Courage is often associated with physical strength and daring feats. It can, however, be displayed in many other ways, such as persevering through fear, danger, or difficulty, or revealing your naked self for the world to see, hear, and critique. For Kat Leon – née Katherine Pawlak – her courage is revealed on the debut EP from her new project, Holy Wars.
Two years ago, Leon lost her parents within six months of one another, and Mother Father is her dedication to them. It is also the demonstration of her courage and her grief. Each of the record’s six songs represents a different part of her recent past, from the loss of her parents to her coping to finally taking a step forward. As such, the EP must be heard to comprehend and experience Leon’s pain, and to understand what she lost.
The record opens with “Orphan”, a gripping, mesmerizing song that merges elements of doom-rock with the cinematic goth-rock of Kate Bush and Chelsea Wolfe. The searing guitars, hardened rhythms, and Leon’s soaring vocals form a wall of sound that pounds on your chest again and again. This is the song of woman who has lost her heart and soul and is trying to say goodbye. Her lyrics are emotional and hard-hitting:
“They all will go away in time
You are left alone
So dip your head and go
A kingdom waits for you.”
On the devastating “Back To Life”, Leon’s gloomy vocals sing a eulogy to herself. “I’m coming back to life / I nearly lost my mind”, she hollers, indicating her return from the darkness. The brooding “Warrior”, meanwhile, sees Leon adopt a Siouxsie Sioux-like assertiveness to acknowledge her perseverance. But the song is much more than her singing her own praises; it is a reminder to herself and anyone else like her they can overcome. That they, themselves, can and must see another day.
Holy Wars make their biggest statement with “I Can’t Feel A Thing”. The atmosphere is dark and cathartic at first; in about 20 seconds it becomes searing as everything intensifies. Leon holds nothing back vocally, describing how her body has become numb and images of her parents flood her mind. She has reached the fourth state of grief – depression – and her way to deal with it is to remember the love of her parents.
An eeriness echoes throughout the penultimate track, the pulsating “Cruel World”. This time around she’s not addressing her parents’ passing, but instead how everyone wants something in return and how the most treasured people and things in our world are easily taken away. She won’t, however, let her parents’ memory fade away as she dedicates the beautiful ballad “Mother Father” to them. It’s a love song to their memories and a final farewell to them and to her grief. The line, “There’s a holy war in me”, is one of the best lyrics in any song and reveals why Leon named her band Holy Wars. This isn’t just her project, but one she shares with Mr. and Mrs. Pawlak. And their debut record is one to cherish for all-time – not just for Leon and her family, but for all of us.
Mother Father is out now. Streaming and purchase options are available here.
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