The Greatest Mistake Of My Life, Available April 16th.
Allow me to start off by saying that I never thought I’d be writing something like this again. The long winded album reviews stopped being fun to write after a while. I did them back in high school when I wanted to become a music journalist and it seemed like every album was written specifically for me. Obviously, as an angsty teenager, everything seemed too huge and important for the moment so you had to let the world know about it.
However, that’s not a feeling I find all too common anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to a ton of great music made by wonderful bands. Recently though, I feel like I’m always left with a longing for something more. It’s likely my own dread in realizing that not everything can feel like it did as an angsty teenager. Urgency is a word I use to describe music because it’s the only one that feels right even if I don’t actually know what I mean by it. There’s just music that feels important. Music that everyone needs to hear. The sound isn’t limited to a specific genre or subject matter. It is universal. And when you hear it, it’s unmistakable.
Today I’m declaring that Holding Absence makes that kind of music.
I’ve known Holding Absence for a couple of years now, and truth be told, I hadn’t listened to them much until a couple months ago. A friend of mine, Chris, texted me a link to them playing their song “Wilt” at the Heavy Music Awards. The performance was bone chilling and absolutely blew me away. Unbeknownst to me, just a couple weeks prior, the band had just put out the video for their most recent single, “Afterlife.” Obviously I had to do myself the favor of checking it out, as it was the second single off their forthcoming sophomore album “The Greatest Mistake Of My Life”. About three minutes and fifty seconds later I was contemplating whether or not they were my new favorite band.
Afterlife comes in with vocalist Lucas Woodland’s powerful vocals over a humming riff before a punching snare takes over. The soft chime of keys over top of the otherwise heavy and, pardon my repetition, punchy snare makes for a wonderful dichotomy that will persist through track in other ways. The first verse eases you back into comfort with pillowy vocals over a rim clicking pattern from drummer Ashley Green and a soft plucking from guitarist Scott Carey. The pre-chorus quickens the tempo and immediately shifts from ease into that sense of urgency I mentioned before. The first chorus sees the two intro sections come together in one harmonious collection of music. It’s a chorus I find impossible not to pound the steering wheel to while trying to match Lucas’ powerful vocals.
The second verse is a lot like the first, the rim clicking pattern is replaced with the same pattern played on the snare, and overall the song lulls you back down to a place of security so the intensity hits like a freight train when the second chorus comes in. The second chorus features a variation in the second half where the music shifts to half tempo, which is ALWAYS a plus in my book. The bridge is dreamy and mesmerizing with Lucas repeating “I dream I’ll see you in the” and “I lost a vital part of me” in a battle of layered vocals with a heavy but not overbearing drum fill in the back.
This plays into a stripped down section with just vocals over a guitar lacking any distortion. Lucas shifts his vocals from soft to aggressive as the moment builds to an amalgamation of the whole band coming in at once back into the final chorus. Not without its own final surprise as Lucas belts out his highest note of the song in such a controlled manner that it gives me pause every time I listen to the track. The intensity of the last chorus was set up wonderfully throughout the track, start to finish. The punchy drums, the keys over top, the heavy strumming, and powerful vocals all had their singular moments to shine and finally combined for a masterful ending.
As is typical these days, I have an issue like many others, where I overplay a song after it comes out and grow tired of it quickly. That’s not been an issue with Afterlife… nor would it become one with any of the three other singles the band released prior to or after it. I was instantly obsessed after listening to Afterlife and followed up to see when the album was supposed to be coming out, only to find myself staring at another music video released a few months prior.
Which brings me to the lead single released all the way back in October of last year, Beyond Belief. The track starts off notably different from Afterlife. The tuning and tempo has a much more light, uplifting feeling to it. It reminds me a lot of something you would hear from fellow UK rock outfit Young Guns, specifically on their album “Ones and Zeros.” The verse is driven musically by a heavy bass lead and a smooth vocal melody that hears Lucas echo back to himself, “God only knows.” I’d come to realize that references to religion and its imagery would be lyrically recurring as I listened to further singles. The verse and chorus don’t shift in tone much, but the chorus does bring a slight upward shift vocally as the guitar and drums kick in over top of the lead bass line that carried through the verse.
I personally feel like good songs become great songs with a well done bridge. Coming out of the second chorus with a bellowing vocal and barrage of kick and crash hits, the bridge picks up into a 1.5x tempo. I don’t mean to harp on this idea of urgency that I’ve already mentioned twice before, but that’s what this bridge gives to me. Lucas seems to be reluctantly coming to terms with something at this point in the song, and you can hear it in his voice. He transcends past this section of pleading, into desperately casting out his feelings to whoever he needs to hear it with a controlled, passionate vocal that flirts with being a scream — but it’s so tempered I wouldn’t classify it as such. The bridge breaks down into a section similar to that of “Afterlife” with the distortion-less guitar and vocals that come back in all at once, while replacing the keys in Afterlife with a strings section overtop. The chorus plays into a fade out with the guitar humming its last note.
So at this point I’m sold; hook, line, sinker. This album has catapulted to the top of my “most anticipated” list of 2021 just behind Architects (wonderful release) and Don Broco. With two singles, Holding Absence had already earmarked themselves for a release that should be on everyone’s radar. I’m now at the point where I’m stopping whatever I’m doing to listen to the next single whenever, wherever it comes out.
