Holy Nightmare!’s self-titled debut EP Holy Nightmare! that was released on December 28 is an emo project that’s heavy on the rock side. Their sound is a hybrid of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Foxing.
Max Shorey, the brainpower behind this project, said that he has always had an inherent desire to create something lasting and meaningful. Well, he really does that here. Throughout this impressively complete EP, the artist lays down an array of vocal tracks that are insightful and reflective, paired with un-simple and compelling instrumentation that pull at the waist and force you to stare down complicated answers to big picture questions.
Each song is distinct. Shorey plays peek-a-boo with the listener on almost every track; building and falling again and again with background yells and growls filling the voids and attributing to the subtle emo-ness of the EP as a whole. He does a fine job of maintaining the listener’s attention from beginning to end which is also one of the best qualities of this project.
Holy Nightmare! EP glides through brief moments of serene listening, eventually graduating to deep, introspective reflection regarding love, humanity and even spirituality. Shorey really takes his audience on a journey through his brain on this record.
I felt encased; claustrophobic, even, on “The Madness” when Shorey talks about waking up in a cage every day, waiting for a soul to come out of his face. “I’m just trapped inside it's galaxy ‘till I die,” he sings, implicitly describing his perception of the body’s cage-like function for the soul. Shorey furthers his deliberation with spirituality on “Silverscreen” when he pulls a slight mind-f*ck out of his pocket in wondering if God is just a man eternally sleeping and that, “We’re just his dream.” Shorey’s mature expression of open-mindedness on this record is refreshing because it seems like many artists are quick to draw a line between right and wrong - especially regarding religion and faith.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Shorey makes love scientific. He opens the fifth track, ironically titled “Black Cat” with the question, “What sort of chemical would you be if you could mix with me?” Opposite of his spiritual side, Shorey tries to make mathematical sense of attraction - but does it ever really add up? He reasons that love, though it may not be a physical chemical, acts in a way that moves in people and creates an inexplicable bond with others. The more American-Football-emo-eqsue lyricism comes out on tracks such as “Just Like Art” when Shorey admits, “A harp player follows me everywhere I go. / It waits for the day diamonds pour down my throat.”
Holy Nightmare! EP is instrumentally sound to the point that the music can really speak for itself. Shorey is vocally patient on “Let Go Of The Ground” when he waits until the second minute of the song to begin singing. I was a tad thrown off, yet I wasn’t bored because of the dreamy keys and distorted rhythm guitar that requires an accompanying head nod.
The background screaming made this record more intriguing as it brought to mind memories of listening to Hawthorne Heights on the middle school bus. The screaming isn’t making or breaking any single track, but it’s surely feeding the songs more character. “Black Cat” had the most epic ending on this EP due to the exemplary screamo buildup in the bridge, driving home even more the feeling of love and the questions that revolve around it.
A lot of people will enjoy this record. Fans of emo and prog rock will be especially pleased, while even hip-hop fans will admire Shorey’s imaginative lyricism. I’m looking forward to Holy Nightmare!’s next release after this favorable start.
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