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Album Review: Holy Grove – Holy Grove II

After wrestling between darkness and light on their 2016 debut, Holy Grove’s second full-length Holy Grove II largely embraces the light. The guitar and bass tones are noticeably brighter and more prone to desert rock-style jams while the drums are more in your face and the vocals’ echoing effects have more attitude behind them. This shift is most prominently displayed on “Aurora;” this less than four-minute track should feel puny considering all the other song lengths but comes out with the album’s punchiest riff set.

This album also seems to be a more thoroughly epic outing than the debut. In addition to the songs all going longer with two stretching beyond the ten-minute mark, a certain loftiness makes its presence known as the album goes on. The open chords and soaring vocals on “Solaris” create drama that only escalates when the closing “Cosmos” breaks out strings seemingly meant to evoke “Kashmir.” The desert rock vibe is consistent throughout, but it goes from Kyuss welcoming us to Sky Valley to the endless sands of Arrakis.

But with all the expansion that’s occurred between releases, the group’s blues influence remains a common denominator. It can be felt in the husky vocal performances and vague shuffles on just about every track, but it’s at full force on “Valley of the Mystics.” I love how this track stretches itself to such absurdly slow extremes, yet never feels played out. It’s a shame that there isn’t anything quite as catchy as “Hanged Man” but this approach works just as well.

A numeral title would suggest that this album is a mere extension of the debut, but Holy Grove II is a huge move forward on all counts. The musicianship has more attitude and the structuring is more ambitious, and quality writing helps these two elements keep each other in check. I miss the debut’s darker vibe at times but I’m relieved that a brighter tone didn’t result in a more homogenized presentation. Stoner metal fans should love this and more epically-minded listeners will have to check this one out as well.

“Valley of the Mystics”

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