We all face a lot of issues every day, but some have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As we start the journey into a post-pandemic world, The Holy Road is considering all the issues that have been heightened by COVID, particularly mental health. In his debut EP An Unshakeable Demon, he swirls through synth-heavy tones to confront the problems we are all facing.
After spending the pandemic locked up in his studio working on the EP, Jonathan Stolber is unapologetic in his confrontation. Drawing on his experience as a singer, composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he brings splashes of industrial tones to heavy synths and progressive instrumentation. A unique and captivating sound, it blasts through your senses to get you really thinking about what The Holy Road has to say.
‘Title Sequence (Fade In)’ opens the EP with an interesting fade in that is all vibrating tones and deep drums. There is a darkness to the opening lines that is slowly released as the synths warble and hum their way into the soundscape. As the drums have your head bopping to them, the synths wash through your senses with a shoegaze vibe. This is a wonderful combination of tones that have you sinking into a bed of synths that are perfectly layered over the deeper low beats. The electronic edged vocals that come in late add a little something to the song and keep you hooked as the music fades out.
‘Coming Up For Air’ has a rock feeling that curls around a rather ominous presence. It is like the guitars are warning you of something sinister waiting around the corner while the synths bring an anxious anticipation. The vocals twirl around the instrumentation like tendrils of smoke that flicker in the corner of your eyes. While weaving through the undertones of the melody, the lyrics have an up-front feeling to them. As the song progresses, there are these waves of sound that threaten to overwhelm you while the vocals attempt to break through the surface. This is a really intense track that is an utter pleasure to listen to.
The intensity of the last track drops for the almost light and organic feeling of ‘The Chauffeur’. The light notes contrast the deep drums to create a delicate layering effect. Threaded between the layers are the vocals that have an ethereal and otherworldly edge to them. The high vocals that howl through the top layers send shivers running down your spine while the light piano notes have you waltzing down the soundscape. You can easily listen to this track on repeat and find something new to fall in love with each time.
‘A Quiet Dedication’ slowly builds through the opening as it yawns into the soundscape with a soft feeling of awakening. There is a little touch of off-kilter sound in the opening that grabs your attention and leads you to the piano line. The melodic elements come together to form a dawn landscape that is gentle on your soul and lets you breathe a little easier.
The awakening feeling of the last track continues in ‘Slow This Down’ but hits in a different way. There is a sweetness in the sound of the opening that turns into the gossamer waves of the vocals. It is like you are gliding on warm air currents and gently spiralling through golden clouds. The rich softness of the track is decadent as the strings sweetly call from the low levels and add power to the soft vocals.
The EP closes with ‘Against/Social/Media’ which brings a darker almost gothic edge to the sound. There are sweeping feelings of wind and cascading tones that make you think of large empty rooms. The instrumentation has a progressive feeling while tinged with a bittersweet sadness. It is an interesting mixture of nostalgia with dark undertones. Each instrument adds to the soundscape and brings its own story which comes together for a really captivating tale. There is a movement to anxious darkness that slides into a rolling piano line that brings brightness but without a sense of reprieve. It is such a delightful track and really showcases the musical power of Stolber which makes it an instant addition to your favourite playlist.
The Holy Road tackles the issues of the world with bristling instrumentation, bittersweet emotions and ethereal tones in An Unshakable Demon. Each track is wonderfully unique and highlights the musicality of Stolber while taking on mental health. While some tracks are synth-heavy, there is a wonderful fusion of organic and electronic tones that bring the messaging of the EP to sonic glory.