‘Holding Absence’ finds healing within pain

From the smudged, inky type of the artist’s name to the golden cracks “sealing” the album art itself together, “The Nobel Art of Self Destruction” has a well-worn, well-loved feel. // Photo courtesy of SharpTone Records via Apple Music

Welsh rock band “Holding Absence” released their newest album, “The Noble Art of Self Destruction.” Their third full-length album concludes a trilogy representing the first “chapter” of the band’s career. Woven throughout the 10-song tracklist is a message of introspection, self-doubt and hope. 

“The Noble Art of Self Destruction” is not what some might call a traditionally “happy” album. However, compared to the first two within the trilogy, “Holding Absence” and “The Greatest Mistake of My Life,” it contains a more hopeful theme. The emotional growth the band channels into the recent album makes it the perfect way to close out the journey they started with the previous two works. 

Like all of Holding Absence’s discography, each song has a raw genuineness that combines lyrical poeticism with lead singer Lucas Woodland’s passionate vocals to create a product that resonates with listeners everywhere. In an interview with Upset Magazine, Woodland explained that the depression, grief and heavy sadness of the past albums helped him learn more about feeling positive emotions; the negativity gave him the ability to believe in something better. Woodland said that he thinks fans can hear the difference between the person he once was and who he is now in the band’s new music. 

Since the beginning, the band has placed high importance on undeniable honesty in their lyrics. The band has been classified as alt-rock, post-hardcore, metalcore and other variations of similar genres. Regardless, they built their foundation on the sincerity and heart they work hard to paint with words and chords, transcending whichever genre they may be boxed into. Opening with “Prison Head Blues,” the album begins with a gripping and melodic metaphor about feeling trapped in one’s own mind. The first words, “Here I am, heart in hand,” lay the whole album on the table for listeners. Each song is a part of Woodland’s inner self, brought to fruition through his lyrics and voice, along with the beautifully fitting instrumentals of guitarist Scott Carey, bassist Benjamin Elliot and drummer Ashley Green. “Crooked Melody” follows the same metaphor, but instead of being trapped inside his head, Woodland sings about the lies he has to tell himself to persevere through the bad towards the better side. 

 “False Dawn,” one of the tracks originally released as a single, documents the common, yet often devastating, experience of coping with failure and letting go of expectations. The song concludes with a near-seamless transition to “Scissors,” which is about growing as a person through sacrifice and letting parts of oneself go. The fourth track on the album, “Scissors,” is widely considered one of the hardest-hitting, with its emotional lyrics and gritty, desperate vocals. 

“Death Nonetheless” brings out the more post-hardcore, emo-sounding version of Holding Absence, complete with prominent, racing drums and a chanted outro reminiscent of the early emo sounds that have influenced
the band’s journey.

All of the songs, though, are simply a build-up to what might be one of the band’s best songs to date. “The Angel in the Marble” is the album’s closer and a culmination of the journey represented throughout the album. The song title comes from Michelangelo’s famous quote about his angel sculpture from the Ark of Saint Dominic: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” The other notable art reference within the song is the same reference depicted on the album cover itself. Kintsugi is a Japanese art form in which broken pottery is repaired by filling the cracks with gold lacquer, accentuating the flaws to make a new, equally beautiful piece. Woodland calls himself a kintsugi sculpture as a way of saying that despite the trauma he has been through and how he has broken down in his life, he is learning his self-worth and continuing to grow every day. 

Woodland’s lyrical talent reaches its truest, unbridled form in the bridge through the lines, “I am a puzzle, I am a painting/I am a work of art in the making/Trust in your hand and/ trust in the process/I am a work of art in the progress/I learned from my flaws, and I cut myself open/glued myself better/Golden; unbroken. Now, all I have left is/A handful of hope and/A thousand laments that I can’t leave unspoken.” The lines that eventually become the album’s final words perfectly summarize the intended message of “The Noble Art of Self Destruction.”

Theatrical melodies, deeply vulnerable lyrics and emotional vocals combine to create a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with the challenges of being human. While referencing self-doubt
and pain, the music also represents a hopeful message of healing and growth. A meaningful conclusion to Holding Absence’s first chapter of their career, “The Noble Art of Self Destruction,” is proof that the band puts their all into their art, and they will only continue to grow through whatever their next step is.