I mentioned this band from Salt Lake City during one of my Christmas posts and following on from that received a copy of the their debut album Whisper Campaign, released back in 2010, which is an intriguing and enjoyable mix of styles that doesn't particularly wander too far from their progressive metal modus operandi, even while it delves into some stuff that's more spacey or even ambient, but which still delivers ten distinctively powerful and atmospheric tracks. American Hollow are Kyle Mullikin, Chronos, Jameson, and Nathan Alan Gilbert.
They kick-off with a brooding and militaristic instrumental , 'Terronoia', which sets up a heavily oppressive mood in its drum patterns while a more optimistic chink of light breaks through before letting rip with some very strong songs that have a density and darkness to them that reminds somewhat of Porcupine Tree in places – I'm thinking particularly of 'Variable' here but it does apply across the ten tracks of this record. Partly perhaps that's the deliberateness that they seem to move their way across their songs, there's a coiled spring within their work that keeps straining to break free but is held-back, properly restrained, by the musicians, and that adds to the layers in the texture of their work very effectively.
That sense of holding back and holding down the songs, led by the considered bass lines and drums also gives their songs a pensive quality and a tension that is palpable – 'Gravity' delivers this musical tautness in spades, the song straining at its leash and creates a claustrophobic aura that demands a rapt attention.
Elsewhere it's conflagration of grinding guitars against clear and sharp vocals that imbues their tightly-sprung energy with an urgency and life, alongside the manner in which they splash different pallets of sound against the more traditional rock elements of their music – it's not that they want to imbue these tracks with lots of experimentalism but in each number there are moments of the unexpected – the where did that sound come from and the how did they get something to sound like that – which expands their aural range.
When they finally cut lose – 'Blow Wind! Bring Forth Storm' – they really pounce on the listener and the track is sharply named for the maelstrom that's produced – but there's still an eye in the storm for reflection and a reminding that whatever you think you're getting with this album, American Hollow will turn it around and give you something different. When those militaristic drum patterns return – 'Terranoyed' – they underpin a different mood and musical tone altogether – melancholic and reflective. It's that sort of record, you think you've got a handle on it and it's moved on again.