Empty surrounds all of me. It’s a poignant line from the third album by Blackwater Holylight that encapsulates the search for self when suddenly everything has changed. There’s a theme of processing vast personal trauma throughout Silence/Motion that eloquently — both lyrically and musically — and simultaneously embodies the crushing emptiness, sorrow, strength and rebuilding of recovering from personal devastation.
Curiously, considering the dark times in which it was created, this is the band’s most melodic and catchy music so far. Blackwater Holylight, as the name suggests, is all about contrasts: It’s a fluid convergence of sound that’s heavy, psychedelic, melodic, terrifying and beautiful all at once. And, Silence/Motion finds the band honing those contrasts, letting ideas and moods fully develop from song to song, rather than filling every song with a full range of their capabilities. It allows the band to go fully prog-rock here, and simply stay hushed and intimate there. There’s a new confidence to the band in how seamlessly they wield their stylistic amalgam.
Silence/Motion opens softly with interwoven folky single note guitars over an ominous sounding drone for the first minute, akin to moments from Pink Floyd’s Echoes. Suddenly an irresistibly head-nodding, groovy droptuned riff kicks in with the drums and it’s a full on blackened rocker with soaring synths and Funck’s witchy whispers over the top. “Who The Hell,” the track quoted above, takes proceedings into a Krautrock direction, centered around McKenna’s arpeggiated synth loop and Dorsay’s tom-tom triplets, while 16-note guitar strums add tension as Faris wearily sings, “So tell me who the hell would want to live this way — so afraid/ To feel this void, to dwell in it… I can’t describe this pain I wear/ It suffocates and you left it here.” It’s an incredibly powerful 6 minutes. The title track delivers the 1-2-3 punch of the album’s brilliant opening trilogy. It starts with lightly plucked acoustic guitar, plaintive piano chords and Faris’ voice gliding so softly it sounds more like a Mellotron. The song builds slowly toward crescendo, led by a swinging tom pattern, that abruptly switches back to a heavier version of the opening melody.“Silence/Motion” is about digesting and healing from sexual assault. As Faris explains, “It is an ode to the juxtaposition of feeling paralyzingly blank and and like your entire life is moving through you simultaneously.” Elsewhere, Black Metal guitars collide with dreamlike melodies. “Around You” brandishes a hopeful, hummable synth melody and shimmering shoegaze guitars like throwing down a gauntlet. In the end, it becomes undeniably clear just how completely into their own Blackwater Holylight has come.