Over the past decade of heavy shoegaze music, Holy Fawn has achieved unique organic success. The Arizona four-piece broke with its debut in 2018, death spells, which they self-released online before securing reissues from UK punk/metal label Holy Roar and New York indie/emo stalwart Triple Crown. They’ve since found fans in post-hardcore-turned-prog mainstays Thrice, Swedish metal giants Cult of Luna and perhaps most importantly, blackgaze icons Deafheaven, all of whom have invited Holy Fawn on tour. For modern shoegaze, blackgaze or post-metal fans, Holy Fawn have become the ultimate “recommended if you like” band. They are the champions of the people.
It’s easy to see why. Holy Fawn is inspired by some of the most beloved “epic” music of the past 30 years: the endless crescendos of Explosions in the Sky, the main stage electronics (not the dance tent) of early M83, the textural lushness of Slowdive, the intimate grandeur of Sigur Rós, and of course, the Norwegian-via-Californian black metal screams of Deafheaven. These are all bands that are very serious about their melodrama, bands that seem tailor-made to soundtrack (or even create) deep moments in listeners’ lives, and that’s also what Holy Fawn is aiming for. Even before pressing play, their new album, Dimensional bleedis packed with song titles (“Death Is a Relief,” “True Loss,” “Lift Your Head”) that aim to evoke emotions on the big screen.
Here’s the thing about these types of emotions, though: in real life, they’re completely unpredictable. You never know how you’re going to feel following a life-altering event, whether it’s a breakup, moving across the country, an unexpected death, or even a death. a simple random revelation about stargazing mortality. Lyrically, the three singers of Holy Fawn are too opaque in their nature-infused mortality metaphors (“I’m an ugly root/knotting out of life”) to discern what, exactly, is eating away at them. But musically, the emotional cues are more manipulative than the soundtrack of a daytime soap opera.
Picture this: a swell of warm, glitchy electronics, treble guitars and intimate vocals with a close mic. A progressive crescendo, stronger guitars, heavy and methodical drums. After a few minutes, the tone changes from hopeful to mournful, and all of a sudden: screams. The tempo rarely rises above a dirge, songs (including interludes) average five minutes each, and cries Never again starts more than three minutes before the end of the song – it would ruin the climax. Being stereotypical isn’t always a bad thing – in some cases it’s part of an artist’s charm – but when almost every Holy Fawn song expects you feel things without deviating too much from the form, their albums resemble an endless sea of sinusoidal swells.