Premiere: The Turmoil and Triumph of Holy Wars’ “Orphan”

Holy Wars © Mark Hanson Photography
Recommended If You Like: Radiohead, Muse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“For my taste, the perfect song is one that makes me happy and sad at the same time and for the first time, I finally wrote a song that gives me that contradicting emotion in ‘Orphan’,” says Holy Wars’ Kat Leon of her latest release. There is nothing more powerful than loss – no emotion more visceral than its pain – but with “Orphan,” Holy Wars gives us a vehicle through which to reach catharsis, a means of releasing the darkness inside ourselves without it consuming us whole.

You’ve been sitting silent waiting,
when the world around you’s moving on
Think you got the darkness in you
but you don’t know what will be gone
Watch: “Orphan” – Holy Wars


Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the music video for “Orphan,” the stirring single off Holy Wars’ upcoming debut EP Mother (independently out June 30, 2017). The artistic project of Kat Leon (formerly of LA indie band Sad Robot), Holy Wars spawned from conflict and tragedy in Leon’s life: She lost both of her parents in 2015, a catalyst for the spiral that resulted in a new identity. Loss takes its toll on people: It forces us to be uncomfortably conscious of the present, of each passing moment, and of our mortality. It also stimulates us to be more cognizent of our own feelings, a moving factor that is incredibly apparent on “Orphan.”

Orphan - Holy Wars

Orphan – Holy Wars

Holy Wars evokes dark pop/rock energy in her anthemic sound, crafting a unique alternative fusion that is at once reminiscent of, yet also far removed from the likes of Muse, Radiohead, or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Melancholy descends upon our ears instantly as an ominous synth melody envelops our senses, eventually bleeding into a rumbling rock progression that sends shivers down the spine.

By the time Leon begins to sing, we already feel pangs of dread, doom, and gloom. Her words affirm the surrounding instrumentation’s misery as she descends into the overwhelming darkness that has since ‘defined’ her story. “You’ve been sitting silent waiting, when the world around you’s moving on,” she howls with disruptive calm. “Think you got the darkness in you, but you don’t know what will be gone.”

Her observation collides with the chorus in spectacular form, as “Orphan” soars into rich melodies:

Everyone, everyone that you know
They all will go away in time
and you are left alone
So dip your head in gold
a kingdom waits for you
Heads will roll heads will roll heads will roll

The beauty of “Orphan” is that it grows and develops over time: Each successive stanza builds from the last, learns from the last, and incorporates new elements to tell its story. “Though the message appears as a melancholy one, ‘Orphan’ also gives a feeling of empowerment and begs for a sing along in the chorus… I imagine a ball bouncing over the lyrics, guiding the audience to take part in this melancholy singalong,” observes Leon. “‘Orphan,’ the song and the video, displays an essence of Where The Wild Things Are and Peter Pan’s The Lost Boys, where I become much like the ringleader – gathering those who are abandoned and/or the uncool/misfits in society and give them a voice and a home.”

"Orphan" - Holy Wars still

"Orphan" - Holy Wars still

"Orphan" - Holy Wars still

“Orphan” – Holy Wars still

Oh what has come to pass you?
you’re not the only empty kind
These soulless eyes that greet you
we are the ones you’ve left behind
Everyone, everyone that you know
they all will go away in time
and you are left alone.
So dip your head in gold, We’re lions now

“Orphan” becomes a vessel for everyone suffering loss, creating something special that they can connect to and identify with. This bond is particularly visible in the Jeremy Cordy and Katherine Pawlak-directed music video, which features two orphans (portrayed by sisters Hayley and Jordyn Lesh) who transfom their pain into power and resilient strength over the course of the track’s four minutes. Incredibly intoxicating visuals of sisterhood and the journey toward emotional release make “Orphan” worth watching over and over again – the best part is, you find something new to appreciate every time.

Everyone, everyone that you know,
all will go away in time
and you are left alone.
So dip your head in gold,
your kingdom waits for you
Crowning of an orphan

"Orphan" - Holy Wars still


Holy Wars © Wes Marsala

Holy Wars © Wes Marsala

“Orphan” recounts Kat Leon and Holy Wars’ transformation. “With the lyric, crowning of an orphan, I learned to accept my unexpected loss and turn my turmoil into triumph, reigning my kingdom of lost ones. This song was inspired by the acceptance stage of grief, and “Orphan” was the second song written in Holy Wars and really defined the sound,” recounts Leon.

Holy Wars’ story is incredibly powerful, but it is the way in which Leon honestly and passionately dives into her thoughts and feelings through music that makes “Orphan” so provocative and compelling. Holy Wars’ Mother EP, dedicated to Kat Leon’s mother, is out this Friday, June 30th, 2017. It will be followed by her Father EP, out later this year. Loss is permanent, choking, and inescapable, but through music, Holy Wars has channeled her pain into something beautiful. Don’t miss this 2017 artist to watch.

Fans in the Los Angeles area can catch Holy Wars at her EP Release Party on Thursday, June 29 at The Hit Hat in Los Angeles (tickets here)!

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cover © Mark Hanson

Orphan” – Holy Wars


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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com