THE HOLY NOTHING – Vol. 1: A Profound And Nameless Fear

On this debut EP, The Holy Nothing wield some genuinely enormous riffs. Creating a sound that takes a huge influence from stoner metal and mixes that with a few grungy influences and a pinch of hardcore, their sound shifts between crunchy, sludgy and the groove laden, ensuring this musical trio are often more interesting than your average Orange Goblin, Fu Manchu and Kyuss wannabes.

‘Doom Church’ makes an instant impression in the way The Holy Nothing throw an abrasive lead riff over a space rock drone during the intro, but then continues to impress, thanks to an absolutely devastating riff that shares a classic stoner/doom sound during the verse, before shifting into an angular hardcore crunch for what would’ve been the chorus section…if there had actually been one. The vocals weave in and out of the pure heaviness, but appear to have been subjected to weird filters, bringing them in line with the strangeness of the intro, but at the same time, they are perfectly suited to the job in hand. After a couple of minutes, the band begins to suggest their devastating riffs are about to go somewhere even bigger, and then the track just kind of fades into feedback, leaving the listener wanting more – in the best possible way.

This kind of brevity isn’t unusual. The equally devastating ‘Mondegreen’ fills little more than two and a half minutes with a hefty, grinding bass and a massive hardcore riff, infused with sludgy moments to bring it further in line with the expected stoner sound. The way a second guitar part is used to lay siren-like sounds over a musical juggernaut really gives this heavier workout a feeling a depth, and despite a strange desert rock vocal feeling half buried, this also suggests the work of a band who are keen to add extra texture to a world of familiar sounds. Again, you won’t find any chorus hook here; this is purely about an absolutely crushing riff, but in a landscape where the riff is king, The Holy Nothing sound really impressive. Likewise, ‘Bliss Trench’ isn’t shy in sharing some massive bass sounds, before launching into a speed driven riff coupled with a hardcore vocal. The verses tear past with a real anger before the chorus introduces a second voice more of the Josh Homme school of moodiness, and between the two extremes, the track more than covers a world of great stoner metal and hardcore sounds. Things improve further still during an instrumental break when a grinding guitar makes several noises in lieu of a traditional solo, and its all change yet again for the track’s second half. Firstly, a slow and moody bass sets up a proper doom vibe, and the band quickly builds up a heavy stoner metal jam for a huge climax. The last thirty seconds are probably the closest this tune gets to “trad stoner and doom”, but it’s easy to imagine that fans of the style will be more than impressed with the end result, even if it does rely on something a little more predictable.

In a change of mood, ‘Bathe Me’ kicks off with a dirty blues guitar, sharing some busy, slightly pointed riffs. There’s a vibe here that’s perhaps closer to the brilliant 20 Watt Tombstone than Electric Wizard, but it’s all the better for it. Introducing the expected heaviness, the guitars launch into something more of a stoner persuasion, but this is purely a bridge to more interesting things. The bulk of the number works a hybrid sound that sounds like ‘Humbug’ era Arctic Monkeys (with its Homme production) and the more arty elements of bands like Red Fang. Between a huge riff, interspersed with a brief lead used for a melodic counterpoint, and sections where a muted guitar is used to crank tension in a 90s alternative rock way, there’s a huge variety of rock moods squeezed into three minutes, but a confidently understated vocal links the elements very naturally. In some ways, this is pretty much a showcase for most of The Holy Nothing’s talents. Granted, you’ll find some much heavier – and noisier – sounds elsewhere, but in sharing their hybrid of stoner and alternative rock, it does a really tight job.

It’s only really with ‘Unending Death’ this release actually succumbs to something very predictable, at least in a few places. A lengthy intro creates atmosphere with wind sounds and the kind of clean, gothy guitar you’d expect to find on ten thousand doom releases, before hitting the listener with a mid tempo riff that’s obviously inspired by a more typical doom metal sound. Not retro enough to be written off as Sabbath-esque, the sound is more of a Candlemass inspired metallic chug driven by a massive drum sound. To the band’s credit, this is something else they handle very well, and when it drops effortlessly into an echoing, gothic verse, followed by an ugly hardcore section, the track becomes a melting pot of noise that really works. An over-reliance on the hardcore vocal means that stoner purists will likely find this the weakest of the EP’s five tunes, but a brief interlude featuring a Sabbathy swagger inspired by ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ and ‘Children of The Grave’ should offer just enough consolation. This number is a little more pedestrian overall, but it’s fair to say the good very much outweighs the bad on this EP.

With most of the tracks clocking in at three and a half minutes or under, ‘Vol. 1: A Profound and Nameless Fear’ avoids the usual stoner clichés of dragging out the riffs. Instead, The Holy Nothing pummel their listeners with a quick and brutal approach that’s almost startling. When this approach works, it really sets them apart from your average doom and stoner acts, and with the scene often feeling massively over-subscribed, this can only be a good thing. Simply put, if you want huge riffs, this has you covered. Despite their debut being done and dusted in less time than it often takes Electric Octopus to get to the end of a single jam, in terms of massive stoner-esque metal vibes, this trio really don’t sell their listeners short. Recommended.

November 2023