'Holding Absence'- Holding Absence / Turned Up Louder
Few bands had more of a whirlwind year last year than Welsh atmospheric post-hardcore unit Holding Absence. The recently bolstered five-piece have grown from playing to crowds that barely reach double figures to playing for thousands in a little over twelve months, off the back of a series of stunning singles and a searingly-hot split release with the heavy metal prodigies, Loathe. Holding Absence blend their viscerally raw, candid lyricism with wistful melodies and crunching basslines, and that has endeared them to their ever-expanding legion of fans, all of whom have been eagerly awaiting the release of the band’s first full-length record. Now, that self-titled debut is finally here, and it is everything that their fans could have dared to dream it would be.
Ethereal and haunting, opener ‘Perish’ builds out of an array of softly droning synth notes, with the lead guitar rising slowly through the choral harmonies, as if through a vat of treacle, before the crushing bassline slices through into a thunder of drums. The screams of frontman Lucas Woodland in the chorus prickle with a fiery intensity that is insatiable and addictive, loading the track with a white-hot ache. That tidal wave of emotion continues to build into ‘Your Love (Has Ruined My Life)’, which bursts with ghostly resonance and spiralling vocals proclaiming lyrics full of bittersweet images that tell a poignant story of a love lost- a universally understood sentiment.
The first single from the record, ‘Like a Shadow’ made its live debut on the band’s winter tour supporting pop punk wunderkinds As It Is, and on record it still carries that self-same energy as it did live. In an interview with Turn It Up Louder in November, frontman Lucas Woodland said of ‘Like a Shadow’: ‘I was very conscious of [it] being a ‘radio song’… but I feel like the song still has that melancholic tragedy underneath’. A touch poppier and more upbeat than much of their earlier singles it may be, but the orchestral grandeur that lurks beneath the verses means it still carries that iconic Holding Absence stamp of authenticity. Latest single ‘Monochrome’ is also a shade brighter than some of its fellows: driven by the cantering drums, it bursts like a bright flower in the gloom, with the distorted vocals at the end of each chorus adding an extra light flair to the tips of the melody.
Not that Holding Absence are afraid of touching base with their metalcore roots- on the contrary, this is a record full of blistering energy and sweltering passion. Grand, ritualistic drums hail the opening of ‘To Fall Asleep’, soon joined by a slewof fiercely grumbling guitars, a sound with a sheer magnitude that could fill stadiums with ease. With a trembling power akin to an erupting volcano, the track boasts all the authority of bands such as Asking Alexandria and all the overblown melodrama of the likes of Avenged Sevenfold, yet it still carries that idiosyncratic layer of tragedy that bubbles away below the surface, which Holding Absence have so beautifully crafted across their entire discography. The pace kicks back up again on ‘Last of the Evening Light’, bringing with it a torrent of more of the same dramatic, anthemic choruses as adorn much of this record. However, that is by no means to this song’s detriment: when the clean vocals are this entrancing and the blazing screams and thrashing guitars send a jet of adrenaline speeding through your veins, the phrase ‘you can’t have too much of a good thing’ has never been more apt.
While tipping their hats to the genre from whence they came, Holding Absence also make a distinct effort to never be limited by such boundaries. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the slowly building cascade that is ‘You Are Everything’, which rides unburdened by structure and form- it is an open letter, as honest and frank as it is possible to be. The track is an instant tear-jerker- the pinnacle of emotion being the line that has inspired the band’s motto ‘realise you’re enough, you are everything’- a truly heart-wrenching, goosebump-inducing crescendo. It is by no means inaccessible, but it is clear that this is a song was crafted for their most loyal fanbase, a dialogue that exists solely between the band and those who have connected with their music on the most intimate of levels.
Indeed, the highlights of the record come in those moments where Holding Absence are at their most vulnerable: where the pace slows, and the listener is given distilled moments of beautiful clarity. Luxe, rich ballad ‘Marigold’ carries a bittersweet, warm melancholy in the opening piano notes, as the vocal line flows over a soft blanket of angelic, echoing harmonies. It is less grandiose than some of the earlier tracks, affording it a delicacy and fragility, as if a single breath of wind could shatter the slowly twinkling melody. Similarly, the angelic undertones of the harmonies morph into a more literal lyrical motif in the transfixing ‘A Godsend’, as drums patter like a distant, ticking heartbeat, and guitar lines swirl and morph like a soft grey mist, with the touching lyrics shimmering like a diamond core within. Short and sweet, but similarly plaintive, is penultimate track ‘Purge’, which boasts delicate piano notes, and soft vocals that refract through a prism of the tenderly reverberating melody.
Providing a heart-wrenching conclusion to the record is closer ‘Wilt’, where the dark groan of the bass adds a thicker layer of black melancholy to the album’s closing minutes. The flickering flames of Lucas’ vocals standing stark against the whooshing black wind of the choruses that rush through your body, ensuring that this album will nestle itself into your consciousness for long after the final, evocative notes and isolated, soaring vocals have faded from your ears.
What Holding Absence have created here with their self-titled debut LP is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is simply stunning. In a music industry that seems to reward those who stick hard and fast to their genre’s party line, it is so rare to find a band with such individuality and character, who are willing to stick unflinchingly to their mission statement and create art that is raw, candid and that challenges its listener to confront the uncomfortable. This album commands you to think, to feel, to smile and to cry- to accept the human condition in all its forms, and to truly feel every pitch and fall in the melody, every resonant lyric and every heart-wrenching note- exactly as the best music should.
Forget album of the month. Forget album of the year, even. ‘Holding Absence’ is up there with the best albums of all time. You’d be mad not to give it a listen.
‘Holding Absence’ is out on March 8thvia Sharptone Records.
Check out the video for their latest single, ‘Monochrome’, below:
Holding Absence have a run of UK headline shows scheduled for March, dates can be found below: