At the Hollow – What I Hold Most Dear (Spinefarm Records)

Thursday, 19th February 2015
Rating: 8/10

Spinefarm, who are making a concerted effort to extend their reach into the North American market, are obviously taking a risk with Finland’s At the Hollow. Not even remotely metallic or metal (the label made a name for itself developing some of Finland’s top metal bands ala Children of Bodom, Kalmah, et al), the band falls into the same dark/minimal rock category as Anathema, Antimatter, and Se Delan, thus combining songwriter-oriented peddles with an array of percussive elements on What I Hold Most Dear, their debut album.

Self-described as “between purity and death,” such connotations may come across as pretentious – and they probably are, but it’s acceptable given the esoteric nature of the band’s music. Vocalist Kalle Koo is the main driver here, evoking a hushed, wispy brand of vocals that are more suited for post-rock than depressive rock fields. However, the natural pull and persuasion of cuts like opener “Was it Worth It?,” or the melodic climbs of “Withered Speech” are immediate, if not thoroughly charming if we’re talking about minimal, bare-bones type of songs. And the drums don’t even happen very many times throughout the album; there’s more snare rolls and tom action than straight 4/4 beats from At the Hollow, which separates them from the pack almost naturally.

But What I Hold Most Dear is a pretty charming listen when taken as a whole, upon where the obvious challenge of taking At the Hollow’s music on at face-value is a worthwhile one, particularly for the throng who can readily digest unconventional dark music. At the Hollow, in turn, is a new face with serious potential.

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