Imperfections are a part of life. Despite this being an obvious observation, many people (especially perfectionists such as myself) struggle with this fact. If even the tiniest little minuscule detail doesn’t pan out as envisioned in the “perfect” plan, it will nag at me till I at least attempt to do something about it. However, once I take a step back, I begin to realize that sometimes the imperfections are actually what make so many things “good” in life, and these imperfections can often be what inspires the greatest creative and artistic pieces. Life, humanity, and art are perfectly imperfect, and in many ways, make us who we are for the better. The acceptance of this realization is exactly what the UK rockers Holding Absence grapple with throughout the duration of ‘The Noble Art Of Self Destruction’.
The Japanese art of Kintsugi, which is the process of mending broken pottery with gold, making the once-broken object more valuable because of its imperfections. On ‘The Noble Art Of Self Destruction’, Holding Absence uses this philosophy both lyrically and visually to take the listener on an immersive journey of self-acceptance despite the imperfections in life. We start our journey on the despondent opener “Head Prison Blues”, written from the perspective of a broken person at the end of their rope, feeling trapped in a cell by their insecurities and mental health struggles “(My head’s been a prison nobody should live in/I’m losing the will to go on)”. Led by drummer Ashley Green’s aggressive performance, the track sets the tone for the album with its 2000’s emo-inspired instrumentation that matches the accompanying lyrics flawlessly. The song also fits as a solid introduction to the new elements the band have added to their established sound, feeling like a natural progression from 2021’s ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’.
These lyrical and sonic themes are continued in “False Dawn”, which serves as a defeatist anthem with a brutally honest look at the sting of failure and the feeling that you’ll never amount to anything in life “(From humble beginnings to humble ends, baby, I’m a loser, don’t mean a thing/Prophecies of me have been seen that I just don’t believe in)”. The track leads right into “Scissors”, a companion to its predecessor in many ways and answering the hopelessness of “False Dawn” with a glimmer of determination to turn things around, albeit by “cutting off” imperfections with a pair of scissors. The heaviest track in the album instrumentally, it marks a turning point in our journey, marking the first hopeful moment of the record alongside a breathtaking vocal performance from Lucas Woodland.
Inevitably, mental health crises and insecurities peer back into the fold a couple tracks later on “Death, Nonetheless”, which shares many commonalities with “nomoreroses” from their last LP. A grimmer take on the themes expanded upon in “False Dawn”, the song wrestles with the perceived insignificance of life and well, death, nonetheless “(I learned life’s insignificance/I know someday that I will be a small white cross upon a pale blue dot/No one will even remember me)”. This is followed up with a love-letter to the concept of death itself on “Her Wings”. While less straight-forward, the song is the most poetically grim piece on the record, and as the exact center crux on the album, it fittingly serves as the lowest point in the journey.
This is contrasted immediately with “These New Dreams”, an airy mid-tempo rock ballad where Woodland expresses remorse for the dark thoughts he had in the prior tracks, finding new motivation to better his life and start anew through the wreckage of his own self-destructive habits “(But these new dreams/They keep me up/I’m ashamed of all the things I’ve felt, I’m trying to absolve myself/And I’ve been holding onto burdens that weigh a ton and burn my flesh/I’m trying to absolve myself)”. The vulnerable and emotional “Liminal” furthers this sentiment, struggling with the non-linear and back-and-forth nature of mental health struggles and feeling stuck in the middle of self-destructive and self-improving tendencies. With a soaring chorus, the track is standout song on the album for me, as someone who struggles with this exact feeling of being stuck in the middle mentally and how sudden and “liminal” these swings always are “(Maybe I’m stuck in the caverns of hell and the plateaus of heaven/I hang like a puppet impaled on a coil, just waiting to find my fate)”.
The album comes to its culmination with the closer, “The Angel In The Marble”, an anthemic 6-minute track that finds Woodland come to peace with imperfection and ups and downs, realizing that it takes hard times and flawed experiences to grow and improve. The track harkens back to the opener “Head Prison Blues” but as its antithesis, showcasing the personal growth and fulfilling journey that takes place over the span of the album. The song crescendos into a gut-punching and positive declaration that will come to define the band and the album for years to come: “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”. “The Angel In The Marble” is the perfect closer to an album about imperfection, tying back directly to the central inspiration of Kintsugi, with Woodland picking up the broken pieces of himself and making something better out of them. The track effectively bookends the album and wraps up the band’s three-album trilogy, showcasing personal and musical growth and maturity through sonic exploration and lyrical vulnerability that can only be summed up in one phrase: The Noble Art of Self Destruction.
Holding Absence‘s third full-length studio album ‘The Noble Art Of Self Destruction‘ is out now on all streaming services via Sharptone Records. Watch the official video for “Her Wings” below.