Overall Score: 9.5/10 Vocals: 10/10 Standout Tracks: 9/10 Emotional Impact: 10/10 Pros: A vocal masterclass tops off one of the albums of the year Cons: Nothing
This is Holding Absence. Words heard and read time and again by those, like us here at Rock Sins, who have followed the South Wales collective from their inception. Four years on from bursting onto the scene with their first single, and two years on from their debut self-titled album, Holding Absence return with “the difficult second album”, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life.
The first words the listener will hear on this album, after the intro track, are Lucas Woodland belting “I’m Aaallllliiiiivvvveeeee” at the start of Celebration Song. After everything the world has been through in the last year, there’s just something incredibly cathartic about this moment. It’s not just the vocals either; the full musical explosion of the song is like a wave carrying the listener along with them.
“I know that years from nowHolding Absence – Celebration Song
The final flame runs out
I’ll be a grain of sand
Running through a strangers’ hand
But right now……
Celebration Song is such a special track as it can and will be interpreted in many different ways by many different people. Despite the fact it was written before the pandemic, lyrics like “I live to see today, I lost so much along the way”, along with the opening, it really does feel like a musical riposte to the last thirteen months.
Afterlife is perhaps the song most of all from The Greatest Mistake Of My Life that feels like it could have been from the debut album; It follows the successful recipe that was used to great effect on the first several tracks of that album, but is freshened with a more upbeat, melodic feel (perhaps the work of producer Dan Weller’s excellent, practiced hand on the tiller) and was an ideal choice for a single. In the documentary the band released to accompany the album, it’s discussed how Ashley Green’s drumming is the perfect counterpart to Lucas’s vocals in a way that doesn’t often apply with most bands. This is hugely evident on Drugs and Love, as the drumming adds an additional couple of layers to what is going on with the vocals. Another of the singles, In Circles, might be called a typical rock radio single by some, but its still a very well crafted song and showcases the skills of guitarist Scott Carey and the now departed bassist James Joseph nicely.
Those who prefer the darker, heavier side of Holding Absence both vocally and musically will find much to enjoy with nomoreroses. It is counterbalanced by the album’s first single Beyond Belief; When originally released several months ago, many fans wondered if it signified a big change of direction for the band in style. The album as a whole shows that those fears were unfounded, and that The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is Holding Absence presenting a more refined version of their sound – evolution not revolution if you will. Speaking of Beyond Belief, the chorus will grind its way into your head in the way all the best earworms do, along with the guitar melody, and stay there for weeks.
As special as everything that has gone before it feels, there’s nothing quite like Die Alone (In Your Lovers Arms). What starts as “just” Holding Absence doing what they do best (riff filled songs full of pure emotion) turns into a stunning duet between Lucas and his sister Caitlin (who is just as vocally talented as Lucas). The interplay between their vocals is absolutely magnificent, and creates a standout moment in an album full of them. Caitlin’s presence is also in effect on other parts of the album, with her providing some of the spoken word bits, but this is her (and the band’s) finest hour.If this song isn’t all over the best of lists at the end of the year, something has gone very wrong.
The penultimate track, Mourning Song, is a seven minute emotional epic. Initially a slow burner with spikes of power in the choruses, it builds to showcase the musical power of all elements of Holding Absence at their maximum. As is evident throughout, Lucas Woodland is one of the UK’s finest vocalists, but Mourning Song really puts the stamp on this. The variety of styles, the power of the vocals at times and the subtlety in others are all on show across this seven minute rollercoaster. The album closing title track has a wonderfully unique story behind it – and rather than retell it, we recommend the documentary the band have made about the album (included below). Thirty minutes of your time that would be very well spent to watch the whole thing, the story of the title track is addressed at the start and puts an emotional bookend on a special record.
One third rock for the year 2021, one third post-hardcore at its finest and one third emo in the true sense of the word, Holding Absence have crafted a modern masterpiece. The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is one of the greatest albums you will hear all year. As someone once said, “It’s not a prediction…it’s a spoiler”.
The new Holding Absence album, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life, is released on the 16th of April 2021 through Sharptone Records. Pre-order the album or pick up some TGMOML merch from the bands’ webstore.