Holding Absence – ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’

By Yasmin Brown

It’s hard to believe that Holding Absence are only just releasing their second album. Having built up a fanbase whose devotion and passion would rival the likes of those in the pop world, you might expect this band to have a back catalogue just as long, too. 

As it turns out, though, time and experience isn’t always necessary when it comes to writing and releasing music that evokes the most powerful of emotions. Holding Absence have managed to capture the hearts of many in just six short years and one album, having found their voice almost instantly, and it’s a voice that has stood the test of time; with every new song, Holding Absence only further prove they’re one of the strongest bands in the scene right now.

The difficulty of releasing such a strong debut album, as HA did with their self-titled release, is that you’ve built yourself one hell of a pedestal on which to lose your footing. With ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’, however, Holding Absence have not just cemented their position, but have done so without a single slip or stumble. This album is an undeniable masterpiece.

The opening moments, shared in the form of ‘awake’, are made up of soft synths and piano, building up in a way that reflects awakening on a Sunday morning, with more sounds filling your ears as you slowly regain consciousness. This feels apt given Holding Absence haven’t released an album since early 2019 and their last full live set took place in December 2020, and it flows perfectly without pause into ‘Celebration Song’, where the first words sung are “I’m alive”. And now, so are we. 

Ears now firmly pricked, we can truly appreciate the anthemic and ethereal  ‘Curse Me With Your Kiss’, a song made for the live show and lending itself perfectly to a singalong and, as with every song on this record, flowing seamlessly into what is already a fan favourite, ‘Afterlife’. 

While all albums are generally crafted in such a way that they should be enjoyed from start to finish, this well-flowing nature strongly suggests that this is even more important for ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’. In many (if not all) cases, the start of one song subtly picks up exactly where the last left off, meaning if you were to listen out of order, you’d feel you had missed something – some kind of context that allows for a real appreciation of each song. And you would be right. While undoubtedly still powerful as standalone pieces, when the album’s singles, ‘Beyond Belief’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘In Circles’ were released, they did feel somewhat incomplete. By being able to listen to this record in full, these songs are contextualised, and everything now makes perfect sense. 

This album is an experience, and it’s one that’s been strengthened by the fact that the band’s newest guitarist Scott Carey played a huge part in its creation. While Carey has been an integral piece of HA’s live show for some time, he didn’t participate in the writing of the band’s self-titled album and it’s easy to see that TGMOML’s triumph is hugely down to his involvement. This is still Holding Absence, no doubt, but they’ve amped things up tenfold with this record, the craftsmanship, production and overall sound being more mature and more powerful than ever.

This progression is also apparent in Woodland’s vocals, going from strength to strength as you move from one track to the next, but never more so than in the melodic ‘Drugs and Love’, heavier ‘nomoreroses’ (complete with what is undeniably the greatest bridge on the record) and seven-minute rollercoaster ‘Mourning Song’. His signature vocals are also complemented by those of his sister, Caitlin, in the soft yet impactful ‘Die Alone (In Your Lover’s Arms)’, adding more layers to the already complex track. It’s also Caitlin’s voice that you hear speaking softly at different times throughout the record, further tying the album together into the perfectly presented package that it is. Her inclusion is always welcome, but never more so than in ‘phantoms’, where Lucas fails to appear at all. It’s ethereal and cosy, yet a little sad, like a rainy day spent tucked up in bed, a sentiment that is continued in the subsequent penultimate track, ‘Mourning Song’. These seven minutes had the potential to drag, but instead Holding Absence take you on a journey that you never want to end, building slowly to crescendo made up of a cacophony of sounds before falling almost immediately to ghostly background sounds driven by a soft acoustic guitar.

As is to be expected by this point, the transition into the closing track – a cover of Gracie Fields’ ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’ – is seamless, and despite its crackly 1930s nature, it still feels like the perfect ending to this album, fitting perfectly with everything we’ve heard up until now. You can hear the emotion in Woodland’s voice that one can only muster as a result of a personal connection to the song (in this case, this song was earlier covered by his great uncle), and it’s the finale this record needed.

We’ve witnessed Holding Absence grow exponentially over the past few years, taking on endless curveballs with grace, and with ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’, it’s clear that they have no intention of slowing down any time soon. This album takes everything we’ve always loved about this band and honed in on it, leaving little room for criticism. We may never know what the greatest mistakes of their lives are, but this record sure as hell isn’t one of them.

YASMIN BROWN

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