Review: “This Is As One” Split EP from Loathe & Holding Absence

In January, the news that SharpTone Records would be putting out a split EP from Liverpool’s Loathe & Cardiff’s Holding Absence came as a surprise. The two bands maybe on the same label but while Loathe are currently on the crest of a tech-metal wave with their stunning album “The Cold Sun” (check out our review!) and global tours including with Wage War and KnotFest, Holding Absence are some way behind. What wasn’t a surprise was that neither band cover each others material and we get two brand new songs from each band (plus a live song from each band on the Vinyl edition). A UK tour run together was an obvious choice when “This Is One” was put together and so as that tour comes to an end, here’s a review of the pair’s split EP.

Loathe open up with “White Hot” which has a beautiful Deftones-esq chorus with guitarist Erik Bickerstaffe delivering a very Chino Moreno styled vocal almost to the point at which you would do a double take. Indeed the whole chorus section of the song could be from the Defones “White Pony” album. Contrasting that you have some typical Loathe, edgy-tech-metal with a brutal unclean vocal from frontman Kadeem France. There is also a play on the vocals as Erik Bickerstaffe also has an unclean part in the pre-chorus call and response as well as Kadeem France having a clean vocal part in the chorus build. The way in which the contrasting styles within one song are effortlessly blended is stunning. The bounce and energy of the post-chorus riff age combined with the melody of the chorus is something else. “Servant & Master” also has a Deftones vibe to it while also having a raw quality that is very “The Cold Sun”. Loathe’s signature use of syths also appears towards the end of the track which adds a stark industrial soundscape element. From the eerie lead riff into the melancholy opening vocal lines before some guttural uncleans is a solid start that transforms into something else as it moves along. The mid-song solo and deliberately slowed-down breakdown to close are very clever touches. While this second song isn’t as good as “White Hot”, it certainly has the hallmarks of a solid mid-album track.

The end of “Servant & Master” seg-ways neatly into “Saint Ceclia” by Holding Absence thanks to both song having the aforementioned Deftones-esq vibe. This time it’s with the main riff and it’s overlaying lead. Lyrically it’s a fantasy like love song that borders on devotion with a solid clean vocal from frontman Lucas Woodland. The lyrics then build into the breakup of the relationship and into loss. The production is rock solid, drums crisp and clear and guitar work deserves a mention. It’s a well constructed anthem that will have crowds singing along. The vocal line “That’s the thing. You break my heart strings” adds a neat turn around and the song progressively mellows as it closes. The problem is in direct comparison to Loathe (and that’s exactly what this type of split release does, makes the listener form direct comparisons between the bands), Holding Absence don’t have the nuances or dynamic that captivates as much as Loathe. While “Saint Ceclia” is a decent enough tune, a solid alternative metal number, it doesn’t have the magic something to make it a cut above. “Everything” then takes us a much more melancholy journey. A slow build with a steady and driving drum pattern that pulls everything else through until the guitars cut in and raise everything a couple of notches towards the end. There is again an anthemic quality to it in the sense that it’s starting to border on arena rock in a Muse like way.

It’s difficult to see what this split release is attempting to do. On the one hand, you get a couple of new songs and a tour from the bands. Both bands are in the middle of album and tour cycles and neither particularly needed a lift from the other in order to increase sales, both bands were already going along well. SharpTone Records executives perhaps thought that the two bands fan bases were compatible and wanted to get them into the others band but that hardly seems necessary. If the songs had been released digitally on their own, separately, there is no doubt that fans would have snapped them up. Further to that, if each band had released an EP consisting of the two new tracks plus two live ones then fans of both bands would have been equally happy. The problem is that the split EP almost forces the listener to compare the bands and they are a long way apart in terms of style and audience they are playing to. So to review the EP as a whole is like reviewing a compilation album – the tracks kind of need to be scored individually, so that, we have done.

Track listing

  1. White Hot – Loathe [9/10]
  2. Servant & Master – Loathe [7.5/10]
  3. Saint Cecilia – Holding Absence [7/10]
  4. Everything – Holding Absence [6/10]

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