Hollowed sky is a Maryland band, debuting with this self-titled release hollowed sky. Having played in local projects that lost steam, the members decided to bring their talents together to write and record. Largely self-recorded, hollowed sky emerged from long jam sessions, honed into structured tracks with extensive arrangements. Describing themselves as sludge-rock, the players claim influence from the grunge era and contemporary alt-rock, including Nirvana, Soundgarden and Queens of the Stone Age, and those groups’ forebears like Led Zeppelin.
“breaking bread” opens the record with a heavy style, approaching a desert rock sound not unlike Queens of the Stone Age progenitor Kyuss. The fast opening section leads into something slower and dreamier with chorused guitars a la classic grunge which in turn heads off into something heavy and doom-filled. A gigantic Tom Morello-like solo takes up most of the back half of the track, running long but demonstrating the band’s devotion to guitar heroics.
“breathing life into the sun” has a very 2001 alt-rock radio vibe, somewhere in the region of Incubus or lighter moments from P.O.D or Chevelle. Smooth bass and effected guitars build into a chugging refrain, and the song’s urgency builds in the second chorus with the introduction of a short, insistent riff. Things change up around the four-minute mark, ending with an instrumental break with soft background vocal. The track introduces some breadth to hollowed sky’s vision while flexing their chops as a compositional unit.
“head in the fence” is slicker and works with a simpler punk atmosphere, clearly drawing Queen of the Stone Age and Nirvana comparisons. Though the core of the track is interesting, the energy is kind of static here. Working in the traditional loud-quiet-loud rock structure, though with some more subtlety to the ebb and flow, there’s not as many punchy left turns as earlier in the record. You can catch some of the same intricate instrumental fills as on other tracks, but the more complex guitar writing and mutating arrangements are missed here.
“john knows” immediately has a different energy— not quite as dark or heavy, but still ripe with ripping guitar tones. The chorus is as close to major key as the record gets on the first half. To me it was reminiscent of Pearl Jam, albeit with an undeniable shredder’s attitude.
“our best times” bears quite a bit of similarity to “john knows” with propulsive riffs and an arena-ready arrangement. The band has distilled the lessons of grunge into something poppy, but not without punch. These two tracks offer a different view of the band than the first half of the album. It suits them, though, especially with the back half of this song, an extended guitar line with repeated vocal “I will always love you.” “Our best times” represents the payoff of marrying the band’s heavy sound to something closer to radio-friendly pop, an accessible entry point to the band’s broad songwriting spectrum.
“soviet red” heads straight back to the splashy, heavy stuff, opening with a watery chorus guitar right out of classic grunge. With a slow pace and an almost-doom-like ambience, the track doesn’t offer much variety, but the mood—the most crucial aspect— is there. An echoey guitar segment and some prominent bass work in the midsection leads to all-out blast-beat drumming and the heaviest guitars on the record, making the return to the chorus at the end less climactic in comparison. This is the moment where the group finally goes full throttle, showing that they have no reservation about exploring totally harsh textures.
The closing track “earth & sky” introduces yet another new style for the band with echoey guitar and a loose rhythm section. The song sounds jammier than most of the record, until the distortion kicks in and the riff tightens up with a lovely guitar/bass unison line. The tempo picks up about halfway, before taking the guitars into a titanic canyon echo. Firing on all cylinders, this is far and away the most gripping solo on the record. One last heavy statement of the earlier motif, and the track fades away.
The closer is a pointed reminder of the good things about hollowed sky, and help alleviate some of its less brilliant qualities (namely, the occasionally unnecessarily long arrangement). In all, the record is a potent first statement from a new project, and shows the myriad possibilities for hollowed sky’s talented players. If the next record implements a more unified and refined aesthetic, the band may make good on this promising debut.
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