Photo by Milos Balać
“Shadow of Doubt,” the title track from NYC Americana quintet Satin Nickel’s recently-released debut album, takes on the biblical story of doubting Thomas–a story that never sat right with co-frontperson Morgan Hollingsworth.
“My middle name is Thomas, and every time I heard the story, I was always frustrated that Thomas was criticized for not believing what the disciples told him and waiting until he saw Jesus with his own eyes,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why should he be criticized for questioning and wanting more proof?’”
Skepticism toward tradition permeates Shadow of Doubt the album, which positions the band as genre iconoclasts, of a sort. Throughout its track list, they spin bluegrass yarns over pounding kick drums and play pop-rock melodies on mandolin and cello. With a little help from director Nick Snow, the video for “Shadow of Doubt” crystallizes that dynamic in stark, colorful fashion.
Performance footage of the band merges with a more abstract visualization. Hollingsworth rails against religious hypocrisy, silhouetted against a pure black background, intercut with similar angles on co-frontperson Samantha Aneson, cellist Ariana Carp, bassist Andrew Shewaga, and drummer Nikola Balac. Their outlines are overlaid with plumes of smoke and forest paths–then spirals of stained glass, rows of church pews, and bombed-out streets.
The video’s elemental imagery is compelling to watch, and where there’s smoke, there’s no shortage of fire in Hollingsworth’s pointed critique and his bluesy, distorted guitar crunch. “You’re praying to Christ as you spit on the poor / so I spit on your promise, ‘cause Thomas wants more,” he sings, all but spitting as he does.
Sonically, “Shadow of Doubt” is a show-stopping album closer that shows Satin Nickel’s adventurous side. They combine Americana songwriting with those harder rock textures while Aneson’s bright banjo rolls twinkle above it all. Snow’s visuals bring out the darker side of that rich, weighty instrumental, itself an expression of the song’s shadowy undertones.
Hollingsworth delivers the song’s final challenge–”Do you doubt me?”–his face blotted out in orange light. Then the video fades into 12 solid seconds of black. It gives even more gravity to the question he raises, and the central paradox at its heart–uncertainty as a position of strength. And it’s not just a bloodless thought experiment.
“In this era, I see millions of people blindly following religions, bosses, political leaders, etc. who claim to speak of truth and love. Yet, they deny basic facts and spew so much hateful rhetoric toward people they don’t even know,” Hollingsworth says. “They’re told that if they work hard, they’ll be rewarded, while those in power steal the money and resources needed to survive. This song demands that facts and honesty be embraced, and that doubt is not only acceptable, but it is vital to the search for truth and love.”