This was always going to a difficult album. After the passing of Tom, who was the main songwriter, it was never going to be easy to make another record.
Last year however they dropped the excellent single ‘Doomsday’ which was one of the best singles of their career to date, and made this one of the most anticipated comeback albums of recent memory.
Think of albums like Nightmare or The Gray Chapter; when a band looses a member, especially a main songwriter, it always leaves a big mark. Holy Hell has such a mark on it. You can really hear the change in songwriter for example. The music is a bit less technical and a bit more direct. The structures are a bit more straightforward and a bit less expansive. Lyrically, there’s a clear impact. I mean, the opening track is called ‘Death Is Not Defeat’ which tells you everything you need to know.
Its not as heavy as the old Nightmare and Hollow Crown days, nor is it as light as the underrated The Here And Now, but it does it sonically somewhere between Lost Forever // Lost Together and All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us.
Like the aforementioned previous two albums, there is a big focus on melody and floaty electronics and like each album since the beginning, there are plenty of rhythmic breakdowns and a few of Sam’s trademark ‘Bleurgh!’ exclamations. It sounds pretty terrific, not just musically but also with a crystal clear production too. Highlights include the singles ‘Royal Beggars’ and ‘Modern Misery’ as well as the title-track. The best track by far though, is ‘Doomsday’ in my opinion, its one of the band’s best songs period.
It is obviously always going to be an important milestone in their career due to the circumstances of its backstory, but luckily it holds up musically. I wouldn’t jump into a sea of hyperbole and say its the best thing they’ve ever released, but it is a fitting continuation of the legacy and a very welcome addition to the catalogue. It would be a good jumping on point for a new fan and any existing fan would do well to add it to their collection. Skippable it aint.