For Fans Of
After discovering them on their split EP with Loathe, ‘We Are As One‘, I was thoroughly impressed with what I heard from the Holding Absence camp. That was the first time I had ever heard of them and their music, and a good first impression was absolutely left upon me. Looking back into their discography, though, I was equally let down yet extremely impressed. Let down as I sorely and selfishly wanted more, but the fact they only had a few tracks released along with said EP, and the fact that those tracks were all quite good (hello ‘Penance‘ and ‘Saint Cecilia‘, I was excited to see what would land next for Holding Absence! Now enter their self-titled debut album.
Now, I’ve never been one to understand the need for self-titled albums, as I feel it’s tacky. However, this is the first album I’ve heard where it being self-titled is appropriate. At this point in time, Holding Absence are still a small blip, with few people being aware of their sound, let alone their very existence. Yet this titular LP is the perfect introduction to the “who” and “what” of this band. It’s a flashing neon sign that attracts eyes, embolden with writing: “this is what Holding Absence is all about.” From even my very first listen, it was obvious how much effort and heart was poured into it. It’s genuine and well-put-together, and you can feel all of that in the music. Which can be a difficult for any band, let alone a young group like this, to do. In this being their debut LP, I was also pleasantly surprised with how cohesive of an experience it was. There were seldom ever moments that felt forced; each song has its own contribution to the wider picture.
‘Holding Absence’ places you at the early foot-holds of this journey with opener, ‘Perish’. This first track starts off peacefully and slowly, similar to how ‘Towards Dawn’ held your hand as it took you into the monster of a record that was ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ by the almighty Rolo Tomassi last year. These kinds of ambient intros aren’t anything new, but they are effective. Once said ambience reaches its end, in comes the band swinging at full force like a tidal wave hitting you from behind. You can sense it coming but you don’t know how far it is away and you sure won’t be ready for when that blow is delivered. ‘Perish‘ also gives you a decent grasp on how the rest of this record will sound, too. Holding Absence do a good job with their tight amalgamation of soothing, ambient rock and biting post-hardcore. It isn’t revolutionary, but they execute what’s been overdone in this genre effortlessly and with finely-tuned precision.
Whilst many of the tracks do have a same-y feel, each song still stands on its own two feet; they have their own character. There’s also some diversity to this record’s flow, and I appreciate that. Among the tracks, there’s variation as you encounter slower, piano-focused pieces like the serene ‘Marigold’ and the floating and fleeting nature of ‘Purge’. All contrasted with expressive, powerful cuts such as ‘Like A Shadow’, ‘To Fall Asleep’, and ‘Monochrome’. Also, a lot of these songs don’t always follow strict structure – intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus\, etc. – as other bands in this style tend to do, which keeps things fresh.
There are countless moments in which these guys work in the way that a band of this style should; in perfect harmony to create an ethereal, captivating environment. There are plenty of soft, glimmering moments throughout with spacious guitars and waves of reverb, yet also many parts which quickly and seamlessly transition into blistering, blunt sections of fast tempo’s and energetic instrumentals, all before transitioning back to that original calm before the storm. One of the best examples of this is ‘Last of the Evening Light’; a wonderful push-and-pull between it’s verses and choruses that shows exactly why people are starting to take real notice of Holding Absence currently. (That, and there’s the song’s killer bass tone too.) Although these instruments speak no words, you can clearly hear the emotion coming forth from the lush sonics that the band surround Lucas Woodland’s vocals with. Guitarist and bassist, Feisal El-Khazragi and James Joseph respectively, create these vibrantly layered soundscapes that engulf the listener, along with an anchoring rhythmic accompaniment from Ashley Green behind the kit. Each member here really is playing with an incredible amount of passion, and that bleeds over into the music itself.
The obvious focal point of this album is Lucas’ captivating, soaring vocals, as well the honest lyrics that he so openly shares about love that is no more. The singer’s high-register voice and well-controlled range suit the music perfectly, as his melodies are contagious and his harsher screams are appropriately used to create a better vocal dynamic. His screamed vocals sure aren’t the best, but their scarce usage causes said screams to carry more weight when utilised. His singing melodies on the other hand are really quite impressive. You’ll find many of these choruses to be especially memorable as Lucas’ risky, melodic sequences are a little unorthodox as his melodic shapes often follow weird patterns. There are a few songs in which his choice of vocal structure during the choruses may even sound disjointed, as in ‘Your Love (Has Ruined My Life)’, but his execution of these unorthodox melodic patterns easily makes up for any minor shortcomings. A perfect example of a chorus that is executed perfectly and powerfully in this way is that on ‘To Fall Asleep’: “can’t you see that it’s haunting me/Every night when I try to sleep?/I’m so weak“.
Lucas puts an insane amount of emphasis on extending certain vowels, in order to lend added weight to a specific word or phrase. I honestly lost count of such instances, great moments on this record where he carefully and fittingly nails just the right tone and pronunciation of certain words; phrases that then leave you feeling what he’s feeling as he sings these parts. It’s a seriously palpable effect, and not enough vocalists today in this scene seem to be putting anywhere near as much thought into this area as Lucas is doing so right here. Kudos, dude, kudos.
Other than the odd, infrequent vocal misstep you may encounter once in a blue moon here, there’s very little to dislike or even critique about Holding Absence’s eponymous work. There were instances during the choruses and during the faster, over-driven guitar passages that left the mix sounding muddy, as the drums and bass got eaten up by all of the high-gain guitars. However, the clarity of the mix throughout the slower and melodic passages more than made up for that. And perhaps that was exactly what the band was aiming for, as it’s obvious that so much love and care went into the sonic crafting of this record.
Holding Absence’s debut LP isn’t just a collection of songs, but a cohesive and seamless listening experience full of ambient rock and powerful post-hardcore. There is something special about a record like this that takes you through the dizzying highs and crushing lows throughout its entirety. (Even if that’s something that isn’t always fully accomplished here, unfortunately.) From what I personally took away from this strong debut release, ‘Holding Absence’ pulls you through an emotive journey of anxiety and depression, difficult feelings born out of a failed relationship and scorned love. Tough thoughts and feelings that vocalist Lucas Woodland expresses through his own stellar vocal performances; placing his heart on his sleeve about the personal inspiration behind this record’s context.
Truly, if I had never heard of Holding Absence prior to listening to this record, I wouldn’t be able to tell this was a debut effort; like what ‘Hybrid Theory’ is to Linkin Park. ‘Holding Absence’ sounds like a refined record that you’d expect from a veteran post-hardcore band that’s already cut their teeth. Yet this is solid first full-length from a young, growing band who is, slowly but surely, taking over the damn world. This is Holding Absence. This is the year of the grey moth.
- Your Love (Has Ruined My Life)
- Like a Shadow
- You Are Everything
- To Fall Asleep
- A Godsend
- Last of the Evening Light
Holding Absence’s self-titled debut album is out now!