I know I’ve mentioned this before in various articles, but there is such a thing as the ‘modern heavygaze holy trinity’ and you are better off having said trinity be a part of your regular album rotation. This album trio is what I consider the pinnacle of what can be achieved when it comes to shoegaze-turned-heavy, highlighting some magnificent and highly distinct releases from the modern era. Those records are as follows: Lantlôs’ Melting Sun, Kardashev’s The Almanac, and last but not least the hauntingly glorious Death Spells by Holy Fawn. I will have it be known that Kardashev’s latest record, Liminal Rite (which literally just dropped), has officially snuck its way in and kicked out The Almanac among those heavygaze-hitters; naturally they would one-up themselves. Also, it goes without saying that Alcest’s Ecailles de Lune is the primeval form of heavygaze (blackgaze specifically) that also deserves to be acknowledged.
You’re probably thinking that I am talking an awful lot about Kardashev when this feature is about Holy Fawn and you are indeed correct. I wouldn’t do that without a reason though and said justification is that both these bands have overlap sharing a bassist (Alexander Rieth), so naturally I had to plug his other band that are also among some of the modern heavygaze greats, even if they are considered superfuckingheavygaze (if you want more of that aural obliteration with plenty of emphasis on gaze, refer to LLNN). If you have yet to listen to Kardashev or even any of the aforementioned albums/bands, I implore that you check those out after reading this article and listening to Holy Fawn of course.
Now shifting the focus to Holy Fawn, this Arizona-based quartet have contributed to the popularization of a new take on shoegaze that many bands nowadays are adopting for themselves. They skate the fine line between ‘traditional’ shoegaze and ambient music with that of blackgaze, all while never fully committing to either side of that spectrum but rather delicately encompassing absolutely everything in between. Their immensely ethereal soundscapes embellished with so many gorgeously gloomy textures never fail to induce a dream-like trance. Holy Fawn is musical velvet for your ears, enough said.
Speaking with Alex (bassist), he had this to say regarding how Holy Fawn came to be as well as any additional endeavors that the band members themselves are (or were) apart of:
‘Three out of the four of us worked together and found a shared love of similar types of music and also a unanimous passion for playing music in that vein. As our prior musical projects were all coming to an end and us being nothing more than co-workers at the time, we decided to get together and jam and see what happens. A lot of the band today was born directly out of those impromptu jam sessions. We all really clicked with each other in a way that was special, and we all knew immediately that it was meant to be and worth pursuing forward. Ryan had some songs in back of his pocket that he shared with us, so we learned them and as we played them, they slowly evolved, causing Realms to be born.’
‘Prior to Holy Fawn, I had played in a band called A Distant Calm that I had just left just before we officially came together as Holy Fawn; this band is kind of a continuation of Ryan’s (Osterman – guitar/vocals) band Owl and Penny. Evan (Phelps – guitar) and Austin (Reinholz – drums) also each played in a couple bands beforehand, but I’ll withhold the names to save them the embarrassment haha. Anyways, Ryan currently has a side project known as Sownbones, along with spearheading all the remixes that we do (i.e this, this, this, and this), Austin does a lot of engineering work himself and is available for hire so if you like how Holy Fawn sounds from an audio engineering perspective; it’s mostly his doing. Aside from co-engineering the Holy Fawn stuff with Austin, Evan does a lot of solo work for himself. He has a ton of music that’s incredible, hopefully he’ll release it someday in some capacity.
‘As for me currently, I am also involved with Kardashev. I think the reason why we’re able to balance our being involved in multiple projects is that none of these other projects perform live, only Holy Fawn. For me, playing in Kardashev and being in Holy Fawn is relatively easy because in my spare time not touring, I’m writing with Kardashev. There’s rarely a scheduling conflict with a band that doesn’t tour and everyone else in the HF camp operates the same way allowing for it all to work.’
As for the significance or underlying meaning of the band name itself, this was said on a previous interview here on Everything Is Noise: ‘Holy Fawn is meant to represent the sacredness of nature and the presence of psychic connections/extradimensional realms outside of us and within us.’
Going back to where it all started with Realms, you hear the early beginnings of Holy Fawn that blossomed into the sound that they have refined and continue to experiment with today. From the conception of their first album without necessarily knowing it themselves, they were destined to home in on their newly established doomgaze style to create the utterly enchanting, yet gloomy aural bliss that is associated with their music at this stage in their career.
