Ventura, California’s Scarlet Hollow’s first full length offering” What If Never Was “, is a testament to the undiscovered wilds this style of music can go to. An unintentional concept album of sorts, each track was created as it’s own living entity, but as a whole What If Never Was largely became a group of songs that told the story of a person’s journey through the healing process after time spent in the trenches of war. This is hardly light reading but Scarlet Hollow puts it forth in a way that is digestible and a pleasure to experience.
The album opens with the seriously chunky guitar riffs and heavy drum fills of “The Path” and it immediately brings me back to the first time I heard Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell. But then the music softens out with a soothing synth line and a less punishing tempo, suddenly I’m thinking of Faith No More and how they were able to balance progressive elements with aggressive tendencies. Then I’m thinking that this band does that well too. There are shades of Iron Maiden here as well, especially when vocalist Allison VonBuelow is in full effect. Although far from Bruce Dickinson power (who isn’t?) she is strong and clear in delivery and her voice is a near perfect union with this type of music. What makes my ears the happiest though is the bands musicianship and the way these songs are fleshed out through use of progressive rock and straight ahead metal influences. Drummer Diego Meraviglia and guitarist Gregg Olson are both so tight and solid, with just the right amount of technical precision and knowing when to lay down the heavy, these two sound as though they were made to play music together. This is especially evident on “Around the Bend”, an impressive 11-minute epic that uses some interesting Pink Floyd-like atmospherics and metal breakdowns that come together well. There is a lot happening in this song and I’m still wrapping my head around it, but it’s becoming a favorite out of it’s sheer effort and will.
What If Never Was is definitely an album for fans of metal that goes beyond the confines of typical metal. Progressive and smart, technical and savvy, beautiful and heavy, Scarlet Hollow is thinking mans metal and a cut above the standard fare.
~ Nathan Pike