Holding Absence have a vision. The Welsh emo/post-hardcore act possess a keen sense of artistry, meaning each of their three albums has arrived as a cohesive aesthetic package; musically, thematically, and visually.
In contrast to the abstract darkness of their self-titled debut and the moody romanticism of follow-up, The Greatest Mistake Of My Lifethe cover art of their latest album, The Noble Art Of Self Destructionis bright, sharply composed, and strewn with gold fractures.
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“After overcoming and learning from whatever traumas I’d experienced, I realized I was better for it,” frontman Lucas Woodland explains. “I then came across Kintsugiwhich involves making something more valuable after it has broken in the first place.”
To clarify: Kintsugi is a Japanese art that incorporates the fractures in an object (usually a ceramic) as part of its design, rather than trying to disguise them. This process is often done by infusing gold into the glue that’s used to repair it.
“I realized that this metaphor was something I’d always felt, but had never visualized,” Lucas clarifies. “The other image I had was Michelangelo’s David. A block of marble can become anything, but it needs to be broken first.”
These are potent images, which are used on The Noble Art Of Self Destruction’s artwork as well as in its lyrical motifs and thrillingly alive music. These 10 tracks possess more urgency than so many of the band’s other vulnerable anthems, but retain the enormous, open-hearted sound that’s become their trademark.
The album is infused with a new and “clinical,” as Lucas puts it, energy, reflecting the central theme of rediscovering one’s vitality. “With the writing of this album, we spent a calendar year on the road and wrote it in between,” he adds. “You’re listening to a band that’s right in the thick of it all.”
In crafting The Noble Art Of Self Destructionthe four members found themselves working to a strict schedule. According to Lucas: “We had a three-month gap between tours, so [we] worked five-day weeks on it. We knew that if we didn’t do it then, we wouldn’t have had the time to do it for a while.”
Holding Absence are a busy band. Along with putting out three albums on SharpTone Records, they’ve undertaken three U.S. tours, supporting the likes of Silverstein and Being As An Ocean, as well as toured Australia, most of Europe, and played every town and festival possible across the U.K.
Their stage sizes are ever-increasing, as are their album sales and streaming numbers. But was there ever a moment Lucas realized they were onto something special? “I’m proud of this band because we took every step,” he explains. “We never jumped one. I remember great moments, like stepping off the plane in America, but we did everything brick by brick, so nothing has felt too shocking.”
However, certain things strike Lucas as important. “I love how ‘Afterlife’ has become an emo anthem on the U.K. club scene,” he laughs. “I love that we’re a part of people’s lives like that. But it’s all about building blocks and being patient.”
The band’s thoughtful relationship with their fanbase is a significant factor in their becoming close to so many people’s hearts. They engage heavily with fans at shows and on social media as well as, impressively, running their own merch stand while on tour.
“Even on our last American run, we didn’t take anyone to do merch for us,” Lucas explains. “At each date, we made sure we met every single person who bought a T-shirt. It’s the most fun part of what we do. The hard thing will be figuring out how we maintain this connection as we grow.”
There’s a palpable sense of humanity about Holding Absence’s music; another factor that has helped foster such a deep connection with many fans. This is grown-up, cutting-edge emo music that is wise and compassionate, free of any immaturity that marred some of the genre’s early noughties mainstream explosion.
The band’s home country of Wales has long punched above its weight in terms of producing emo bands. The nation is home to just 3 million people, yet the south of the country alone has produced several major post-millennium emo and post-hardcore acts, including Funeral For A Friend, Kids In Glass Houses, and the Blackout.
Holding Absence are clearly the next major band in this lineage. Lucas is, of course, measured in response to this. “I’ve always tried to be real with myself about things,” he says. “Part of me finds it crazy seeing old posters of bands that I grew up idolizing, and they were playing smaller venues than we are now. But the rest of me thinks, ‘No, that isn’t at all true.’”
Beyond just within Holding Absence’s homeland (where bands like Dream State and Casey are keeping the Welsh emo tradition alive), the genre seems to be in rude health across the world.
Lucas has plenty of insight on this subject. “The idea of emo needed to evolve,” he expounds. “So it’s scattered off into so many different realms. If you asked someone who the one biggest emo band is right now, I don’t even know who they’d say.”
He continues: “To me, emo is a philosophy. It can mean so many things. It can be American Football, Paramore, even Fugazi. The main thread that combines it all is the intent, the message. It’s a genre that’s been proven so many times, people won’t settle for poor quality anymore.”
Holding Absence are a shining example of the quality of contemporary emo music. They possess more than enough empathetic wisdom, songwriting nous, and aesthetic flair to continue bending the genre into interesting new shapes.
They already have plans to continue their own evolution. The band have explicitly referred to The Noble Art Of Self Destruction as the final chapter of a trilogy. “We’ve put this three-out-of-three disclaimer on this, which is going to force us to move forward,” Lucas explains. “I wake up every day excited because I’m excited by the different ways this band can evolve.”
Holding Absence have pieced themselves together and are setting up to shatter themselves all over again. Whatever shape they take next, you can be sure that it’ll course with veins of shimmering gold.