Holy Sons are but one, a son of the deep South transplanted to the fertile musical ground of Portland, OR. A true lo-fi dogmatist, Emil Amos self-professedly subscribes to the "therapy through 4-tracking" credo; he is an artist driven to create regardless of the marketability of the outcome. And create he does, prolifically. His output is near-constant between Holy Sons, where he writes every word and plays every instrument, and über-post-rockers Grails, where he contributes his talents as multi-instrumentalist as well as primary drummer, a position akin to the driver of the bus in this case. But as his alter ego, Holy Sons are the vehicle that carries a self-expression that borders on exorcism.
Holy Sons' first release, Lost Decade is a collection of songs culled from 1994-1999, a compendium of snapshots of a wayward youth spent ingesting mind-altering substances and delving way too deep into all matters existential while alone in a dank rural North Carolina basement. As a result, it's the most frenetic and scattershot release in the Holy Sons catalog. Raw, primal, youthfully exuberant, and at the same time world-weary, it's a debut that would have turned heads if many ears had heard it. But Amos' admitted "failure wish" prevented him from attempting any sort of real distribution and the charm of the self-released record never reached the audience it deserved.
2001 saw the release of Staying True to the Ascetic Roots, a more focused and streamlined effort to be coherent and concise, to bring a touch of hi-fi to the lo-fi, and an attempt to convey a "band environment" and lift Holy Sons "out of the basement." The tone is overall softer, less driven by anger and frustration, more wistful and longing, yet no less drenched in existential ennui. Again, the record never met much distribution and Amos admits he "forgot" to even give copies to the press.
2002's Enter the Uninhabitable seamlessly picks up where Ascetic left off, with the themes of age and death becoming more prominent (they will become the focal point for later albums), as are the found sounds and AM radio transmissions that begin to creep into these pieces. Amos would later point out a heavy Daniel Johnston influence on this album, and it shows. Yet again, even with the help of indie co-op Red76, little-to-no distribution kept the album from reaching its audience.
On 2003's I Want to Live a Peaceful Life, the recording is so artful that one is hesitant to call it lo-fi anymore, though that ethic is still prevalent throughout. At this point Amos has become so proficient at recording himself that it's difficult not to picture him in a Nashville studio with a full-fledged band, and perhaps Will Oldham at the mixing board. But amazingly that's not the case here, as not only the sonic architecture but the themes and lyrics are such a refinement of the Holy Sons ethos, it appears this may be the pinnacle for which Amos had been reaching. Amos calls it the Holy Sons album you can safely play for your mother (often likened to Neil Young's On the Beach in the press), and it does have some of the rough edges sanded off while the arrangements are at their most, dare it be said, mature. This album had the benefit of larger distribution through the FilmGuerrero label, while Grails had signed to Neurot, with Holy Sons seeing increased notoriety.
But the ultimate distillation was yet to come on 2006's Decline of the West, where existential dread and new-millennium tension reach the boiling point, and the resulting product is Holy Sons' most universal and apocalyptic work to date, although reaching a larger audience is questionable due to its release on obscure Italian imprint Awful Bliss.
Besides Holy Sons and Grails, who released their most successful album and swan song, Black Tar Prophecies, in 2006, Amos also keeps busy playing drums for his influential progenitor Jandek on his West Coast dates. ~ Brian Way, Rovi