“I’m alive”. Two words that carry so much power when they’re belted with the life-affirming force Lucas Woodland of fast-rising stars Holding Absence imparts as the very first words of their hotly-anticipated second album, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life. Their rise has been meteoric from their initial beginnings in Cardiff and the buzz around them has only gotten louder with the reveal of their much more colourful aesthetic and each single.
Where their self-titled debut blended crunching post-hardcore with soaring melody, this is a natural progression from there that dials down the raw heaviness and instead turns the emotion up to eleven. The elements that made that debut so exciting are still here; their command of melody along with the emotional honesty and intensity are all present in spades. Perhaps the most obvious change is that this is a much more mature album than its predecessor, unafraid to tackle the trials and tribulations of life head on.
In their own words, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life - and Holding Absence as a band - are about emotion. More specifically, tackling not just the love and heartbreak that informed their debut but about all emotions and learning to live with these. It’s that exact sentiment that leads them to open the first proper track, ‘Celebration Song’, with the wonderfully life-affirming “I’m alive” atop a shimmering, expansive soundscape. It’s a bold opening statement to say the least, but they’re not done.
From here it’s onto the slow burning, ethereal ‘Curse Me With Your Kiss’, an ode to “the one that got away” and dealing with the aftereffects of the heartbreak it can cause, with lush synth and string arrangements forming a backdrop. ‘Afterlife’ forms a counterpart to this in some ways; the band describe it as a song about a love that transcends death and knowing the person watches on afterwards. It’s also the best song they’ve ever written - so far - with a stomping beat and a rousing, transcendent chorus.
Their knack for raw, heart-on-sleeve storytelling has only gotten better, providing a deeply honest look into mental health both musically and lyrically. There’s occasional spoken word interludes like on ‘Drugs and Love’ and Lucas’ own sister makes an appearance on the odd occasion such as ‘Die Alone (In Your Lover’s Arms)’, making a serious argument for the most vocally talented sibling duo in rock in an arresting duet. Just before things wrap up, though, Holding Absence pull out all the stops for ‘Mourning Song’, a seven-minute epic that’s the antithesis of the opener - a very deliberate choice - that takes in softer ambience to a yearning, emotionally devastating chorus.
True to their vision, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is an emotional rollercoaster; both positivity and negativity are explored frankly and openly throughout and it all culminates in a left-field but stunningly beautiful rendition of the inspiration behind the album and its title track, cover of the 1950's song of the same name by Dame Gracie Fields. It’s a showstopper in every sense of the word, tying the themes of love, loss, hindsight and regret together along with the more celebratory moments that came before. A quantum leap from its predecessor, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is inarguably one of, if not the finest rock albums of the year, if not longer.