Doom is a malleable genre. Aside from sounding heavy and sloth-like, doom can be bluesy, morose, evil, theatrical, sexy, psychedelic, sludgy, or clean. While most doom bands only dare to experiment with a couple of these qualifiers, the rich tapestry of Holy Grove’s sophomore album, II, somehow manages to cover all of the bases (and maybe a few extra).
If the Portland outfit—Andrea Vidal (vocals), Trent Jacobs (guitar, synth), Eben Travis (drums), and Gregg Emley (bass)—leans into anything most on II, it’s the bluesy side of doom. Opening track “Blade Born” begins with a weighted, pendulum-like guitar riff, and the first four minutes continue swinging before dropping to a crushing crawl at halftime. From there, Holy Grove flips to the furiously confident swagger and cowbell-driven grooves of “Aurora.” II is Travis’ recorded debut with the band, and he owns the tubs on this track. Coupled with Vidal’s soulful, gut-punching voice, “Aurora” is as thick and righteous as rock ’n’ roll can get. On “Valley of the Mystics,” Holy Grove dabbles in monolithic melodies, with Vidal’s harmonies and heart wrenching, Pallbearer-channeling riffs making for an epic journey.
To cap off the whole circus, Holy Grove tosses you into outer space with the album’s tragic closing track, “Cosmos,” where Vidal is accompanied by the doom king himself, Mike Scheidt of Yob. Scheidt’s presence on II—along with the fact that the whole shebang was produced, engineered, and mixed by Billy Anderson (who’s previously worked with Sleep, Neurosis, and Swans)—gives the record some serious cred. It also shows that Holy Grove is already respected by some of the greatest minds in the world of all things heavy.