A debut album should stand as a bold statement of intent. Some bands absolutely nail the formula that they will rigidly stick to for their illustrious careers like Slayer did with Show No Mercy (Metal Blade Records). For others, it can be the start of a journey that is a mystery yet to unfold as they explore their own sounds and find comfort in their own abilities, see Undertow (Zoo Entertainment) by Prog Metal maestros, Tool. With their first full-length and self-titled effort (Sharptone), where do Holding Absence sit?
The album opens on spectacular form with the post-Hardcore belter, ‘Perish’. Lithe synths swirl around delicate, slow guitars that gently let out each plucked, reverberating note. The band kicking in is explosive and visceral. Most importantly, Holding Absence is proving they can be exciting; the vocal pattern in the chorus, particularly when screamed has the emotionally wrought quality and agony of the likes of Sam Carter of Architects.
Sadly, the momentum built up on ‘Perish’ and following song, ‘Your Love’ quickly slows to a halt. Things become formulaic and repetitive from here on out, with vocal lines mirroring their intra-song counterparts and instrumentation that becomes indistinguishable from track to track.
The heavier, full-band songs feel as though there is one idea stretched across multiple moments. Things essentially become more boring the more they descend into more poppy territories. The album is a downward spiral of quality from start to finish.
The album’s nadir comes in the form of the much dreaded but wholly expected ballads, ‘Marigold’ and ‘A Godsend’. Two songs so saccharine they feel like your veins are being pumped full of treacle, no amount of rich texturing through the admittedly excellent production can save these trite, unnecessary and ultimately disposable tracks. The album would benefit from their removal.
Lyrically, there are lots of forlorn and lovesick meandering around unrequited and unambiguous desire – fairly standard fare – however, the rhyming couplets and turns of phrase are delightfully unusual and prove consistently exciting through their expertly employed witticism. Most of the vocal lines are infectious enough to hold interest throughout the album even if they become a touch repetitive after a few songs.
Holding Absence’s self-titled debut album is, particularly considering the build-up and anticipation, something of a disappointment: a beautifully produced and well-paced album certainly, but one that fails to capture any inspiring feeling, and the musicianship, though richly textured, feel monotonous and repetitive as the album unfurls, as do the vocal melodies.
There are moments of greatness, but they are fleeting and infrequent and it is impossible to overlook the holes in the album’s armour. This debut is not a blueprint they should follow, hopefully, it is a slight misfire while they find their feet, as if they focus on the strongest points of the album going forward, they could end up being the great band their promise suggests they could be.
6 / 10