Holy Sons – “Gnostic Device” (Stereogum Premiere)

Holy Sons - "Gnostic Device" (Stereogum Premiere)

Holy Sons is the brainchild of Emil Amos, a Portland-based multi-instrumentalist who’s released 10 albums in the last 15 or so years under that guise and dozens more with projects including Om and Grails. Although those bands are well-known underground institutions, his solo work has simmered under the radar, collecting love from a modest cult following but never quite penetrating the public sphere. For 10 years there were only 300 circulating vinyl copies of his much-admired album, Decline Of The West, but it’s now receiving deluxe reissue treatment with added unreleased material and cover songs. Opening track, “Gnostic Device,” is a worthy introductory peak into Decline Of The West’s darkly lit world. It’s pensive by nature and unconventional in design, with instrumentation veering from banjo to keys to crackly sound bits, all over a dreary drum machine.

There’s also a story behind how this album came to be remastered. Read this message from Amos:

I worked at a homeless shelter for 13 years in Portland, OR where one day I might check the singer of “Hang on Sloopy” into a bunk and the next day I’d find a dead body… those were grisly times. To combat a lurking depression I became a workaholic at home and plunged into a 3 year mission to mix and then re-mix every song on this record.

Any day off I had free, I woke up and worked until it was around 1 or 2 at night, downing several bottles of whatever was at hand to fight fatigue and immerse completely into the songs. It was probably the most focused I’ve ever been to design a record from the outset and articulate a very particular anger I’d been feeling. Like most struggling artists do at some point, I’d hit an emotional wall of overwhelming helplessness and pointlessness in my “career.” But instead of letting it basically defeat me in a cloud of pot-smoke and sadness, I wanted to face it head on and use those sinking feelings to trans-mutate into a state of action and spin the record into a statement of righteousness instead.

When it all comes down and I’m long gone, maybe Decline will keep trying to argue for a different reality, where art actually holds some true power in this absurd world and the independence and strength of individual/critical thinking is seen as an actual virtue that could potentially save us from the awful scenes we appear to be heading towards collectively.

Listen to “Gnostic Device” below and check out the deluxe edition’s tracklist.

01 “Gnostic Device”
02 “The Feral Kid”
03 “Saccharine Trust”
04 “Slave Morality”
05 “Level Anything” (Sebadoh Cover)
06 “Kindred Spirit”
07 “More Noise Pollution”
08 “Satanic Androids”
09 “Evil Falls”
10 “Bleakest Picture”
11 “Nothing Left” (Daniel Johnston Cover)
12 “Things You Do While Waiting For The Apocalypse”
13 “Nature’s Way” (Randy California Cover)
14 “My Graveyard”
15 “Down In The Boondocks” (Joe South Cover)
16 “Let Me Give Up II”
17 “Beverly Hills” (Circle Jerks Cover)
18 “Accept The Truth!”
19 “I’m Healed”
20 “More Therapy”
21 “No Claws”
22 “Song From The Conscience”
23 “Last Wave”

Holy Sons also have a couple dates left on their West Coast tour with Jay Farrar:
12/05 Portland, OR @ Alladin Theater
12/06 Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern

Decline Of The West Vol I & II is out 12/4 on Partisan Records. Order it on vinyl here.