Single Review: Holy Esque – Sovereign

By on Wednesday, 6th August 2014 at 12:00 pm

Holy Esque from Glasgow were a band I had intended to see at SXSW this year, but you know what they say about the best laid plans… I suppose though had I seen them live, I might have had an entirely different opinion of their new single ‘Sovereign’, which gets a release next week. ‘Silences’, which we featured as part of our Bands to Watch piece on them prior to them going out to the big dance in Austin for a second year in a row, has driving drums and an upbeat tempo ala Franz Ferdinand but with a scratchy, less melodically delivered vocal more like that of Billy McCarthy’s of American group (We Are) Augustines. ‘Sovereign’, however, has a more ominous feel.

The upcoming single takes full advantage of darker post-punk guitars and icy synths to make you feel like you’re inside a dimly lit room with nothing but the shadows for company. Everyone who I waved off before, the ones who were talking about Holy Esque before and kept insisting they were the new Echo and the Bunnymen, okay, yes, I hear echoes of Ian McCulloch and his band. The vocals, however, won’t remind you of anything like ‘The Killing Moon’ or even ‘The Cutter’, so just be prepared, they’re going to be a bit marmite.

Frontman Pat Hynes doesn’t so much sing as much as get the words out like Michael Stipe at his least melodic or Thom Yorke in his usual attempts to be melodic. But he explained to The Skinny in 2012 that he is content with his artistry: “I thought it was fucking weird. I was like, ‘Why can’t I sing?’ But I learned to appreciate it and work with it, and I gained a little bit of control over it. But I can’t stop it. It’s just the way it is.”

If you can get past the lack of melody in Hynes’ voice – or better yet, you actually like the way he sings – you are treated to a song of three acts. The first act of ‘Sovereign’ has Hynes singing almost in a hip hop staccato style, which matches the unfeeling synth notes from Keir Reid. The song does everything to be unobtrusive until shortly after the 3-minute mark, when thunder and lightning have now entered your dimly lit room in act two. Guitars crash messily and Hynes starts shrieking, as if to combat the noise of the guitars. The guitars eventually drone and fade out in the final act, and you’re left wiping your brow, wondering what the hell just happened.

Dramatic? Yes. Is it for everyone? No. Worth a listen? Yes.


‘Sovereign’, Holy Esque‘s next single, will be released next Monday, the 11th of August, on Beyond the Frequency Records. They tour the UK starting later this month and into September.

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