The album was initially worked up as a 35-page screenplay by vocalist/lyricist Jerry Jones and is even more ambitious than 2011's Never Born Never Dead, which took reincarnation as its theme. Holy Vacants uses as its springboard a bizarre cocktail of mythology, ancient religion, and conspiracy theory surrounding the Nephilitic gene. The album revolves around Jones's tale of two lovers who have discovered not only that the blood of angels contains the fountain of youth, but also the formula for Qeres. This ancient Egyptian perfume is claimed to be the only substance that can kill angels and Nephilites, who are the supposed offspring of angels/human unions. Armed with this knowledge, the couple embark on a killing spree, drinking spilled Nephilitic blood to stop growing old.
The narrative may be conceptually out-there, but it doesn't fence the album in and stands as a metaphor for far simpler and more widely recognized issues - the idealization of youth, loss of identity and corrupted innocence. It's also Jones' personal way of drawing a line under an intense past relationship: "The album was about being so in love with somebody that they literally destroy you," he explains. "I had to write the album as a way of exorcising this person from my mind and soul. I wanted a Bonnie and Clyde-type story, because I've always loved that. There's something beautiful about the idea of rebelling together against something and losing yourself in the rebellion to the extent that it destroys your life. It's the doomed romanticism thing."
Holy Vacants was intended the band's final album , but instead constitutes a complete rebirth. "I thought we had one more record in us and we wanted to go out with a bang",says Jones. Guitarist Ferrara, who Jones calls "an unbelievable composer", sent the singer some bare-bones riffs and he found himself connecting with them immediately, hearing how they might work with strings here, a Moog and organ, maybe some brass and an all-girl choir there. And listening to the likes of opener "Archangel" and "Qeres", with its free-wheeling but complex and cathartic, psychedelic blues, it's obvious the band have moved light years away from their post-hardcore early years. They reveal their admiration for fellow New Jersey son Springsteen, circa Darkness on the Edge of Town with "Crystallophobia", "Everything Disappearing" and "Extant", and for Jimi Hendrix via "Hagiophobia", while elsewhere there are echoes of Guns N' Roses and The Mars Volta. But what might sound like an unworkable agglomeration of disparate parts is an intense and cohesive, hugely compelling whole, with powerful contrasts that make for a visceral immediacy.
Ferrara's skill at laying out the panoramic sonic picture and his mastery of dynamic builds, plus Jones' love of graphic novels and comics, the work of David Lynch and TV series like 'The Wire' (one episode of which suggested the album's title) are equally responsible for the record's impact. "The making of this record opened a whole new door, in all of our minds," Jones enthuses. "When we started doing all the pre-production on Holy Vacants, we realized how much more we had to investigate in ourselves and what we were capable of."
T R A C K L I S T I N G 1. Extant 2. Qeres 3. Archangel 4. Crystallophobia 5. Burning Mirror 6. Hagiophobia 7. Chicago Typewriter 8. Vertigo 9. Gutted 10. Every City, Vacant 11. Everything Disappearing 12. Nyctophobia