"We're the church of The Hollow and we're trying to convert as many people as humanly possible." That's the message from Nilok Von Merrick, drummer for Toronto's prog-metal foursome, The Hollow. Yet before you chug your Kool-Aid and conform, they ask that you sample the music first.
"Our main goal has always been to push ourselves musically because we're very serious about our craft," says vocalist/guitarist Landru Von Merrick. "Heavy music itself isn't something that we necessarily embrace but instead, I think a lot of what we try to do musically is push emotions out."
The band—which also features guitarist Colvin and bassist Ava Von Merrick—recently released their sophomore album, Vita, on local imprint Swarm Theory. With 17 songs crammed into 79 minutes, Vita is definitely not for the weak of heart. However, Landru points out that the breadth of the album is merely a product of the band's ambition. "We definitely never worried too much about length of the album since we knew there was a lot we wanted to express. When we signed with Swarm Theory, it gave us that freedom in terms of the time we had to record and make the album we wanted to make."
Ava adds, "If you have a record company saying they want three singles and you think then they're going to make you huge stars, of course you're going to do what they say. With us, we have a label that lets us do what we want and they're totally supportive of everything we do. It's really the perfect situation for a band in our position."
Tracks like "Estranged" and "Likewise" ride prolonged tempos that are as likely to erupt into volcanic crescendos as they are to settle into pools of guitar dexterity. This gives Vita a definite unsettling quality that Nilok points out is by design. "The dynamics of it—going from soft to hard, quiet to loud; it gets the message across a little more and when you finally built up to a peak within a song, it can be very powerful."
Since the release of their debut album Natio two years ago, The Hollow has completed two cross-Canada tours that have helped expose hundreds of potential converts to the band's music. "Depending on the city or depending on the show, the crowd size varies," says Nilok. "It's always nice to see that the reaction is basically the same wherever we go, regardless of whether there's 10 people in the audience or 300."
However, the band is also unapologetic about issues of downloading and internet piracy and accordingly, has made a number of tracks available at their official website. "The Hollow is 100 percent supportive of downloading and the death of the slavery system that most record companies have in place," says Landru. "Vita will be available through the normal channels—record stores and stuff—but we're also very supportive of people downloading our music so we've also made high quality downloads available through our website. If people like the music, then maybe they would consider going out and buying the album. But at this point, the primary concern is with people hearing the music, hearing the messages and interpreting what they will from it."
The release party for Vita will take place at the Bovine Sex Club on Saturday, May 22nd, 2004. To learn more about The Hollow, visit their official website at www.thehollow.ca or their label, Swarm Theory, at www.swarmtheory.com.
Writer: Cameron Gordon