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Holding Absence - 'The Noble Art Of Self Destruction' Album Review


Tracklist:

1. Head Prison Blues

2. A Crooked Melody

3. False Dawn

4. Scissors

5. Honey Moon

6. Death, Nonetheless

7. Her Wings

8. These New Dreams

9. Liminal

10. The Angel In The Marble


After releasing 'The Greatest Mistake Of My Life' in 2021 and 'The Lost And The Longing' EP with Alpha Wolf in 2022, Welsh quartet Holding Absence are back for their third album 'The Noble Art Of Self Destruction', released August 25th through SharpTone Records.


The album begins in spectacular fashion with ‘Head Prison Blues’, a song which blends what we have come to expect from Holding Absence with a new quality that shows the progression and growth of the band over the past few years. The lyrics are beautiful in their pure emotion, which is to be expected from the band, however I feel like vocalist and lyricist Lucas Woodland has once again outdone himself, opening himself up and showing even more vulnerability, reflected in the lyrics of the chorus “My head’s been a prison nobody should live in”, which takes on even more power in the closing moments of the track when Woodland gives it his all with a tonne of vocal grit. The track is naturally sombre whilst maintaining a high energy throughout, even in its quieter moments. The entire band is perfectly in sync, with each member complimenting each other whilst also taking their own individual moments to shine. In my eyes, this is the perfect way to open the album.


Next up comes lead single ‘A Crooked Melody’, which has potentially one of the catchiest choruses in alternative music this year. The harmonies between Woodland and Guitarist/Backing Vocalist Scott Carey are absolutely phenomenal, and the dynamic between Bassist Benjamin Elliot and Drummer Ashley Green is possibly one of the best I have ever witnessed. Carey’s guitar work and the piano riffs are stunningly complimentary, and this provides a beautiful summation of the album.


The album then fades into ‘False Dawn’, the second single released. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore Woodland’s vocals on the entire record, however this is the first time they soar in the typical Holding Absence fashion, with subtle vocal gymnastics in the intro to the chorus which could definitely fill a stadium in my eyes. Green’s drums provide a rock solid backbone throughout, with each snare hit being delivered with an astounding punch, providing an amazing counterpart to Carey’s understated yet driving guitar work, once again complimented by Elliot’s bass licks. I was in absolute emo heaven when I first heard this track, and continue to be every time I revisit it.


‘False Dawn’ ends very abruptly, giving way to the atmospheric intro riff to fourth single ‘Scissors’. This track is very much light and shade, with the verses being really quite dark and heavy, seemingly taking inspiration from the band’s time working with Alpha Wolf, whilst the choruses carry a seemingly upbeat air to them, providing a brilliant dichotomy. The second chorus leads in to a brilliant bridge, almost literally encapsulating both definitions of breakdown; Carey and Elliot in perfect unison with Woodland slowly becoming more and more aggressive with his vocal delivery, which then continues through a final chorus that crescendos to the end of the track, leading into third single ‘Honey Moon’, which is the polar opposite to ‘Scissors’. A hauntingly beautiful ballad which is the perfect platform to showcase how phenomenal both Woodland and Carey’s vocal ranges are.


Once again transitioning straight through comes ‘Death, Nonetheless’, which holds what could potentially be my favourite work from both Carey and Green. They encapsulate a style that I struggle to put a finger on, blending so many different genres and subgenres into one track. I can see this becoming one of the most powerful live tracks in the band’s already stacked arsenal with the group-vocal bridge, the repetition of the lyrics “Death to the beat of the drums overarching, death, nonetheless is constantly marching” is something that gives me goosebumps, and I cannot wait to experience it live.


‘Her Wings’ breaks the straight through transitions of the albums mid-section. This track has such a frantic, almost disjointed feel to it that I love. It sounds like something straight out of a film scene where the protagonist is racing to stop a life-altering event. Just when you think the track has peaked, Holding Absence through another curveball, culminating in an extremely fast-paced outro. It is the shortest track on the album, clocking in at 2:58, however the way it is orchestrated makes it feel like a sog half the length, something that has dumbfounded and wildly impressed me.


Following on is ‘These New Dreams’, another more ballad-y effort. I found myself beginning to draw comparisons to other songs in my mind, however I kept drawing blanks, and that in and of itself is astoundingly impressive. To create something that sounds so familiar yet so unique is an impressive feat. Once again, the instrumentation is phenomenal, with a beautiful intro piano riff that feels to be taken over by Elliot on the bass throughout the verse. Woodland’s refrain from using his signature higher-pitched vocals on this track is an inspired choice, providing a brilliant counterpoint to the shimmery, ethereal guitars provided by Carey.


Penultimate track ‘Liminal’ channels the essence of mid-2000s emo whilst giving it a 2023 twist. It carries the spirit and grit of that era within the vocals and the lyrics with some downright gorgeous production rounding it out and marrying it seamlessly with the instrumentation. Its slower paced but still hits like an absolute gut punch, providing a different kind of heavy than tracks such as ‘Scissors’ and ‘Her Wings’. It very much encapsulates the feel of the beginning of the end of the record.


Last, but by no means least, we carry straight in to ‘The Angel In The Marble’, a near six-minute masterpiece that beautifully sums up the entire journey of 'The Noble Art Of Self Destruction'. It has a phenomenal melancholic aggression that provides a phenomenal setting for an anthem of a journey to self-acceptance and love, showing the inspiration of the Japanese art style of kintsugi. There are so many lyrics that are immensely powerful within this track, however the elongated outro of the track is an absolute goldmine that, without fail, leaves me in tears, especially the repetition of the line “I am a puzzle, I am a painting, I am a work of art in the making”. I find myself truly lost for words.


Holding Absence are one of the most consistent bands that I am aware of, and 'The Noble Art Of Self Destruction' is further proof of this. It is an absolute masterpiece from front to back, and I will be in utter shock if this isn’t the catalyst that propels them to the top (a bold statement I know). You can tell that all four members put more than just their hearts and souls into every single second of this album; and I absolutely love it. In fact, I might go as far as to say it is a perfect album.




Review - Gordon Rae

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