Artist: The Holy Guile
When I was young, I remember going to a hockey game held at a local college ice rink. It was a hockey game like any other, except for the players on both respective teams were athletes from the competing schools’ baseball teams—meaning that, at least from a technique standpoint, the game was a complete disaster. Even in spite of the half-assed fights and marked lack of balance, it was still one of the single most enjoyable sporting events I’ve ever watched—every second was filled with energy and exuberance that seemed to be missing from most of the other hockey—or baseball, for that matter—games I’d seen. What does this have to do with The Holy Guile’s OG? Well, it’s simple: I get the same kind of youthful, frantic energy from the latest album by Daton-based deathcore overlords that I do from that odd hockey game. In short, OG feels like the product of technically-impervious deathcore musicians’ dreams of forming a hip-hop side project—it’s like what would happen if N.W.A. learned sweeps and did guttural vocals. OG is the most fun you will have listening to a heavy album this year—especially when it is still lethally heavy and brilliantly technical to boot.
Instrumentally, OG is immense—every ounce the pure-gold combination of catchy metallic riffing, punchy, pummeling deathcore and over-the-top electronics hinted at in FSU. From the very beginning of “Deathstar,” Andy Baxter lets loose with an array of awe-inspiring and aggressive percussion that smashes the listener’s skull into dust. Whether it’s the fill-heavy and frantic opening track, or the bouncy, brutalizing “Sour D,” Baxter is a constant source of drive and direction throughout the entirety of OG. Alongside the punishing percussion Baxter brings to the table, The Holy Guile’s instrumental elements are rounded out by guitarists Cody Armstrong and Ryan McGee. Armstrong and McGee are, simply put, experts at their craft. Where FSU had the occasionally expert riff or segment of stellar fretwork, literally every moment on OG is crafted from solid gold skill behind the fretboard. Take, for example, “Sonar Azul I – Visionary”—or really either of the “Sonar Azul” tracks. These tracks are comprised of nothing but dizzying riffs and subtly catchy lead guitar lines that groove squirm their way into the listener’s mind and meld themselves into the listener’s brain. “ATF” is equally intense, as McGee and Armstrong pick, sweep and shred away at any aspect of The Holy Guile’s formerly lack-luster reputation of technical prowess. Finally, beneath Armstrong and McGee’s fluid cascade of shred and groove lies their proclivity for chug-laden, gloomy heaviness. These moments of straight-up low-and-slow dissonance are few and far between, but are nonetheless lovable and necessarily to keep OG‘s more aloof aspects firmly in check.
The Holy Guile haven’t limited their immense refinement and improvement strictly to their instrumentals. Vocalist Saud Ahmed, assisted by McGee, is at the top of his game—utilizing everything from trap-influenced smooth flowing portions of hip-hop (“AK-47” and “Sonar Azul I” especially) to shrill shrieks and guttural growls that comprise the bulk of the album. What’s even better than Ahmed’s impeccable range and perfect delivery is the sparse use of half-rapped verses (that would put Frankie Palmeri to shame) that use lyrics that aren’t completely serious, but also aren’t obviously satirical or silly. “Deathstar” and it’s silky-smooth rapped interlude is a perfect example of this: while the lyrics aren’t necessarily tackling deep and pointed political issues (which isn’t really what OG is about, if the song titles weren’t a tip-off), aren’t dumb or poorly thought out. Rather, moments like those found in “AK-47,” “Deathstar” or the hilarious, raunchy (and immensely catchy) chorus of “Item Nine” are the archetype of what the listener should expect from The Holy Guile: a tongue-in-cheek, immensely fun and insanely clever album that is a perfect balance between seriously written song-structure and “just for shits” lyricism.
The extent to which The Holy Guile might tackle serious issues with their lyrics—limited to their obvious stance on the legalization of a certain plant—or renovate a genre with their instrumentation is negligible. However, what isn’t negligible is the insane amount of fun to be had from OG–even after repeated listens. Lurking somewhere in the grooves of “Sour D,” or hiding beneath the layers of densely-stacked evil in “White Widow” (no doubt aided by the appearance of Kody Hail, vocalist of Hail to the King) is an intangible element that makes The Holy Guile truly stand out. Their instrumentation is done intelligently enough to be immensely catchy and technically immaculate—allowing them to appeal to fans of technical death metal, deathcore and electronic metalcore alike. Meanwhile, Ahmed’s vocals and smart-but-silly lyricism is like what would happen if Attila were…well, good. They provide a fun, party-centric atmosphere but without being outspoken, (too) over-the-top or poorly done. Every last syllable screamed, shouted or slurred over a bouncy, brilliant beat is done to perfection—which is a lot more than most bands who are dead serious can say these days.
Straight Outta Dayton, The Holy Guile are doing fun, disastrously heavy deathcore right—with a twist. If G-Unit’s tour bus got into a crash with King Conquer and Volumes, the only survivor might sound something like OG. A far cry from FSU, and an even farther cry from The Crimson Armada, The Holy Guile proudly present an immersive release that definitely doesn’t fail to keep it OG.
For Fans Of: King Conquer, Hail to the King, Signal the Firing Squad
By: Connor Welsh