Holy Fawn: meet the heaviest non-metal band you'll hear this year

Holy Fawn
(Image credit: Press/Holy Fawn)

Holy Fawn aren't strictly a metal band, but they are undeniably heavy. Their second album, Dimensional Bleed – released towards the end of 2022, and co-produced with Mike Watts (The Dillinger Escape Plan, Glassjaw) – is a wild ride, taking elements of post-rock, blackgaze, goth, post-punk, dream pop and grunge, and manipulating them all into a brand new super-strain of alternative music. Too dreamy for hardcore, too abrasive for indie, too pretty for straight metal… they’re slippery suckers. 

“I don’t really think we sat down and decided what music we wanted to make,” says Holy Fawn guitarist and vocalist Ryan Osterman, when asked to describe exactly what his band are. “We all have differing interests, so we never intentionally wrote a song to sound a specific way. It’s never really been pencilled in, what we’re trying to do. It’s just what we do.” 

“We all have wildly different tastes,” adds bassist Alex Rieth, picking up on the theme. “Our playlist covers everything from hip hop to black metal and everything in between. Once the four of us get together, that’s the most exciting part – this weird mesh of things that probably don’t belong together, but with us it somehow… works.” 

This approach has helped Holy Fawn land on the radars of similarly rule-breaking bands in the metal sphere. Stints supporting Rolo Tomassi and Deafheaven put them in the company of those looking to change the boundaries of what heaviness can sound like. 

They were invited out as special guests on a European tour with Cult Of Luna in 2020 before the pandemic scuppered their plans, showing that even if Holy Fawn had moved away from the more traditional metal (or as Ryan puts it, “superextreme death metal”) bands the members had previously played in, they could still hold their own in the most crushing of company. 

“We are emotionally heavy,” Ryan says. “It’s not traditional heaviness, but it’s heavier music. We use a lot of fuzz pedals. I think exploring that space between really heavy guitars and something a little more… let’s call it beautiful, is something I enjoy.” 

“If I had to label it then I think we’re post-metal,” nods Alex. “I say that as I’m a huge fan of Isis, and I think we occupy the same emotional space that they do. I’m not sure everyone would agree, but it makes me happy to think of it in those terms.” 

Although they embrace underground sensibilities, there’s also a commercial appeal to Holy Fawn – especially considering the undeniable influence of massive 90s alternative bands on their sound. 

There’s a chance that if Holy Fawn continue progressing in this way, they could end up crossing over to a lot of people – although the band admit to being apprehensive about shooting for the big leagues. To wit, when the band supported Thrice on their Vheissu 20th anniversary tour, the jump up to several-thousand-capacity rooms turned out to be an ill fit. 

“When we joined the Thrice tour, playing big rooms, it was a real culture shock for us,” Ryan admits. “I feel more comfortable playing smaller rooms and making those more genuine connections with people.” 

“Using Nirvana as a case study, Kurt Cobain never wanted to be in an arena band,” adds Alex. “It’s a tough one. There’s the weird, artsy moral compass inside of us that is anti-corporate everything, and I don’t want to be that band [that suddenly becomes huge]. But if I could be successful and make a living out of that band, that does sound fucking rad. It goes both ways.” 

In the present, Holy Fawn are happy just carving out their own niche. Thankfully, experimental tendencies are much more widely embraced now than they were 20 years ago, and the metal scene is opening up to bands that previously would have had no place here. 

Over the last few years, bands such as Alcest and Deafheaven have namechecked influences including My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and The Jesus And Mary Chain: bands on the opposite end of the sonic spectrum from heavy metal. In turn, they have inspired whole new schools of extremity. 

“I think the music scene is cyclical,” says Ryan. “It inspires a whole new thing. Music has to evolve or it grows stale, and I think that the bands you mentioned, The Cure or My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive or whatever these people are getting into… you realise that they can co-exist together with something heavier." 

"It’s an interesting juxtaposition too, which makes it new and refreshing. And when you listen to an album like [1989’s] Disintegration or [1982’s] Pornography by The Cure, then you realise they aren’t just a radio band – there are some pretty heavy tracks on there.” 

The spirit of the goth-pop legends certainly looms large in Holy Fawn’s sound. The music they make is brilliant, and if you’re a fan of dark, brooding, achingly melodic tunes, then Dimensional Bleed is unquestionably going to steal your heart on first listen. Holy Fawn are yet more proof that heavy music has never sounded so diverse and exciting.

Dimensional Bleed is out now via Wax Bodega

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.