Review: Holy Scum ‘Strange Desires’

With a name like Holy Scum, an album cover featuring a glitchy, digital, grainy dude in a hood, giving off Guy Fawkes/Anonymous vibes, and an album title like Strange Desires, I had a good idea that I’d be in for some pretty nihilistic stuff, and Holy Scum, a collaboration that began in 2020 between Manchester-area mainstays, GNOD co-founder and mastermind Chris Haslam and his bandmate, drummer Jon Perry, along with Peter J Taylor, formerly of Action Beat on guitar, as well as producer, guttural vocal-growler and improviser Mike Mare (aka Mike Manteca) one half of the hip hop duo Dälek, and I was right.

Holy Scum 'Strange Desires'

Strange Desires seems to mostly flow along in dark, unsettling movements for the most part. Opener Never Feeling Your Endless Breathing (clever title) is a wall of thunderous, cacophonous noise, with some industrial pounding, giving the song its beat. There are some unnerving growling, howling and wails weaving through the noise, I’m guessing courtesy of Mare, giving the listener a pretty fucked-up sonic experience. The harrowing atmosphere continues as Never Feeling Your Endless Breathing flows right into Room Of Cruelty, featuring some pretty unsettling guitar squalls from Taylor, to go along with the noise.

Everybody Takes You Just Take More (another great title) features a more up-tempo, if one can call music this dark ‘up-tempo’, but Holy Scum settle into a nice head-bobbing beat, as well as some extra heavy bass, and some more guitar squalls/noise from Taylor. Dare I call this danceable? I’m not sure, but I can say this song conjures up a dark, smokey, perhaps-dangerous, and hopefully evil club nights for sure. I’d say Everybody Takes You Just Take More is the most ‘accessible’ song on the record and my favorite track.

A World About to Die sounds like a descent into hell, with rolling drums, a heavy bass, all-sorts of guitar squalls, and weird unsettling, repeating, hypnotic vocal action from, I’m guessing, Haslam(?). Light Chooses Mine is an uneasy, thundering wall of pounding noise, with all sorts of vocal craziness, and strange keyboard noises. Drowned By Silence is a back-end, slight palette cleanser, sequenced well, giving the listener a reprieve from the wall of sound, if only briefly, as Taylor aims to pound this beat into the listeners skull.

Strange Desires is an unsettling, dark, claustrophobic, nihilistic listen…

Strange Desires begins to work its way towards its conclusion with the disturbing, sonic experience that is Useless Wonderful Doubt, before lightening the mood, if only slightly with the slightly-spacey PCGFHILTHPOSHI, a dreamier, mellower (by comparison) trip-out to end the record.

The lyrics on Strange Desire speak on the world we live in, and the shit-show the last minimum-five-years hath wrought, and this record makes a pretty good soundtrack to the upcoming dystopian future I’m certain we’ll be living in sooner rather than later.

Strange Desires is an unsettling, dark, claustrophobic, nihilistic listen, by design, that accomplishes it’s stated mission. I thought of bands like Godflesh, Swans, early Ministry, and the noisier, trippier side of Boris, when looking for sonic parallels. Strange Desires also stands out for its production, the sound is altogether great, and fucked-up, and to the fact that a lot of what they do is improvised. If you’re looking for an unsettling, yet killer sonic experience, one could do worse than Strange Desires. Great song titles to boot.

Label: Rocket Recordings
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Scribed by: Martin Williams