Maybe it was a bit premature to expect Holding Absence to spearhead an entirely new branch of Britrock, mostly because theirs is a sound that feels as though it only has room for one real success story, and at that point in time, even they themselves weren’t at that stage. As much as their lofty, atmosphere and deliberately monochrome take on post-hardcore wowed, and even produced a couple of other acts trying their best to follow suit, there was always something that held back Holding Absence’s self-titled debut, and even now, it’s hard to pin down what exactly it was. Maybe it was the fact they came through a more grounded, creative wave of Britrock with a polished sound akin to that of the early- to mid-2010s; maybe it was the fact that the hooks weren’t quite up to scratch next to their ambitions. Whatever it was, it magnified the limitations of an album that was good but not as great as many touted, especially in hindsight, and for a band placed at the forefront to break the scene wide open seemingly from the very beginning, that placed some doubt on how far Holding Absence could actually go. There was clearly something in them that so many had clocked onto early, and while there was a lot to be impressed by in their intentions and in Lucas Woodland’s power as a frontman, the disconnect at seeing Holding Absence continue to fly so supremely high without a real golden moment has always stood out.
On The Greatest Mistake Of My Life though, they might just have hit it. It’s easily a more complete experience than the self-titled album, simply through an emboldening process that their particular formula has undergone, where it hits more strongly more often, and places greater weight on just how powerful Holding Absence can be. That’s honestly the only substantial tweak that’s been made, but the difference it makes is considerable, where songs across the board will regularly ooze and swell with greater resonance, and the overall experience has the drama to stick so much more readily. It always felt like a case of ‘when’ rather than ’if’ Holding Absence would hit their great stride, and The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is every hope of what could’ve been fulfilled.
A noticeable key factor comes in how much Holding Absence’s vaunted confidence is brought to life this time around, where this sort of sweeping, unashamedly elegant and ornate post-hardcore has the size and capacity to properly come into its own. The production still might feel a bit too airy and blustery for some tastes (there’s definitely a roundness to notable instrumental parts of Celebration Song that isn’t ideal), but it’s leaned into more rather than worked against. The mood it gives off is most reminiscent of Architects overall, where there’s still a defiant rock edge among the smooth, crystal-clear production and mixing, and where unlike some of their contemporaries and stylistic neighbours, there’s not a clandestinity or toothlessness to it. In the case of Holding Absence, their knack for blowing a song up to utterly enormous proportions is almost always on full display, but the likes of Afterlife and Mourning Song still bear some notable crunch that drives the deliberate bleakness and expanse. More so than most, Holding Absence have a knack for expertly-placed balance, and that’s similarly brought to the fore on The Greatest Mistake Of My Life, where textures and volumes will ebb in and out of view to properly crystallise the cinematic potential that’s always been there. What’s more, there’s a refreshing purity to it all, where gimmickry is really a factor and the ability to craft towering, monolithic rock songs takes precedence throughout. Between Curse Me With Your Kiss, Afterlife and Beyond Belief, the melodic acumen this band has can be frankly unreal, and it’s seldom felt as expertly realised as on this album.
But, of course, it’s Lucas Woodland that’s the dynamo at Holding Absence’s heart as always. To put it simply, he’s practically untouchable when it comes to extolling these steamrolling threads of emotion, right from the first declaration of “I’m alive!” on Celebration Song that sets a worthy tone for everything to follow. On an incredibly polished album, he’s the premier source of grit and human emotion that’s such a needed balance, where sweeping lyrical sentiments that might otherwise seem trite or maudlin have true passion behind them. Celebration Song conveys this excellently, in a rush of triumph and gratitude of weathering the storm and coming out the other side not necessarily unscathed, but enriched for the experience. Elsewhere, it’s exactly the same case for songs about loss or broken relationships, where Curse Me With Your Kiss, In Circles, Mourning Song and plenty others keep such a fine balance between aching vulnerability and teeth-clenching catharsis, delivered with conviction in every syllable that doesn’t go unnoticed. Even in comparison to their debut, this feels a lot bigger and more important in how its presented, in the sort of writing that relies on its humanistic power even more so than previously.
On the flip side though, it’s not an album that requires too deep of an analysis for why it works so well. It’s basically Holding Absence hammering out the kinks in what they already had, where the appeal is already instrinsically broad and simple, but just has more to it this time around. But that also makes it the perfect example of how to do broad and simple correctly, where the powerhouse execution means it doesn’t feel like there’s any component missing, and the visceral nature of it all is what keeps it moving so effectively. That’s where The Greatest Mistake Of My Life ultimately shines, in Holding Absence’s endeavour to bridge the generations of Britrock that actually feel fruitful on a consistent basis this time around. They’ve come into their own almost exponentially greater than what their debut showed off, to where it really feels like this is the version of themselves that everyone saw at the start, only now being impossible to deny.
For fans of: Casey, Fightstar, Funeral For A Friend
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ by Holding Absence is released on 16th April on Sharptone Records.