Though long, winding, and at times arduous - the road to the debut album for Holding Absence was worth travelling down. The band are an anomaly, producing what will undoubtedly be a very strong contender for Album of The Year. Taking two years to lament over the self-titled album’s topic (a real-time narrative of a relationship breaking down due to mental illness), the cliché phrase “brutally honest” is the only term fitting to describe the extent vocalist and lyricist Lucas Woodland has gone to emotionally in the conception of this record.
Listening to Holding Absence in full almost feels like eaves dropping. It doesn’t just focus on one emotion in retrospect; you’re present when Woodland begs his partner to “Stay a little longer” in ‘Like A Shadow’, when he turns to a higher power and prays “God, find me a place to be up above” in ‘A Godsend’, and when he finally admits it’s the end, spitting “Burn it down, get it over with” in closing track ‘Wilt’. The earnest and intense approach to his own ordeal is so welcoming, each song becomes memorable and relatable in its own right.
Despite being categorised as hardcore/metalcore, Woodland’s range rarely hits the harsher end of unclean vocals. More often than not, he’s heard opting for powerful outbursts and rough growls, not to mention the soft falsetto notes heard in slow interlude ‘Purge’. Despite defying such a standard trope of the genre, it’s actually refreshing to hear the contrast between heavy instrumentation and such clear, power ballad-style vocals.
This also reflects the importance of Woodland’s lyrics as his style conveys so much passion and rage yet it never strays into incoherency. The same can be said for drums: the one instrument that is typically put straight on the back burner when being mixed and is often lost under layers of guitar and bass. On Holding Absence, Ashley Green’s rhythms ring clear on every track in which they feature, with particularly intricate patterns in tracks like ‘You Are Everything’ and ‘Wilt’ not going unnoticed.
Certain techniques and instrumentation choices also make it very clear who Holding Absence’s inspirations are. Matching eerie synth melodies and similar polished screaming techniques, it could be argued that they mirror Architects’ latest albums a bit too closely at times, while the occasional use of pop-metal elements are very reminiscent of post-2013 Bring Me The Horizon. ‘Last of The Evening Light’, for example, features synth melodies which sound as though they were practically sampled from Sempiternal, as well as a chorus rife with fast-paced drum beats and rumbling riffs layered with ambient synths that come as standard with any Architects release.
Although, this doesn’t mean the whole album is predictable by any means. ‘Monochrome’ takes on a heavy rock feel which allows for variation, however its major key doesn’t sit well within the sombre vibe of the rest of the record. Electronica is another sub-genre they attempted in vein, with vocal distortion so prominent and ill-fitting Woodland might as well be under water. It wouldn’t be a shock if the middle eight of ‘Your Love’ involved a secret vocal collab with Basshunter, while every line in ‘Marigold’ is echoed, thus making the already dull piano track feel twice as long.
While Holding Absence’s identity in melodic metal may need refining and their more experimental tracks fail to pay off, the greatest and most explosive elements heard within the 11 songs outshine the odd negative production choice. And although some could be turned off by their similarities to other artists, imitation is the greatest form of flattery and it has provided the scene with some of the highest quality work we’ve heard from a newcomer for a while.