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GURNETT: Jorian Holka's solo EP an exciting sign of things to come

Twenty-year-old Jorian Holka’s journey to being a solo artist began in 2016. Originally a member of the band Holkampany (rebranded as New History in 2016), Jorian decided his musical vision could only be discovered on his own. About two years into his venture as a solo artist, Holka has released his first EP, Rock’s Not Dead. He performed every instrument, wrote all the songs, engineered, mixed, and even mastered the recording all on his own. The results are exciting, and are hopefully a sign of even better things in the future.

The EP starts with its best song, the raucous title track, “Rock’s Not Dead.” The song starts with a crunchy, hard riff reminiscent of Soundgarden, a constant and enjoyable sound for the EP, before eventually stitching in both hardcore and emo riffs. The jumps in genre are written and played with seamlessness, showing Holka as a gifted songwriter and a talented, versatile musician. Beautiful, lush, layered harmonies are sprinkled among the vocals on many parts of the EP.  Just when you start getting settled into a song, Holka pulls out one of the biggest weapons he has: dude has a hell of a growl on him that’s second to none. “Rock’s Not Dead” is upbeat and makes you want to alternately bang your head and dance.

“Terrible Paradise” starts a bit quieter, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to Holka’s voice as well as the louder title track. His vocals still sound decent, but you can hear little bits of auto-tune in the vocals and it seems to lack energy. The whole track feels restrained. The guitar- and vocal-only sections feel a little too lengthy, like it takes the song too long to get started. Once things get moving, it start to feel like a completely different song. I don’t have any complaints with the B part -- the riff is actually pretty cool -- but I almost wonder if these two unrelated ideas would be better off as separate tracks.

“Mayhem of Today (All My Friends),” has a genuine teen angst feel to it. The repeated chorus of, “And all my friends seem to have gone/Run away/And all my friends say that I’m the one caught in the mayhem of today” might be the catchiest hook on the EP. It’s a pretty song, accentuated by more vocal harmonies, sparse guitar, and sustained keyboards in the background.

“Party Lines” starts with the guitar mirroring the vocal line, which is an interesting idea but doesn’t work well. Having two instruments completely mirror each other is referred to as “similar motion” in music theory, and is something to be avoided. When two different instruments provide the same notes, intervals, and melody, it can leave the rest of the music sounding empty. At the very least, I’d recommend harmonizing with the guitar instead of just mirroring it. “Party Lines” later slips into a Rage Against the Machine-esque riff before sliding into upbeat pop punk. It can feel a bit schizophrenic at times, but Holka pulls it off with great success.

“Ordinary” starts quiet and mellow. When the full instrumentation comes in, it has a sound reminiscent of Alter Bridge, with emo Blink-182 vocals. More of Holka’s slick-sounding harmonies give the music extra depth that helps it stand out from that of his contemporaries.
It later modulates into an epic, sweeping anthem with a catchy hook that will stick in your brain all day.

There are a few complaints to be had here and there. With three of the EP’s five songs running over five minutes, some of the songs begin to feel like they’ve overstayed their welcome. Holka also went a bit overboard on the reverb on his vocals, making them sound distant and cheesy.  As a result, the EP feel a little less polished and radio-ready.

While it doesn’t always hit the right notes, Jorian Holka’s debut shows a rare versatility. The music does a great job of combining many genres and influences, often seamlessly, thanks to strong songwriting and Holka’s abundant musical talent. I’d recommend shortening some of the tracks to avoid potential tediousness, and I’d definitely pull some reverb off the vocals, but those are small complaints about a debut from an artist with the potential to show the Western New York scene something special.

For more on Jorian Holka, you can find his music on Spotify and you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jorianholka/.

Ryan Gurnett has a B.S. in Music Industry from The College of St Rose. He has worked as a studio engineer, live sound engineer, producer and sound editor and has been a musician for 25 years. He is currently the bassist for The Lady, or the Tiger?. Email him at SirWilliamIdol@gmail.com or find him on Twitter @SirWilliamIdol.

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