HolyName is a spiritually-minded metalcore/drone hybrid band, which is the best way I can describe them! They call their sound “Holy Drone Violent Worship” which I can’t think of another band taking that approach – it definitely piqued my interest. There are times of meditative drone and times of violent worship throughout the album with lyrics to lift the listener above our mundane existence. There is a pervading sacred atmosphere to the entire album which isn’t easy to do with metal.
HolyName came from the ashes of the legendary Sleeping Giant when Tommy Green (Sleeping Giant) and his friend Joe Holt recruited from their church community nationwide to make a worship “mix-tape”. This project attracted the attention of Facedown Records in 2021. They released four singles in quick succession that year with not much news in term of an album until almost a year. January 13, 2023 was the street date for this debut album.
HolyName’s branding is steeped in Eastern Orthodoxy and early church imagery which flows from Tommy’s discovery of the roots of his faith. After a season of death and profound brokenness, Tommy dove into understanding the early church and grew in love with the ancient liturgical practices of Eastern Orthodoxy. The new album is his love letter to Christ and tribute to Eastern Orthodoxy.
What does that sound like? It is a blend of early church chant/singing and West Coast metalcore. What I got was the dichotomy of the spiritual and mundane with the juxtaposition of clean and harsh vocals. Heavy guitars accompany all the tracks with well executed drums providing accents to the music. The most interesting part for me was the interplay of the vocals throughout the album.
Unlike with Sleeping Giant, Tommy only does clean vocals on the album and outsourced the harsh vocals to some very capable friends. The guest artists also penned their own lyrics for their parts resulting in a somewhat communal recording rather than a single band’s album. It gets me wondering whether HolyName is a band, a project, or a community.
Tommy’s vocal performance creates an otherworldly vibe. His voice is covered in reverb and the melodies used resemble church chant which is a perfect juxtaposition with the metal vocalists. On some of the more prayerful/devotional tracks like “Perpetua” and “Fall On Your Knees,” it sounds as if you were in the catacombs of the early church. “My Way” goes a step further using several layers of clean vocals with raging guitars and drums underneath, feeling like a boat on stormy seas.
The songs that feature guests have a strong metalcore vibe, alternating between clean and harsh vocals. I really enjoyed the performances of Ryan Clark on “The Sect” where I felt that the clean and harsh held each other in symbiosis a little better than the others. The outro has a cool layering of the clean and harsh vocals that is particularly memorable. “Celestial,” featuring Joe Musten, also works rather well. The spoken word part mixes with this harsh vs. clean dynamic.
Unfortunately, with so many guest vocalists some of them may be annoying. Danon Saylor’s performance on “St. Dismas” left something to be desired for me as I found the barking style of vocals incomprehensible.
“Creed” stands out above the others and easily my favorite. This track has every element that HolyName does well: the vocals are memorable, we have some “violent worship” with Eric Gregson, and the epic REV choir backing up the refrain. The guitars and drums fit perfectly with all these diverse musical elements.
Another track worth mentioning is “Fall on Your Knees” which exemplifies “holy drone.” The track is over 8 minutes long, but doesn’t feel too repetitive. I get lost listening and lose track of time. The guitar riffs are not as violent as other tracks and the drums keep a slower pace. Towards the end Brook Reeves comes in with his characteristic deep growl, which reminds us that this is a metal album after all!
The instrumental performances were pretty decent. The rhythm guitars were crushing at times and provided harmonic underpinnings at others. I would have liked some variety in the rhythm guitar range as most of it felt like it was in the basement, possibly acoustic guitar to thin out the texture from time to time would also help. The drums seemed more interested in accenting guitar riffs than in keeping meter which created some rather jarring offbeat sections.
I should mention there are three short tracks on the album: “Open Skies”, “Mr. Millstone”, and “Follower.” They retain the same atmosphere as the rest of the album but are not candidates for mix-tape in my opinion.
I applaud HolyName on this project and boldly taking on this unique spiritual approach to metal. I can tell this has been a great journey for Tommy and Joe, setting them up well for a followup album. Their first concert was on February 17, 2023 which was a virtual event with the entire retinue of special guests (and more). They are slated to play FurnaceFest in Birmingham, Alabama which runs from September 22-24, 2023. If you haven’t checked them out yet, I highly recommend it.
Written by Sean Bailey
1 – Meet Me Somewhere Quiet
2 – Creed (Rev Gang) (Ft. Eric Gregson)
3 – The Sect (Ft. Ryan Clark)
4 – Fall On Your Knees (Ft. Brook Reeves)
5 – Open Skies
6 – They See (Ft. Michael Felker)
7 – Celestial (Ft. Joe Musten)
8 – Perpetua
9 – Mr. Millstone (Ft. Brook Reeves)
10 – My Way
11 – Follower
12 – St. Dismas (Ft. Danon Saylor)
Tommy Green – Vocals
Joe Holt – Instruments
Eric Gregson of xDeathstarx
Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter
Brook Reeves of Impending Doom
Michael Felker of Convictions
Joe Musten of Advent
Danon Saylor of Nothing Left
Release Date: January 13, 2023
Record Label: Facedown Records
Video for ‘The Sect’ (feat. Ryan Clark)
Video for ‘Creed’ (Rev Gang)
Video for ‘My Way’
Video for ‘Fall On Your Knees ‘