Drummer for Om and founder of instrumental psychedelic band Grails, Holy Sons gives Emil Amos a voice - a voice that’s usually disembodied and floating through the thick fog of the forest, or rumbling underfoot. On The Fact Facer, Amos has emerged from the mist of Drifter’s Sympathy, pushed his way through the dirt of Survivalist Tales! and emerges as a confident craftsman; muscular and adaptable, but with a heavy weight on his shoulders.
The Fact Facer finds Holy Sons in a particularly gloomy mood. The artwork frames the stark image of a hanging man inside of a noose, there are track titles such as “Doomed Myself”, “Selfish Thoughts” and “No Self Respect” (all songs that revel in the darker side of the human spirit), and Amos mysteriously wears many masks throughout the album. Sometimes sounding like Yoni Wolf, his eclectic ear excavating diverse sounds such as on “Line Me Back Up”. There are times when he possesses Mark Linkous’ knack for turning despondency into a thing of fragile beauty, there’s even a bit of Kurt Wagner’s barstool bitterness on songs such as “Life Could Be A Dream”.
Despite the dourness, his is surely Holy Sons’ most confident album yet. Not only is Amos more open and honest in his lyricism, but musically he boldly thrusts himself to the forefront of every track, each one a trepidatious traversing of dark and light. Extravagant flourishes of electric guitar and harmonies combat grumbling acoustic mantras and atmospheric soundscapes. “Line Me Back Up” crackles and creeps through the cold mist of midnight as Amos flagellates himself for his own self-absorption, knowing one day he’ll pay the price for pride. The sense of fear and dread is overwhelming on The Fact Facer: the enveloping sub drones on “Transparent Powers”; the distant wailing guitar and mysterious melodies on “Selfish Thoughts”; the ghostly vocal sighs and cries on “Wax Gets In Your Eyes”. The Fact Facer possesses a heart that is pitch black and beating erratically with great anxiety.
“All Too Free” and “Life Could Be A Dream” provide rare glimpses into something resembling hopefulness thanks to drunken, country-esque minor chords and bold, confident vocals. In spite of plenty doom and gloom, Amos also finds peace with the person he is. He faces up to the facts concerning his place on this strange planet, from the cathartic cries of “No Self Respect” with it’s withering self-analysis, to the claim that “humiliation is kind of my thing” on the album’s final track.
Perhaps Amos sums it up best when he states: “Life could be a dream/so you can lie back and shudder/or wake up and scream/or rattle chains like me/in a limbo in between”, seeing himself as a bit of nowhere man, Holy Sons at least give this limbo-bound ghost a platform to haunt us from. Embracing crippling fear has never sounded so bracing.