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Album Review // HOLDING ABSENCE ‘Holding Absence’

Where language falls short in adequately expressing the human experience, music can lend a helping hand and that’s why Holding Absence’s debut album is one you need to listen to – to not only better understand yourself, but also those around you by reflecting upon our hurt.

Holding Absence album 2019

At the best of times, music can provide a catharsis for our emotions. It has an ability to make us confront the most innate parts of ourselves, and it makes us experience feelings that we don’t always have the words to capture fully – where language fails, music steps in. And that’s exactly what the debut Holding Absence album does. There’s no quite right way to describe the way the album will make you feel, because it’s sure to mean different things for different listeners, but what can be said is that this will be an album that will be held dear to many by virtue of its ability to simply make you feel and connect with it.

Opener Perish sets the tone for what will be an intense and emotional journey. Detailing heartbreak as vocalist Lucas Woodland cries in anguish ‘You had the world at your feet and you kicked it back at me’, there’s no denying the sheer intensity of the passion that anchors the album. Flickering between ethereal electronics that glaze over the verses and volatile drumming in the chorus, it displays a duality of the band’s sound; masters at creating both tender moments and violent bursts of fervour, the whole spectrum for musical expression is covered and not a single nuance is left untouched.

Combining poppier hooks without compromising on lyrical depth, Your Love (Has Ruined My Life) is a bittersweet homage to the end of a relationship, when you’re plagued with conflicting thoughts and uncertainty about how to come to terms with it. The rawness found in Lucas’ vocals hammers home all of the pain and questioning, and the turbulent instrumentals only build on this sentiment. Coming to terms with it in Monochrome, it’s a reconciliation with yourself and moves from the uncertain to the certain as it concludes ‘If I failed you, then you’re better off alone’.

A pounding drum resounds through the opening of To Fall Asleep, bearing semblance to the beating of your heart, before impassioned guitars and bass crash in and knock the breath out of you. Dramatic choral harmonies only build on the theatric flourishing of the track, as poetic lyricism delivers a deeply poignant message of hurt and aching. Delving even deeper into this hopeless feeling in Last Of The Evening Light, the exoneration of pain drives you to asking blunt questions such as ‘Is this terminal, or will I heal?’. There’s no facade left; this is the expression of someone who has been stripped down and reduced to nothing but their most instinctive emotions, seeking answer and solace in their darkest thoughts. Expressed through Lucas’ coarse screams, pummelling drums, and battering guitar chords, the darkness of the lyrics is reflected sonically and although it’s not the most comfortable feeling in the world, it’s something you need.

This isn’t to say the album is completely dark and heavy-hearted though; the piano ballad Marigold shines through with its wistful melody and creates an atmosphere so delicate you’ll be afraid to break it. Lucas’ stunning vocals take centre stage, trickling through your ears like honey and bringing a sense of tranquillity amidst the heaviness that permeates the rest of the album. A Godsend will sweep you off your feet with its subtle desperation, veiled behind lulling guitars and an expansive soundscape.

Finale Wilt is a hard-hitting finish to what has been an already intense expulsion of emotion. From the fragile piano opening, it’s a slow-burner as it crescendoes towards a tormenting whirlwind of agonising heartbreak, and as crushing drums ricochet off fervent guitars, you’ll feel your every sense heighten as the texture swells. Returning full cycle to the tinkering piano that opened the track, it’s a fitting finish with a resigned tone as you accept everything that forms your existence, both the good and the bad.

From the hurt, melancholia, and love, it’s possible to rise through and move on with a glimmer of hope. They all play a part in our lives, whether we like it or not, and Holding Absence is able to acknowledge this truth in their debut album, creating a body of work that is sure to resonate with many and be important for this very reason.