So, do you need to know more? Of course not, go out and listen to it, buy it and spread the word. Do I like to write a little more about Southern Lights? Of course I do.
Let's start with the band itself. Holy Monitors is a five piece band that started as a studio project for two, guitarists Stefanos Mitsis and George Nikas, also the singer. After releasing two EPs the band was brought together. Alex Bolpasis (bass), Vangelis Mitsis (keyboards) and Dimitris Doumouliakas (drums) joined and started to perform together live. Together they recorded and released two albums, 'Holy Monitor' in 2017 and 'II' in 2018, to be followed by an EP in 2020, 'This Desert Land'. Southern Lights is the band's third full length album; and my first.
My attention was caught immediately when the band opened with an elaborate instrumental intro to 'River'. A 6.04 minutes long song that can easily hold a long, interesting intro. From a vague soundscapelike begin a huge guitar riff emerges, the band including, a warm Hammond organ, kicks in before an even larger riff joins the first one that is moved slightly to the background. Without a tracklist, it is easy to think that there is a short instrumental song that opens the album and then a second song starts, with a new intro, in no way smaller that the first but slower and more thoughtful, contemplative. The singing that finally starts is trippy, subdued and totally befitting the music. It's very easy to imagine fluid projections behind the band.
With an objective ear I hear everything from The Black Angels to Kula Shaker and PAUW in the music. Not for nothing some of my favourite bands in this genre of rock music. Holy Monitor easily slips into this category when 'River' returns to the speed and intensity of the intro sequence once more.
| Photo: Takis Madray|
Throughout the album Holy Monitor keeps surprising. There's a masterly playful use of dynamics in 'The Sky Is Falling Down'. Where all drops away for a totally subdued sound to emerge from the silence, making my skin crawl from musical delight. Somehow the song reminds me of Golden Earring's 1971 hitsingle 'She Flies On Strange Wings'. (For Greek readers, check the song out on Spotify!) On the other hand there is the far lighter, almost poppy 'Bell', where the band manages to write what could have been a hit in another time. It tips the hits of Kula Shaker from the mid 90s like 'Govinda' and 'Tattva' easily. Faint traces of eastern music daubed in psychedelic sounds. I like the way Holy Monitor manoeuvres with ease between harder sequences. 'The Sky Is Falling Down' e.g. holds elements of classic rock that merge with the psychedelic sounds and the lighter, more evidently trippy parts. It results in an album that is more than just interesting and nice. This band ought to be able to blow minds from the stage with its intense songs like 'Southern Lights' and 'River' and mesmerise the audience with several others. Even the underwater, trippy instrumental 'Hourglass' is simply fine.
With 'Ocean Trail' the band repeats itself for the first time perhaps, but listen to how strong the guitar riffs and the long-held Hammond chords are. Kula Shaker returns as a Greek reincarnation. Let it, when it is this good. The albums ends with the much more light-hearted 'Under The Sea' with a wobbly guitar and a 60s solo. A psychedelic ballad to close an album that is mostly like a psychedelic storm gives an opportunity to catch my breath before I emerge myself in the opening riffs of 'River' once again. Southern Lights is that kind of album alright.
Until I was introduced to 'Naked In The Rain', I had never heard of Holy Monitor. A few weeks later Southern Lights can be heard in my home regularly. Good rock music can come from all over the world. The difficult part is to get acquainted with it. Running a blog on music certainly helps here. Because missing out on a great song like 'The Sky Is Falling Down' would be such a miss.
Yes, the music on Southern Lights is totally anachronistic. It has nothing to do with what I hear youths play these days (or better see play on a screen). For me it is like as if an angel is peeing on my tongue. Holy Monitor has made one of the great neo-psychedelic albums of the last ten years.
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