Holy Esque have existed for five years now, living in a state of perpetual hype. The Glasgow band have become a permanent fixture on ‘bands to watch’ lists, and rightly so, given the potential on show in their early career releases. However, ‘potential’ doesn’t make a successful band, and with just two EPs to show for five years’ existence, ‘At Hope’s Ravine’ is finally a chance for Holy Esque to scratch their name off the ‘ones to watch’ lists and maybe add it to some ‘best of’ lists instead.
Big blocks of fuzzy guitars serve as the starting point for Prism, as they do for most of these songs, with bold riffs sculpting and chiselling the raw power into engagingly catchy tunes. Pat Hynes’ unpredictable voice, with his groggy tone and constant quivering propels the band from interesting post-rockers to bold noise-poppers. In fact, the best moments on ‘At Hope’s Ravine’ come from the softer patches that appear on Doll House and the titular closing track. Delicate openings that swell into grand finales feature more finesse than the standard offering.
Elsewhere Rose has been upgraded since its first recording in 2012, with the already hefty riffs beefed up to body-builder levels of muscular power. The quiet verse to loud chorus is a common technique used by indie bands, but on Covenant (III) Holy Esque manage to pull off the much more difficult loud verse to even louder chorus. Strange has Hynes’ exciting vocal stylings draped all over it, from haggard muttering to controlled yelps.
‘At Hope’s Ravine’ has had a lot of preparation and care poured into it; perhaps too much. Holy Esque have certainly coloured within the lines here with the production mopping up any unexpected distortion spills and drums thumping with machine-like precision. At times though things feel somewhat overly processed and formulaic; Hynes’ unpredictable voice ends up being carefully contained and any passion is clipped and reined in. It’s all very controlled and safe when it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
There’s a sense that the band have overthought the album just a tad, and out of fear of putting a step wrong Holy Esque haven’t pushed themselves as far as they could have. Saying that, Holy Esque remain a very unusual and exciting band, who now (finally) have an album that showcases their undoubted potential.