"Holy Sons"
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"Holy Sons"

Band Rock Folk


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Drifter's Sympathy is a work of almost unnerving sonic dedication. Holy Sons' sixth proper album is a blend of atmospheric washes, buzzing guitars and fragments of noir, all finely geared to a sinister, oppressive sound. Recording over a period of two years, sole band member Emil Amos plays nearly every instrument (recruiting Kate O'Brien Clarke on violin) and has emerged with a breathtaking, intriguing album.

A mood is set from the very first track "Snowed In;" it's dark and disquieting, with a strange sense of motion. A slow, deep synthesizer works over a progression of notes while guitar distortion is somewhere far in the background, becoming dominant as the song progresses. It's like waking up before dawn, and seeing only night. The guitars eventually coalesce into a monotonous riff as drums move in and out of the mix. It's precisely evocative without needing a single lyric. The eponymous next track swiftly changes the formula without altering the mood; a bassline creeps up and down while Amos' haunting vocal keens, only to become a chant. He tinkers with his voice as much as any other instrument, but never without a deep and mysterious sense of loss: "Felt like I'd never been received/ And so I'd never be received/ Sometimes I feel like I wouldn't recognize love." As a sample of what sounds like a man preaching ends the song, you feel as much resentment for his platitudes as the monolithically gloomy narrator must.

The rest of the album does not disappoint. "Drifter's Dub" utilizes dialogue from Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 Shadow of a Doubt to frame a raucous clamor of vaguely Eastern guitars, while "Burrow Away" begins with a falsetto and an acoustic picked melody, only to climax in a fading violin. "Raised By Wolves" drones the title over hesitant drums, becoming almost a hypnotic drone in a too-brief five minutes. There's not a weak song on Drifter's Sympathy, but "Data Miner's Theme" comes close to qualifying. Spending nearly the first minute in fuzzy sound collages and ending with the sound of distorted rain, it's clearly designed to deepen the album's darkness, but it doesn't really need it. By the latter half of the album, the nearly cinematic morbidity is set and doesn't need to be reinforced by experimentation. "More Mind Briars" opens as nearly a lullaby, but then dives right back into the darkness: "I'm wasting my time/ That's very precious time" the narrator intones, sounding more resigned than frustrated. It's like watching a man wrestle with himself, and by the time he declares "There's a lot of briars in my mind," it's almost too painful to observe.

The last and longest track, "Immolation Thrills," is also perhaps the album's most intense song. Vague fuzz, almost like flames, and nearly inaudible vocals force the listener into a sense of distance, like watching something horrible happen from afar. By the time a deep and steady guitar keeps a repetitive riff over the droning voices, we are drifting along with it all and ready for the credits to roll.

Amos has described the album's aesthetic as emulating both German albums of the 1970s that broached both psychedelic experimentation and folk traditions, as well as the themes of film noir. He has succeeded admirably on both fronts: Drifter's Sympathy is a journey into something that can't be nailed down into words or stories, just like a drifter who can't keep to one place.
- Spectrum Culture Online


"Criminal's Return"
Important Records '09
"Drifter's Sympathy"
Important Records '09
"Decline of the West"
Partisan Records '08
"I want to live a Peaceful Life"
Film Guerrero '03
"Enter the Uninhabitable"
Red 76 '02
"Staying True to the Ascetic Roots"
Pamlico Sound '01
"Lost Decade"
Pamlico Sound '99



Emil Amos’ musical resume reads like a dream wish list for most musicians. Outside of Holy Sons, Amos is in the globally renowned band "Om" (Drag City) and a producer/songwriter of his other band "Grails" (Temporary Residence). He has also collaborated with esteemed legends like Jandek and Damo Suzuki. He has released 7! solo records under the name HolySons and been recording for 20 years now.

“Emil Amos’ utter disregard for anything close to musical commercialism springboards his work to another possible purpose: Transcendence of the confines we have all brought upon ourselves.” – Dusted Magazine