If there’s one thing I can give Blackwater Holylight credit for, it’s figuring out how to maneuver around my dislike of overly long band names. After all, it doesn’t count as a four-word name if a couple words are smooshed together, right?
Jokes aside, Blackwater Holylight’s second album makes for a fascinating meeting point between stoner doom and dream pop. A fuzzy bass underbelly and occasionally intricate guitar work are counteracted by subdued synths and ethereal vocals, all balanced out by a psychedelic atmosphere comparable to Messa or a mellowed-out Ruby the Hatchet. The heavier elements are played up a bit more this time around, making Veils of Winter a hefty listen compared to the Portlandians’ self-titled 2018 debut.
Regardless of the dynamic at hand, the songwriting has a consistently easygoing vibe. While the drums’ relaxed demeanor can make things seem rather lethargic at times, particularly during the album’s more scaled back segments, they establish a solidly flexible foundation that isn’t afraid to let in some busy patterns. Going along with that, the structures are often based around chord progressions that get built up by the synths and vocals with often subtle fluctuations. This setup can be lazy in the wrong hands and part of me wishes the drums hit harder, but the band achieves the intended hypnotic effect.
Thankfully, a lot of song variety keeps this method from getting too dull. The album’s softest song just might be its best as “Lullaby” (Not a Cure cover) leans the most on the band’s dream-pop tendencies with its more prominent synths and waltz rhythm. “Seeping Secrets” and “Motorcycle” are a solid opening one-two punch of doom, but that style may be best executed at the midway point with the creepier builds on “The Protector” and “Daylight.” The more up-tempo “Spiders” and “Death Realms” can feel a little uncanny, but they round things out with a quirky alternative flavor.
Overall, Veils of Winter does a great job of blending Blackwater Holylight’s various influences into a unique whole. The integration feels more balanced than their debut thanks to the heavier aspects getting more attention, but the relaxed, free-flowing approach is never compromised. The band may still be a couple tweaks away from their magnum opus, but this is an incredibly pleasant album to listen to. If you’re looking for a way to jump from Windhand to Slowdive or vice versa, this makes for a splendid bridge.