ALBUM REVIEW: Holding Absence – The Greatest Mistake Of My Life
Post-hardcore/rock powerhouse Holding Absence are on the brink of greatness. Coming out of their hometown of Cardiff some six short years ago, Holding Absence absolutely stormed their ascent in the alternative music scene, with their atmospheric amalgamation of belting anthemic choruses, battering drums and big guitar riffs on their monochromatic hard-hitting debut. To follow in the footsteps of such a strong self-titled takes some beating, but the band have done it with their sonically, lyrically, thematically and visually stunning second album The Greatest Mistake Of My Life. A beautifully colourful masterpiece from start to finish, with its heavenly, ethereal, heavy sound and emotionally complex storytelling, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life represents everything Holding Absence have said and stood by throughout their career to date.
The Greatest Mistake Of My Life gets underway with opening instrumental moment awake. A song built beautifully on dreamy whispers and soft pianos, this is the perfect introduction to a simply breathtaking body of work, that transitions seamlessly into the album’s first true track Celebration Song. A moving, melodic-rock driven ballad, Celebration Song bursts full of life and youthful exuberance throughout its emotional lyrics, that effortlessly take on themes of existential dread, life and love. The song starts with vocalist Lucas Woodland belting out “I’m alive!”, a spirited jump from his awakened state in the album’s instrumental opener. Woodland’s vocals continue to be euphoric and elegant, sung with such belief, conviction and determination throughout the track, accompanied by pounding percussion and almost glittering, shimmering and wistful synths. A celebration of being alive and breathing, Celebration Song sets the tone for the raw, emotional rollercoaster of despair, elation, joy and pain, which the remainder of the record embarks upon.
Curse Me With Your Kiss follows, a heartfelt song made to heal all the broken hearts out there. Reminiscing about the one that got away, the song goes through all the motions of a relationship, from the initial rush of affection, infatuation and romance, to the golden honeymoon period that still feels so fresh and exciting before things turn sour, leading to the eventual feelings of heartbreak and longing for a lover that got away. Sent out by light, airy and ethereal sounds, Curse Me With Your Kiss is a masterclass in songwriting on a subject we can relate to all too well.
The dynamic range of sounds each single brings is an accurate representation of the array of styles showcased throughout the record. From 80’s ballad Beyond Belief, to the anthemic rock tune Afterlife, the infectious indie-pop In Circles and the post-hardcore heaviness of nomoreroses, each single spends its run time defying people’s expectations of Holding Absence to absolute perfection. Afterlife is a prime example of this, as the track takes all the ethereal elements associated with their self titled LP’s hit single Like A Shadow and multiplies it’s melodic appeal tenfold, to get this powerhouse of a dreamy anthem that showcases the band’s fresh new sound. The track delivers big, beautiful bursts of magical instrumentals and blissful backing vocals in the song’s intro, bridge and outro, with a soaring chorus that sings about a love that lasts beyond mortal life in its lyrics: “I know I’m out of sight/But am I out of mind?/And when I close my eyes/I dream I’ll see you in the afterlife.” As a standout single, Afterlife is a blessing sent all the way from heaven.
Deep cut Drugs and Love cuts through the singles like a hot knife. Menacing drums and guitars, by Ashley Green and Scott Carey respectively, power over the top of a moving, spoken word monologue, that come together to curate a dark and sinister sounding song; similar to the deep thoughts depression is capable of inflicting inside a person’s mind, a matter the song’s brutally honest story tells. Woodland’s vocals weave their way in between the spoken word interludes, with a soothing approach in the verses to a seething intensity in the chorus – the broad scale of his vocal range both impressive and powerful on Drugs and Love.
