Holding Absence; the secret weapon of SharpTone Records.
SharpTone Records recently turned one year of age, with the American label first launching back on June 24th, 2016. For those of you unaware, this label was co-founded by Nuclear Blast Records (NBR) CEO, Markus Staiger, and the former Vice President of Sumerian Records, Shawn Keith. However, unlike NBR’s emphasis on “traditional” death/thrash/black metal bands and less to do with the usually proggy nature of Sumerian’s roster, SharpTone instead opts for the core bands.
Looking at this label a year on from its birth, some of their biggest players are without a doubt While She Sleeps (who are signed to UNFD here in Australia), Miss May I, We Came As Romans, Attila and, of course, Emmure; who dropped what was easily one of their best records to date with this year’s ‘Look At Yourself‘. In being founded by two individuals who have been in the music industry for many, many years now, SharpTone is adept at picking up well-established acts to add to their ever-growing ranks. Just as they are also skilful in scooping up newer, younger talents that are brewing with strong potential. With that being said, some of their acts are better than others…
On this lower end, there’s the mere Emarosa-worship of Alazka, the incredibly generic metalcore output of Currents, and the highly outdated pop-metal sound of Across The Atlantic. Then there’s Sweden’s Imminence, who seem to have heard Bring Me The Horizon once and figured they could make a career out of copying BMTH (albeit with a frontman who can actually sing). And that’s not even mentioning the wide contention surrounding Attila’s music and that despite While She Sleeps being a great band, their latest album ‘You Are We‘ was anything but great; falling miles behind 2012’s brilliant debut, ‘This Is The Six‘. (Also, Chicago pop-punks World War Me have yet to release their SharpTone debut release so that could go either way, really).
However, in far more positive realms, and as I mentioned above, SharpTone has Emmure, who are without a doubt on top of their vicious, fire-spitting game lately. France’s Novelists, who while nothing new for their brand of metal do provide strong songwriting chops and solid musical technicality that helps to pull them out of the mediocre depths. Then there’s the darkened, violent sound and 90’s aesthetic of the actually solid nu-metalcore outfit, Loathe, whose 2017 full-length ‘The Cold Sun‘ delivers exactly what a band like say, Cane Hill could not; good music. SharpTone Records have also made the incredibly smart move in snagging up what is ostensibly the U.K.’s finest and quirkiest funk-rock quartet, Don Broco, thankfully diversifying the label’s roster in the process.
On a similar note of exciting quality, now add U.K. newcomers Holding Absence to the above list; a band that breathes both light and life onto SharpTone’s largely heavier, darker sounding roster. Seriously, if you aren’t around this band yet, then you need to be. If only so you can claim that you knew of them prior to them becoming a big fucking deal!
In terms of this Wales quintet’s monolithic and emotive sound, you could best attribute their music to that of ‘post-hardcore’. Or, at the very least, think Canada’s Counterparts with far less screaming and fewer mosh-parts, but don’t think that that’s a downgrade of sorts, as Holding Absence more than make it work.
Of course, Holding Absence haven’t been around anywhere as long as some of their label mates, yet their youth does not equate to poor musical experience nor to a subpar output. Rather, it’s quite the opposite. The Cardiff group’s previous two singles ‘Dream Of Me‘ and ‘Permanent‘ were indeed solid tracks – even if their accompanying music videos left a lot to be desired. However, it’s with the melodically epic and emotionally-driven recent single of ‘Penance‘ that the five-piece truly hits their sonic and visual stride. Because nothing and I mean nothing, says “This is what our band is all about and here’s why you all should be paying attention” than ‘Penance‘. From the stratosphere-scraping choruses and melodies, the deep layers of clean and heavy guitars and gorgeous atmospherics, the heartfelt lyrics, the impactful drumming, the flowing sense of dynamics, the gloriously spacious mix, and frontman Lucas Woodland’s angelic, soaring vocals; ‘Penance‘ is an engrossing and emotionally palpable six-minute journey.
Couple that with the accompanying music video’s well-shot structure, it’s striking, black and white tone and widescreen ratio and you’ve got a tight, neatly packaged product. Oh, and the line of “You’ll read that “dying in vain was as good as it looked” in a forget-me-not written in the spine of a book” is easily one of my favourite lyrics of 2017 thus far. In fact, this song’s near-melancholic message of regret and internal hatred versus self-love is a noble and touching backdrop too.
Now, while the underlying sense of hype in this article does leave a bad taste in my mouth, I do genuinely feel that Holding Absence are destined for far bigger and better things. (I mean, shit, I’ve had ‘Penance‘ on repeat since I first heard it earlier this month). And I think that all it will take for this band’s name and their music to embed themselves into the hearts and minds of listeners around the world is that a full-length or an EP drops this year. For if ‘Penance‘ is any indication at all of what this band can achieve, then what comes next could be something very special indeed; one that should also bode well for SharpTone Records as well.
Find out for yourself why I’ve been loving Holding Absence below.
Header photo credit: Fraser Taylor (yes, the very same Fraser Taylor of Young Guns).