Hailing from Wilmington, North Carolina, hard rock band Hollow Intent has been making quite a name for themselves on the local music scene with their aggressive style of melodic metal rock. In May, the band was nominated for the 2019 Carolina Music Award’s Best Rock Group, with front man Will Baker also nominated for Best Rock Male. On August 1st, they released their appropriately-titled debut EP Monster, which I’m pleased to feature on this blog.
Hollow Intent was born when guitarist and vocalist Will Baker and drummer Mark Davis started jamming together and discovered an immediate chemistry between them. Soon, they brought on bassist Shane Noren and guitarist Wesley Seven to complete the band’s lineup, and quickly began perfecting their intense sound and crafting songs to take advantage of their explosive, guitar-driven music style. The band explains that Monster “depicts all feelings with a negative connotation such as depression, anxiety, stress, rage, etc,, and they’re put together to create this “Monster”.
The EP kicks off with the title track “Monster“, a two-minute long instrumental that sets the tone for things to come. As its title implies, the song’s a rampaging beast of wailing distortion, grinding bass and crashing drums, plunging us headlong into the heavy metal zone.
Before we can catch our breath, “Burn” explodes onto the airwaves with a thunderous barrage of raging guitars, buzz-saw bass and speaker-blowing percussion. But the real highlight for me are Baker’s jaw-dropping vocals. He has a phenomenal voice that sounds beautiful when singing clean, and positively feral when he launches into his metalcore screams and growls. There aren’t many metalcore vocalists who also have great clean singing voices (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Ice Nine Kills’ Spencer Charnas are two who come to my mind). Baker definitely does, and it’s no wonder he was nominated for the Carolina Music Best Rock Male Award. When he screams “Let’s go!” with a terrifying ferocity, we have no choice but to comply. But then he draws us in as he plaintively sings the biting lyrics addressing someone who’s actions have brought out the worst in him: “You hate what I’ve become in you. The monster inside me. You’re inside my head, tearing me apart. Filling with red, straight through the heart. You’re starting to turn. There’s no controlling all these evil eyes. I’m here to watch you burn!”
The face-melting “Bipolar” serves up chugging riffs of reverb-soaked grit and distortion enveloped in a punishing wall of sound. This song kicks some major ass, and is one of my favorite cuts on the EP. Once again, Baker blows our minds and eardrums with his vocal gymnastics. The way he makes his voice bleed one moment as he screams “Liar!” or “Bipolar“, then transitions to a seductive croon the next is really impressive.
The guys slow down the pace with “Shadow of You“, a darkly beautiful metalcore ballad that speaks to duplicity and betrayal: “You didn’t believe in me. I trusted you, but I knew you were faking. /I am always in the shadow of you. It’s getting colder as I close my eyes. These dreams are made of all your lies.” The guitar work is fantastic, and I really like the recurring mournful little riff, as well as the moody piano keys at the end of the song.
“Parasite” serves up more metalcore goodness with a torrent of shredded guitars and pummeling drums, accompanied by Baker’s death-rattling growls. But it’s on “Welcome to the Dead” that Hollow Intent show us what they’re really capable of. Wow, these guys blow the fucking roof off here, with some of most explosive instrumentals I’ve heard in a very long while. The raging guitars, crushing bass and pummeling drums are so hard-driving they leave me breathless! The guitar work here is nothing short of magnificent. Turn the volume all the way up for this monster of a tune!
The EP closes with “Normal“, a beautiful ballad that showcases the band’s softer side. The instrumentals are more stripped down, with strummed acoustic guitar, subtle bass, stirring strings and gentle percussion. Baker passionately implores someone to help him overcome his mental anguish and live a healthy existence: “If the pain could go away, would you save me? If the light stays gray, will you help me believe? If you could find a way to break this hold, could you help me be normal?”
Though it contains only seven tracks, six of which include vocals, Monster feels monumental in scope. All of the songs are superb, both in terms of their high quality and in their power to move us, and it’s a very impressive debut work. Hollow Intent are an incredibly skilled group of musicians who know how to play metal rock as it was meant to be played – heavy, melodic and loud! Furthermore, Will Baker is one of the finest metalcore vocalists around, in my opinion. I cannot wait to hear more music from this fantastic band.