Holy Esque: At Hope’s Ravine | Virgin Media
Holy Esque: At Hope’s Ravine

Holy Esque: At Hope’s RavineRating: ★★☆☆☆ | by Ian Gittins

26/02/2016

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Back in the pre-punk days (and sometimes after) when bombast and earnestness ruled the rock roost, music writers (and Tommy Vance) would speak approvingly of "the majesty of rock".

The phrase sounds like a quaint, slightly witless throwback now, and so do Glaswegian rock stompers Holy Esque. Relentless in their gimlet-eyed pursuit of the epic, they would clearly love to be credited with summoning up the majesty of rock, but it is bleeding obvious that these would-be emperors have no clothes on.

Both preposterously epic and epically preposterous

With guitars strafing the clouds, drums apparently on the point of seizure and portentous lyrics delivered like sermons from the mount, Holy Esque crave import and gravitas so desperately that it hurts. Yet where is their push, their pain, their raison d’être? It is all so much sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Choir Of Young Believers: Grasque

Singer Pat Hynes boasts an overwrought vibrato that he wields like a deadly weapon, presumably with the intention of signifying grand power and passion. On Hex, his tremolo is so pronounced that he sounds as if he is manually vibrating his throat with his fingers. Let’s be kind and say his voice is, at best, an acquired taste.

If Holy Esque were a U2 album (and you suspect that the idea has occurred to them), they would be The Joshua Tree, except that they lack a fraction of that band’s songwriting prowess and sleight-of-hand. Songs such as Covenant (III) and Silences are draped in reverb and SFX in a failed attempt to hide just how pedestrian and ordinary they are.

Unexpectedly, St rages and chimes and you catch a glimpse of the mercurial rock magic that propelled, say, the Pixies. But by the inevitable five-minute-plus closing title track, Holy Esque have scuttled back to their comfort zone of being preposterously epic, and epically preposterous.

There is nothing new to see, or to hear, here.