We’ve been fans of the underground California death/doom band Holy Death ever since coming across their second EP, Supreme Metaphysical Violence, soon after its release in February 2020. We’ve followed them closely ever since, like a pack of hounds chasing after a car, witness the fact that we’ve written about them on seven separate occasions over these three years.
And so my heart sank last September when I read a statement by the band’s vocalist/guitarist Torie John that jut a few days after the band released their 2022 Moral Terror EPs he was diagnosed with metastatic papillary thyroid cancer, and that it had spread from his thyroid to his lymph nodes.
Torie also explained that the cancer could be treated with surgery, and that it was curable. At the time of that first announcement, he was still searching for a surgeon and hospital to perform a complete thyroidectomy and removal of lymph nodes. Ultimately, the search was successful, and the extensive surgery on his neck was scheduled to take place last November.
What did he do to prepare for the surgery? Of course, he and his bandmates spent November 5, 2022, recording a new release with Raul “Riff” Cuellar at his Riff Audio studio in Burbank. Naturally, they named the record Neck Wound Session.
Band Photo by Matt Craig
What they did was to track live performances of Holy Death songs that the band had been rehearsing in preparation for their first shows, which of course had to be postponed. So what you’ll hear on Neck Wound Session channels the energy of a live set, fueled by the kind of defiance that comes from a refusal to back down in the face of harrowing circumstances.
Neck Wound Session is now set for release on June 16th — this coming Friday — and we’re very happy to share a complete stream of it with you today. We’re also very happy to report that Torie John‘s surgery was successful, and that the band have live gigs coming up again. Their first post-surgery show was April 14th, where they shared the stage with Maul, Gorgatron, Greenwitch, and Disciples of Death in Long Beach.
This new record provides a great jumping-in point for people who haven’t yet discovered Holy Death, and it’s also a treat for people who already know the band’s music. Performed live by a fully rounded-out line-up, the songs are different experiences from the studio versions that appeared on earlier releases. Take, for example, the opener “Nailbat“, which first appeared on the album Separate Mind from Flesh. When I first heard the Neck Wound version of the track, these words poured out of my head:
Prepare to get pounded into jelly by HM-2-powered crushers while the drummer furiously takes an ax to your neck and the vocals come for the throat with bloody teeth bared. After that ruination, the band will drag your crushed corpse behind them into some ghastly meat locker for subsequent consumption.
And that’s just the start. Holy Death follow that with the immense heaving and roiling monstrosity of “East of Eden“, an experience that further reinforces the earthquaking and explosive power of the sound as it was recorded at Riff Audio (even the little bass solo in that track makes it feel like the bottom of your intestinal cavity has just dropped out). The contrast between the megaton force of the low end, the gunshot cracks of the snare, and the raw, boiling mayhem in the vocals is especially striking.
The blows keep coming, across the cold, brute-force thuggery of “Annihilationism“, which sounds like concrete pylons being driven straight into the top of your skull and all the way down, the quivering and moaning madness of “Deus Mortis” (which will also stomp and hammer you into the ground), and the gruesome python-slithering and jackhammering brutality of “A Crown Grows Out of His Head“.
Holy Death‘s knack for wrecking necks while infiltrating the listener’s mind with horror and agony comes through again in the Neck Wound version of the apocalyptic “Paradice Death“, which sounds like the drawing of the curtain on humanity’s existence… while maggots feed in frenzies… and the eerie ecstasies and bulldozing might of the closer “Ultraviolent“, where at last the drums get a chance to cut loose and spit some bullets before Holy Death finish by hammering their way down into the earth’s mantle with stupefying force.
Neck Wound Session was mastered by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air Studios. It will be released on streaming platforms, and it’s also available for pre-order on cassette tape and digital formats at Bandcamp. It’s dedicated to Robert Andresen (July 2000 – November 2022).