I’m constantly drawn to sinister sounds and the droning synths that often come with the genre tag “darkwave.” As someone always chasing the sort of “high” that autumn, Halloween, and Scorpio season elicit, I find myself listening to classic favorites like TR/ST’s self-titled album, or Crystal Castles I, II, and III, chasing after that haunted and atmospheric feeling I experience around that fleeting and all-too-short season.
HALLOWS are a Seattle-based duo flirting with this very sound, while also mixing in their own post-punk flavor, and embracing elements of other genres throughout the album’s 10 tracks.
The first track is a short, simple, instrumental, a handful of synths laid on top of another with a persistent drum loop, though it plays the part of introduction well, laying the foundation for the general aura one can expect from the LP, though leaving room for plenty of surprises.
“All That Is True Dies” follows the intro track. The instrumental is similarly simple, with a steady kick of percussion over playful, pulsing synths and a light melodic accent. The track is admittedly full of dread lyrically, as the two vocalists sing along with one another leading to the repeating refrain of the track’s title, but melodically, it somehow feels cautiously optimistic, or at least not totally drenched in despair despite the ominous message.
The duo benefits heavily from both vocalists putting their chops to work. It helps to push a lot of the songs to the next level, allowing for some build and variation to help the tracks evolve.
This is especially clear in songs like “The Lost Wander,” which not only have a pop of flavor in the realm of instrumentals, immediately starting with an intriguing synth loop, Dom and Vanee ping-ponging their vocals as the instrumental progresses and builds upon itself.
A few tracks stand out as clearly pulling from the 80s, “Shallow Waters” putting Dom’s vocals front and center, giving very much Tears For Fears, his vocal style carrying a similar pattern on tracks like “Our Failures.” The instrumental diversity, pushing guitars over the collection of other sounds, is often welcomed in relation to some tracks like heavily linger in the crunchy, synthesized electronic realm.
I found myself really appreciating the album more on the second listen, finding some of the casual nuances I missed the first time. The track “Silence” is a favorite, something I could easily see myself dancing to at a club, only lit by lasers and strobes.
My one major qualm through the album was that I hoped for more. The jarring synths on “Her Thirst” got me excited, but I didn’t find the song building like I wanted it to. The ebbs and flows of the different vocals and fine-tuned instrumental accents were exciting, but on many tracks I was waiting for the moment where the song really reached a climax, or was pushed over the edge.
There are lots of eccentric, instrumental choices buried under the consistent synthesizers, or deep guitars, but some songs stay in the same place a little too long, and I found it suddenly ending, thinking, “Aw, was that it?”
Though, as I say that, I recognize that may not be the point of this album or their sound, either, clearly drenched in darkness, not necessarily looking to make an explosive statement, but rather a droning, progressive, conversational growl.
What I do know—I’m excited to see what HALLOWS does next.
Listen to the album below: