EP REVIEW: The Lost & The Longing – Alpha Wolf and Holding Absence

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What do you do when you’ve defeated that difficult second album syndrome by dropping a career-defining, chart-invading record during a pandemic? If you’re Welsh alt-rockers HOLDING ABSENCE or Australian metalcore mob ALPHA WOLF, you team up together to create a split EP that tops what came before it. On The Lost & The Longing, the SharpTone Records labelmates drop two tracks each – one on their own, and one in collaboration with the other. Whilst ALPHA WOLF double down on the industrial nu-metal crunch 2020’s A Quiet Place To Die hit so well, HOLDING ABSENCE play with their sound like they’re evolving Pokémon, stretching the spectrum of sounds last year’s The Greatest Mistake Of My Life ventured into by being both their heaviest (Aching Longing) and possibly their softest (Coffin).

Opener 60cm Of Steel eases you in with atmospheric guitar lines like it’s the calm before the storm, erupting into migraine-inducing industrial drums and a vocal take that sounds like Lochie Keogh has a sawn-off shotgun and a license to kill. At first it’s business as usual, until Lucas Woodland’s melodies wage war with Keogh’s abrasions, creating an epic, twisted take on Iowa-era SLIPKNOT – so much so that ALPHA WOLF and HOLDING ABSENCE sounds more like SLIPKNOT than the band themselves do right now.

Whilst the ALPHA WOLF-only Hotel Underground picks up directly where A Quiet Place To Die left off, it’s no less of an absolute ripper capable of melting your face off. This is the sound of CODE ORANGE and PARKWAY DRIVE being possessed by demons – two and a half minutes of hell on earth that’s never sounded better. It’s more proof in the pudding that Australia’s metal scene is fertile ground right now.

But the real meat of this four-course tasting menu comes with its second half. In two tracks, HOLDING ABSENCE leave no room for complacency, delivering a double whammy of delicacies that hold their own against their big hitters Afterlife, Celebration Song and In Circles. Aching Longing takes everything you love about The Greatest Mistake Of My Life, ramps up the urgency, and delivers a new direction for HOLDING ABSENCE to explore, further colouring their collage of alt-rock and grunge. Ashley Green’s drumming is vibrant and visceral, driving his bandmates forward like a tank on a tour of no-man’s land, whilst Keogh’s harsh vocals tear a cosmic hole in the fabric of Woodland’s glorious, radiant light of a melodious chorus.

Closer Coffin is where HOLDING ABSENCE truly reach musical osmosis. It’s atmospheric intro, aided and abetted by Woodland’s lullaby-like vocals, breathe life into the track like the first sight of light after a storm. Coffin enriches the anthemic, arena-sized alt-rock of The Greatest Mistake with a delicate, dream-pop sensibility defined by a chorus so powerful they might just be giving Afterlife a run for its money as their go-to finisher.

Alone, these tracks are snapshots of two bands showing off their superiority. Together, they’re enough to persuade anyone that The Lost & The Longing is nothing but a teaser trailer for rock and metal’s brightest stars, waiting in the wings to take their thrones. EPs have no right to be this good, yet HOLDING ABSENCE and ALPHA WOLF deliver a masterclass in 15 minutes.

Rating: 10/10

The Lost & The Longing - Holding Absence and Alpha Wolf

The Lost & The Longing is set for release on August 15th via SharpTone Records.


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