[Review] Blackwater Holylight Expands Its Heavy Psych Rock Sound with “Veils of Winter”

The sophomore album from Portland, Oregon’s  Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter (RidingEasy Records), is, like the quintet’s debut, a bewitching, mesmerizing effort that marvelously marries the earthy and the ethereal. Heavy guitar-rock influences from the 1960s and 1970s hard rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, and doom metal (think Black Sabbath and early Blue Oyster Cult colliding with Pink Floyd and The Stooges) marry with modern rock touches such as siren-like vocals a la Veruca Salt and Cocteau Twins.

Bassist/vocalist/group founder Allison Faris, guitarist/vocalist Laura Hopkins, synthesizer player Sarah Mckenna, and new members drummer Eliese Dorsay and guitarist Mikayla Mayhew build on the swirling, hypnotic sonic atmosphere of the band’s 2018 debut superbly. The guitar riffs are stellar, the bottom provided by the bass and drums are formidable, and the synthesizer flourishes provide perfect accompaniment.

Veils of Winter sets the tone and proclaims the might of its presence with “Seeping Secrets” and “Motorcycle.” “Spiders” follow next with slightly more of a postpunk-pop sound, more reminiscent of bands such as Belly than the two opening cuts. A pair of slightly longer rockers follow with the “The Protector” and “Daylight,” opening the album’s soundscapes even further. “Death Realms” offers slightly more of a new wave-ish sound, with a bit more postpunk vibe. The album ends marvelously on comparatively more tender, less sludgy, but certainly no less urgent notes with “Lullaby” and “Moonlight,” the latter song starts off sounding like something of an Irish folk ballad before heading toward a powerful finish built around an entrancing riff.   

With Veils of Winter, Blackwater Holylight expands on both its experimentation and accessibility. The group uses its influences as a starting point, fusing them and adding on to them to create an aural experience that is wholly the band’s own unique approach. This otherworldly album is dazzling, and if you haven’t yet heard the group’s stellar self-titled debut album, I highly recommend it, as well.

You can stream the entire album at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YuUeWac3sk.For more information, visit https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/product-category/bands/blackwater-holylight/.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.