‘Regarding that doomgaze sound, that was not in any way something that was ever talked about between us from the very start when it came to our musical objective. As we learned and practiced Ryan’s songs, as they were coming together in a live setting, that sound kind of took on its own personality by just having us play the parts as we wanted to at time. Everyone’s individual style and technique heavily influenced how the songs eventually came out as opposed to how they originally sounded from Ryan’s demos. All the tracks from Realms, which was recorded solely by Ryan, sounded WAY different when played by the four of us. With that in mind moving forward, Ryan started writing music that fit the sound and it just kind of became our identity. It was all very natural and organic.’
Holy Fawn’s signing to Triple Crown Records and successive reissue of their sophomore release, Death Spells, ultimately is what got word out and put them on the map; it is how I found out about them myself as once I first heard “Dark Stone”, I was left absolutely smitten. With how that track opens up with swirling, warm synths and the massively oppressive sustained bass notes that abruptly cut off, I knew I was in for something as eerie as can be and I got exactly that. The instrumentation alone creates these sinister soundscapes that is deeply unsettling, but the higher-pitched, airy vocals provide a guiding light and soothe any qualms that you may have. It is the musical equivalent of dropping into a cold, dark endlessly spanning lake, with the stillness of the water providing an odd sense of tranquility despite the heat being sucked out of your body at a rapid rate.
As I said, the immensely dense and vexatious walls of sound are gorgeously complemented by the angelic vocals, making for a musical journey that leaves me feeling both disturbed and oddly tranquil. As you tunnel further into Holy Fawn’s discography and find yourself at The Black Moon EP, you’ll realize that they’re still evolving with even more of an emphasis on those acid-drenched textures that linger in the background. From the distorted screams and the decaying electronic elements you’ll hear on “Candy” or “Blood Pact” for example, it is clear that their music continues to get darker and darker, and I am all here for it.
With The Black Moon, not to mention the various remixes that they’ve done of other artists’ songs, it is no mystery to see Holy Fawn smothering their own tunes with those electronic infusions all while keeping the music inherently Holy Fawn. You still very much hear the origin of their sound that originated from Realms but matured and polished in such a way that feels purely organic. With their music, I am always reminded of that flower that only blooms every seven or so years, and once it does, it is quite a spectacle with how vibrant and gorgeous it is visually despite reeking of rotting corpses. I only think of this as while Holy Fawn’s music can be intentionally dismaying at times with how hopelessly bleak it is (ala the stench), it brings people from all over to marvel in its sheer beauty despite that.
Their latest release, single “Death Is A Relief”, shows Holy Fawn at their finest in anticipation of their upcoming record to be released later this year. This single in question feels more of a return-of-sorts to the gloomy sound heard on Death Spells with subtle The Black Moon-esque touches here and there, leaving me more eager to experience what they have brewing. I asked Alex what else we can expect from this upcoming record and although he wasn’t at liberty to spoil anything this early in the game, he assured me that we can expect ‘good fucking music‘ and given Holy Fawn’s track record and everything they’ve been adjacently involved in thus far, I won’t hesitate to put all my trust in his hands. Words cannot express how eager I am to hear a fully fleshed out follow up LP to Death Spells and I am giddy just thinking about how close we are to that.
For the sake of being silly, while also out of pure curiosity and desire, I had jokingly asked Alex about a hypothetical Holy Fawn / Fawn Limbs collaboration and he had this to say on the matter: ‘I regret to ruin the joke as I am unfamiliar with Fawn Limbs. However, the idea of doing a split and calling it HOLY FAWN LIMBS sounds tight. Fawn Limbs, HIT US UP.’
Fawn Limbs, the ball is in your court.
Holy Fawn is:
Ryan Osterman – Vocals/Guitar
Evan Phelps – Guitar
Alexander Rieth – Bass
Austin Reinholz – Drums
With Holy Fawn fresh off of their tour with Midwife and Deafheaven, it is full speed ahead for them going into this next album cycle. With the beginning of their next phase unofficially marked by the release of “Death Is A Relief”, the momentum is definitely accumulating ever in their favor and I for one couldn’t be more ecstatic to hear what next they have to offer. Whatever it is that they release, I am certain it will be nothing but quality as that is all they have provided our undeserving ears thus far. Big news is on the horizon so I suggest you give them a follow on Facebook, Instagram, and on their Bandcamp pages. Finally, Holy Fawn just announced their first major US headlining tour with support from Astronoid, so check out the dates below and grab some tickets if they’re hitting a venue near you! It isn’t a show you’ll want to miss!