faris wearily calls out, “I can’t describe this pain I wear, it suffocates, and you left it here.” Psyche energy pulsates, keys zap through your spine, and the track burns to an ashen finish. The title track rests in acoustic beds and solemn singing as the music moves its way into your brain. The pace begins to intensify as organs mix into the formula, emotion wells, and the guitars catch fire, bristling and giving off sparks as the track returns to the atmosphere that created it.

“Falling Faster” is dreamy and psychedelic, easing you in as Faris’ vocals float, and the ether in which you’re swimming intensifies. It feels like your mind is numbed, the melody lines buzz harder, and your feelings are flushed from your cells, slowly drubbing you into submission. “MDIII” moves gently through acoustics and piano before the energy kicks in fully, mashing you and heating up to levels that test your strength. An infectious black glaze bursts as you can imagine heavy lava spilling, shimmering heaviness wrenches your muscles, and the track ends in a noise sheen. “Around You” soaks in steely guitars and a gnawing atmosphere as Faris’ vocals are in full command. The guitars rage with a ’90s edge when alternative rock had an actual meaning and tangible soul, and that ignites passions in your own heart. The playing gives off strange blue hues, the singing sits in the clouds, and the final moments disappear deep into the cosmos. “Every Corner” wraps the record and starts on a mind-altering trip to which you’ll commit without question. Synth beams emerge as the track grows sludgy, and growls from guests Mike Paparo (Inter Arma) and A.L.N. (Mizmor; he also produced the record) add some extra thorns to pierce your flesh. The guitars lather with chaos, the heat increases, and vicious shrieks and forceful winds pick up and carry you into terrain you’ve never before experienced.

Blackwater Holylight have been building a really special, infectious existence ever since their first record landed, and “Silence/Motion” is an incredible step forward for the band. This is a record that should find the band a deeper, hungrier audience, and I know I’ve already told many friends about this album and made sure they scheduled some appointment listening once it officially arrives. I don’t do that very often, but this album has had such a profound effect on me and aligned with me spiritually that I want to make sure I spread that word to whoever I can, because this album is that important.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.blackwaterholylight.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/product-category/ridingeasy-releases/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/