We’ve covered a ton of bands from Greece here at Monster Riff, and we’re excited to introduce one more: Holy Monitor.
A quintet from Athens, Holy Monitor delivers Psychedelic Rock dripping with fuzz. Their latest effort, Southern Lights (released on February 26 of this year), is a delightful exploration of sound and nature, calling upon the hope and love of the ‘60s to create a beautiful kaleidescopic adventure.
Southern Lights is the band’s third full-length effort, coming after 2018’s II (their second album) and 2020’s This Desert Land (an EP). This new album marks an important refinement of the band’s sound, honing their groovy, psychedelic approach with a dash of Pop.
About Holy Monitor
Holy Monitor is:
George Nikas: Vocals, Guitars
Stefanos Mitsis: Guitars
Vangelis Mitsis: Keys
Alex Bolpasis: Bass
Dimitris Doumouliakas: Drums
Southern Lights was recorded and mixed by Alex Bolpasis at Suono Studio and mastering was spearheaded by Nick Townsend of Townsend Mastering. The album artwork comes from Bewild Brother (Instagram), who has also done work for other Greek Rock acts, including 1000mods, Deaf Radio, and Planet of Zeus.
Southern Lights Album Review
Track One: River
Southern Lights opens like beams of sunlight slipping through parting clouds. Drenched in a haze of light fuzz and swirling instrumental movement, “River” quickly establishes the album’s sound, heavily into Psychedelia. As the album opener, “River” prepares us for the Romanticism (in the classical sense of focusing on nature and human emotion) that the rest of Southern Lights explores.
Track Two: Naked In the Rain
In “Naked In the Rain,” the organ and bass are a magic carpet ride with the lead guitar acting as your guide. Nikas’s vocals echo like a steady chant, pulling you deeper and deeper into the album’s mesmerizing soundscape.
Track Three: Blue Whale
Transitioning from “Naked In the Rain” to “Blue Whale” can be slightly jarring, as the former track is undeniably catchy. Still, “Blue Whale” quickly establishes its own redeeming qualities, and fans of Yawning Man will appreciate “Blue Whale” for its meandering, meditative guitarwork.
Track Four: Southern Lights
“Southern Lights” begins with a friendly, Indie/Surf Rock-style riff, like something from an early Surfer Blood album. From here, though, Holy Monitor takes a few unexpected turns, especially when the lead guitar comes through in sudden clarity, riding over the keyboard.
Track Five: The Sky Is Falling Down
“The Sky Is Falling Down” starts on a playful but persistent bassline, one that marches forward as the rest of the band joins in. This track is perhaps the heaviest on the album, offering additional support to the nihilistic lyrics.
As the longest track on the album, “The Sky Is Falling Down” contains a few different movements, like when the band dies down around the 2-minute mark so a single guitar can part through the silence, or when the song basically restarts at the 4-minute mark.
Track Six: Hourglass
After the cosmic ride of “The Sky is Falling Down,” “Hourglass” begins slowly and quietly, with the band gradually entering from far, far away. “Hourglass” eventually reveals itself to be a deep instrumental track, giving the listener a reprieve before the final two songs.
Track Seven: Ocean Trail
“Ocean Trail” features waves of carefree fuzz, carrying the listener away much like “Naked In the Rain” did earlier in Southern Lights.
Track Eight: Under the Sea
A soft, gentle conclusion to the album, “Under the Sea” glimmers like light bouncing off the water’s surface. It’s a tidy ending, wrapping up many of the nautical and traveling references Nikas makes throughout Southern Lights.
Pros: Holy Monitor’s Southern Lights is a beautiful collection of tracks, with as much narrative as you’d like to read into it. The lyrics here are beautiful and poetic in their simple storytelling, so try to listen along with the lyrics in front of you.
Cons: Although the lyrics help to tie the entire album together, some of the message is lost in the vocal tracks. There is a trade-off here, howver. Nikas’s voice blends perfectly with the rest of the band.
Beyond the vocals is another issue: Southern Lights really only strikes on one or two emotions for its 40-minute duration, which means you probably won’t enjoy the album if you’re not already at least a casual fan of Psychedelic Rock.