Holy Death – Separate Mind From Flesh Review

There’s a Goldilocks Zone for musical complexity. If it’s too complicated, say, skronky dissodeath with lots of time changes, a certain segment of metal fans will feel like listening to it is work. They’ll deride it for being pretentious. Some will question, jokingly or not, if they’re smart enough to understand it. On the other side of the spectrum, certain folks will equate that with boring if it’s too simple. They may consider it too easy; low effort. Oddly, no one seems to wonder if they’re smart enough to understand what makes minimal music good. There’s great pleasure to be found in economic riffing, unfussy grooves, and a shit ton of distortion. Los Angeles, California trio Holy Death don’t make drone or noise or anything so bare-bones, but they do lean toward the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” end of the complexity spectrum. Is less really more on Separate Mind From Flesh, the band’s first full length?

Holy Death tread a narrow sliver of the Venn diagram between death-doom and sludge, with big, chugging caveman riffs and guitars tuned to “involuntary bowel movement.” There’s a song here called “Nailbat,” and honestly, that’s a great summation of their sound. This is metal in its angriest, never-finished-high-school, solves-every-conflict-with-headbutts form. I kind of wish they’d kept going with the improvised weapons theme, maybe “Broken Bottle Whip” or “Granny Purse With a Brick in It.” Vocalist Torie John matches his own knuckle-dragging guitar chugs with a vocal delivery wedged between hardcore shout and death snarl, hitting every syllable hard, or in his own words, “Like \ a \ bat \ to \ the \ fu \ cking \ head.” There’s a simple melody here, nothing pensive or melancholic about it. This is no sadboi doom. This mugs sadboi doom in a dark alley and leaves it bleeding internally.

As you’ve likely gathered, if tough-guy aggro shit played a little slower than average is your thing, Holy Death do it well. Album highlights “Nailbat” and “Shame” lean a bit toward each end of the band’s sound, with the former relying on the sheer ugliness of the sludgy guitar tones and the hardcore grunted vocals while the latter sounds like an old school death metal track slowed for extra menace. The second half of “Shame” especially is death-doom in its simplest form, all the more effective for its undemanding structure. Advance single “Sacrifice Like Lambs” is a boot-stomping march through familiar “Christians bad, death pretty cool” territory that hits hard in part because of the punchy production employed throughout Separate Mind From Flesh. There’s a nice separation between instruments, so when heavy drums and bass hit under the guitar chugs, you really feel it.

As a sound, Holy Death have crafted a pleasantly simple yet refined death sludge that borrows from beatdown hardcore, but as an album, Separate Mind From Flesh is pretty seriously underbaked. It’s not so much the 28-minute runtime, as too much of this sound can make the mind wander, but the fact that three of the eight tracks are instrumental/interlude type fluff. “A Mediation on Wrath” is especially pointless, as it fills two and a half minutes of stand-alone song with what should be a twenty-second transitional riff between more interesting ideas. A couple of the proper songs also suffer from underdevelopment, especially the seven-and-a-half-minute closing title track. “Separate Mind From Flesh” starts out punchy enough, but wanders flatly for a good half of its runtime in atmospheric territory that seems tacked on for the sake of album length.

Separate Mind From Flesh has its moments. A few tracks here could get you angry and belligerent enough to either get through leg day at the gym or Thanksgiving with the extended family. In performance and production, this is pleasantly straightforward and ugly, but it feels like a decent EP stretched into an LP, and it loses impact as a result.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Seeing Red Records
Website: holydeathdoom.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/holdydeathdoom
Releases Worldwide: Oct 29th, 2021

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