The subtle In Circles comes up next. The third single from the album, In Circles stunningly speaks of the mundane, monotonous cycle of everyday existence, the demolishing of dreams that come with being stuck in the rut of life’s clinical rituals, routines and indeed circles. A song with such strong lyrical meaning must have a strong visual to reflect its story; the Zak Pinchin directed music video sees a majestic depiction of a human’s boring daily schedule revolving in endless cycles as Woodland, looking like a young Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, keeps on walking hypnotically down the never ending road of routine, the only elements ever changing being the transition from day to night and the outfits on his back. In Circles is an atmospheric and melodic dose of reality, that makes us all awaken with a start to realise our aims, ambitions and aspirations in life.
nomoreroses follows as the latest single from the record. Heavy, devastating and progressive, nomoreroses harks back to the band’s roots firmly in atmospheric post-hardcore. The thunderous track features intense instrumentation, the boldest and best bridge on the album and a melodic undercurrent that runs throughout, something Holding Absence have explored not just on this very punchy number, but within their dynamic soundscape on the entire record.
First single Beyond Belief is a wonderous song that explores new sounds for the Welsh band. Starting off with dark, dream-pop vibes that wistfully reminisce of iconic bands like The Cure and The Smiths, Beyond Belief immediately soars into 80’s vintage synths, sweet guitars riffs and a catchy singalong style chorus, that is bound to get crowds singing and heads bopping during long, hot, hazy summer days during a mid-afternoon festival set. Lyrically, the song follows on from Afterlife, aiming to analyse how human emotions can handle eternal love and how the mind can comprehend the concept of falling in love forever. The warm, fuzzy sensation is brought to life by Beyond Belief’s bright, retro coloured aesthetics, far apart from the purely monochromatic world Holding Absence once inhabited. Light, airy, instantly recognisable and memorable, Beyond Belief’s timeless classic appeal makes for a song designed to stand the test of time.
Touching track Die Alone (In Your Lovers Arms) tells a tale of the loneliness two people can feel within a sour and loveless relationship. Following on from the spoken word aspect of Drugs and Love, Die Alone is a family affair that features guest speeches and vocals from Woodland’s sister, Caitlin Woodland. The super talented sibling duo portray the two perspectives of deathbed regret in perfect harmony, as the pair share vocal duties throughout the track’s softer second verse and colossal chorus, that undeniably share similar sounds to 2019 song Wilt.
We than move onto the penultimate seven-minute number Mourning Song, which acts as the big emotional sister to previous release Penance. The pair of special songs share this infinite emotional impact and grandiose sound, whereas lyrically, Mourning Song explores how the death of a loved one can affect the different stages of the grieving process. Whether that be the initial emotions of sadness, sorrow and misery, with the chorus contemplating this complex concoction of feeling: “How is it fair I must live this life/Without your infinite light and guidance?/How is it fair you had no choice of when you left?/And now we all live in the shadow of it”; or the feeling that you need to live life to the fullest on behalf of those who no longer can, in the song’s reflective bridge, “There is beauty in any loss that teaches you a lesson/All the beautiful friends we leave behind without ever forgetting/Though life will move without you, I will never move along/This is my last chance to sing you to sleep”. Ultimately, Mourning Song is an epic heart on the sleeve moment and stands out as one of the most stunning vocal performances by Woodland.
Rounding off the record is the title-track that is gorgeously inspired by a song of the same name, which recorded back in the 1930’s by actor and singer Dame Gracie Fields. The track was later covered by Woodland’s great uncle during the 1950’s and now Holding Absence’s own rendition of the song sends the album out in cinematic and timeless fashion.
It’s undeniable that Holding Absence have hit upon something truly remarkable with their second record The Greatest Mistake Of My Life. From start to finish, the album is an emotional collection of songs and stories that teach us valuable lessons in love, life, death and everything in between. As Holding Absence has proved, the greatest mistakes can sometimes open the door to even greater triumphs and such is the case with the atmospheric, impactful and album-of-the-year-worthy The Greatest Mistake Of My Life.
Standout Tracks: Curse Me With Your Kiss, Afterlife, Drugs and Love, In Circles, nomoreroses, Beyond Belief, Mourning Song
For Fans Of: As It Is, Dayseeker, Dream State
Written by: Katie Conway-Flood