So that’s precisely what I did when “In Circles” came out in mid March. The beginning has an airy presence with some sort of cymbal rimming. Fading into the forefront is what I could best describe as a rattle (which I didn’t even hear until I listened to the track in my car for the first time weeks after it came out). A somber guitar and soft snare/kick pattern blend with the airy ambience that persists into the first verse. This is the softest we’ve heard Lucas on any of the now three singles so far. The bass slides in between the rhythm guitar strums, leading into a drum fill that instantly picks the song up into the chorus. The soft vocals we heard in the verse are dichotomized as Lucas shifts upward vocally into long drawn out vowels and syllables.
The second verse brings the feeling back down to a similar level as the first but now you’ve got an idea of where the track is willing to go, and hoping it’ll go further. It’s a ballad at this point, but it’s got plenty of room left to really define itself as one that goes on every melodramatic, self loathing playlist. The second chorus comes in, and it’s also more of the same from the first. The structure of this song is different from the first two, however, in that it skips the idea of a bridge and takes you directly to the ending following the second chorus. We get the dueling harmonies once again, like in Afterlife, but this time Lucas is really letting it loose on the outro verse behind the post chorus. The desperate feeling conveyed in this outro vocally, with the drums coming in at their heaviest on the track, made for another song that left me with chills. The song plays out with the music that played it in, this time with keys over top for the first play through, then leaving just the rattle and guitar. With the guitar finally fading out with the cymbal rimming.
Okay… maybe I do mean to harp on the idea of urgency, because it’s the lifeblood of why I’m writing this. I’ve not had a band make this many songs, consecutively, that just genuinely floored me since The 1975’s debut album. It’s a subjective quality of course, but what truly isn’t when it comes to music? These three singles are special. Truly special. That hardly happens anymore! Typically bands show off versatility through singles to attract as wide an audience as they can to show their core sound on the album. Frankly, that’s still what Holding Absence has done here. The difference is that their versatility is unique and perfected on each song. They committed to being who they wanted to be with no remorse and they’re reaping the rewards.
“Beyond Belief” — an alternative rock song that could (should) play on alt radio across the world.
“Afterlife” — A strong active rock song that could (should) play on rock radio across the world.
“In Circles” — A ballad that could (should) blur the lines of alt and active rock.
Bringing me to the final single, “nomoreroses”, which came out two days after my birthday. Late gifts are better than no gifts and this song is no exception. This song comes in heavy out of the gate, and would be right at home in any post hardcore playlist. Loud, distorted guitars with a pounding kick and crash combination that would command anybody’s attention. Suddenly the drums are muted down. It sounds as though you’re standing in an empty music hall with nothing to absorb the sound. Just you and the drums with their dullish echo. It picks back up into the initial barrage of noise, with a slight haunting vocal above it. It drops back out into the empty music hall one more time before culminating with a section that almost sounds like it should be at the end of a sound. It sounds like the climax a song builds to, like you hear in “Afterlife” or “Circles”. It’s an outro at the beginning of the song.
I feel that “nomoreroses” is Lucas’ most impressive vocal performance of any of the four singles. He’s aggressive and pleading through the verse following the outro-intro. With a near growl like tone on multiple occasions he’s getting lower than he has yet on any single. Then the chorus comes in and flips the track over, with a more rhythmic, poppy strumming and string section behind Lucas who has started angelically serenading the listener. The second verse is led in with those hollow drums as the vocals take a low tone, spoken quickly. The feature of this verse for me is the bass line and hi hat carrying the tempo. It keeps the verse aggressive in its own way, different from the first, while the vocals are ominous more than they are angry.
Leading through the rest of the verse with a somber inflection, the chorus returns with his angelic tone but quickly changes course as Lucas questions how many more times he has to spill his heart to get the point across that he doesn’t believe in God because any time he’s tried, he’s been given a reason not to. It’s a slow vocal build up into a power three part note that might be his most powerful of any song so far. The vocal cuts abruptly with natural ambience, strings and a strumming guitar playing out to the end.
In a time where albums are viewed as out of style, I’ve been begging for this one to come into my life. There’s a natural beauty to desiring something that you can’t have. I still like watching shows in a weekly, seasonal format as opposed to binging seven seasons in two days. I still prefer leading up to an album with a well designed schedule of singles. Furthermore on that note, I have a personal disdain for too many singles coming out before the record. It’s as though Holding Absence knew that, because my rule of thumb is the number of singles released shouldn’t exceed ⅓ of the total tracklist. And they met that completely arbitrary standard of mine as well, because I want plenty of surprises when I sit down to listen.
I have a conversation with a few of my friends every so often about the lack of classic “scene” albums being made now. I’ll leave it up to your own subjectivity to decide what is and isn’t “classic” (or if the “scene” even still exists), but I don’t think one has been made since Architects released “All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us.”
This band and album don’t need the labels or limitations. The songwriting is masterful. The music is powerful and passionate. You can hear it in every song. You can see it in every music video. And for the cherry on top, Lucas Woodland might have the best voice I’ve heard in a very long time. Not because of technique or range, because I’m not qualified to make that kind of statement. But because of the way he can convey exactly how he’s feeling no matter what the feeling is. And if music is made for any reason, it should be made to feel.
“The Greatest Mistake Of My Life” will be a classic album.