Artist: The Hollowing
Album: The Conjuring
When one thinks of something hollow, they typically think of something empty—soulless, without filling or substance—you get the picture. Because of this, being hollow tends to be negative, that is, until Californian crushers The Hollowing broke onto the deathcore scene. Formerly Love on the Lips of a Whore, The Hollowing are a finely tuned juggernaut of metallic, riff-driven energy combined with chug-laden, soul-crushing heaviness that are out for blood. The Conjuring is a well-rounded, thorough example of heavy music proficiency that will eviscerate any fan of intense, aggressive instrumentation and visceral, pummeling heaviness—leaving them hollow, and, completely satiated in the process.
The Conjuring is a deathcore release that shines where many of the genre’s debut releases fail; instrumentally. Where countless breakout deathcore acts either chug monotonously for track after track, or completely omit the “-core” part of their influence, The Hollowing manage a marvelous balance. Percussionist Josh Null beautifully blends pounding, tom-heavy patterns with lacerating blast beats at break-neck speeds to thrill fans of low-and-slow heaviness and hyperspeed technicality equally. “The Apparition” does this perfectly, showcasing Null as he toggles between blazing speeds on his kick drum and immense, daunting fills that hit the listener like a pillowcase full of bricks. What’s more is the brilliant blending that occurs between Null’s throbbing, deep kick drum and tom tones and Josh Dolan’s devious, slinking bass guitar. Tracks like the groove-friendly “Unwanted Recurrence” show off The Hollowing’s dynamic low-end smoothly, letting Dolan’s fretwork weave engaging and enthralling patterns about Null’s fast-paced footwork to keep the listener completely hooked. To speak of The Hollowing’s groove-friendly nature, however, is to speak of the fret-driven excellence provided by guitarists Jimmy and Alex Ippolito. The Ippolito brothers are monsters behind the fretboard, ranging from thrashy, metallic riffing (“Deadly Obsession” comes to mind) to gut-wrenching grooves (the aforementioned “Unwanted Recurrence” shines here) and last—but not least—bone-busting, back-bending heaviness. Jimmy and Alex Ippolito are multifaceted and maliciously gifted guitarists that are able to easily flow from riff-driven mayhem to breakdowns that would give chuggaholics wet dreams at the drop of a hat, all of these making The Conjuring an instrumentally balanced and immersive experience.
Where The Hollowing skated smoothly over serene waters with their instrumental approach, they find themselves hitting some choppy waves and turbulence with their vocal dynamic. Make no mistake—Neil Andersen is an immense and talented vocalist. However, Andersen is simply poorly produced and stretched too thin across the album’s lengthy run-time. On a track-by-track basis, Andersen is unstoppable: his roars on “What Lies Within” are devilish to say the least, and his screeching wails on “Faithless” are fright-inducing. However, as the tracks begin to pile up, Andersen’s vocal efforts begin to blend into one another, to a point where even the wide variety of guest vocalists does little to keep the album’s vocal content varied. This slight twinge of monotony is made glaring by the fact that The Conjuring’s vocals are—for whatever reason—scratchy and under-produced. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with a raw vocal approach, but even the term “raw” or the cult-favorite adjective “DIY” doesn’t quite describe the vibe given off by Andersen’s vocal presence on The Conjuring. Every bellow, scream and shout sounds as if Andersen is wrenching it through an empty pop can or a long lead pipe, giving them a tinny, scratchy echo that hits the ear wrong. However, this is only apparent in the context of the entire album—listeners spinning the odd track or two will have no trouble rapidly falling in love with Andersen’s gritty tone and gruff, bold talent.
Andersen’s unusual vocal paradigm applies, in turn, to The Hollowing’s entire debut album. The Conjuring is a talented mix of technicality and straightforward aggression, but it simply feels too long. By the time the listener hits the 40-minute mark, the album simply starts to feel repetitive, with riffs that melt into one another and shouts and screams that sound the same as the last tracks (or was that two tracks ago, now?) At the end of the day, this has to be looked at in context: this is the debut release by a young band, and clocking in at nearly an hour, it’s an incredible ambitious release. Where The Conjuring falls short as a complete experience, it shines as a collection of tracks, as it is defined by a collection of songs that would fit brilliantly on the listener’s driving playlist, their work out playlist, or even just their “play-Halo-and-listen-to-jams” playlist. When taken out of the frame of an entire album, “Deadly Obsession” hits just as hard as “The Hell Inside,” and the band’s furious fretwork, pummeling percussion and deafening vocals are just as strong on the first track as they are the last—it’s simply the sheer volume of material that weighs The Hollowing down.
It turns out The Hollowing are a band who are anything but hollow. The Conjuring is a 50-minute long extravaganza of riffs, chugs, grooves and slams that crams its way down the listener’s throat and sits in their stomach like a sack of cement. What the band might lack in variety they certainly make up for in content, taking a collection of ear-catching riffs and bone-snapping breakdowns and conjuring up a crushing, promising debut album.
For Fans Of: Oceano, The World We Knew, Whitechapel, WolveXhys, Martyr Defiled
By: Connor Welsh