Review Summary: SharpTone Records provide a great advert for two of their finest prospects
This four song split sees SharpTone Records showcasing two of their most exciting young bands. Loathe, from Liverpool, are the more established of the duo, having released their debut album 'The Cold Sun' last year, whilst Cardiff's Holding Absence, have only a handful of singles to their name.
'The Cold Sun' helped create a bit of buzz around Loathe in 2017, with its aggressive, sludgy and djent-heavy songs attracting initial interest, but it was the atmospheric ambient interludes and the manic amalgamation of their sound that kept people hooked. The scouse quintet's debut was seemingly inspired by everyone from Sworn In, Heavy Heavy Low Low and Deftones, to Architects, Emmure and Code Orange. But Loathe do not take influence just from other bands, as the album artwork and thematic narrative was inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo's 'Akira', with members of the band also stating that the soundtrack for survival horror classic 'Silent Hill 2' was a big inspiration when writing.
'White Hot' kicks off this EP and right out of the gate fans of Loathe's overly aggressive tendencies are not disappointed, as they deliver a brand of violent, angry hardcore which their contemporaries, Code Orange, have thrust in the face of the mainstream following the success of 'Forever'. However, Loathe are no Code Orange clone, as the abrasive opening 20 seconds of the song fades out, Kadeem France's brutal vocals subside - and alongside the now passive, melodic tone, they make way for guitarist Erik Bickerstaffe's dulcet, emotive clean vocals, which are reminiscent of only one man. Loathe bring their Deftones influence to the fore on this track, with Bickerstaffe adopting Chino Moreno's unmistakable vocal style. This helps create a unique track, which sounds like the by-product of fusing together 'White Pony' and 'Forever'.
'Servant and Master' is much darker, with its industrial intro and tenacious down-tuned guitar tones, it packs in more twists and turns in four minutes than some bands manage in forty. There's a lot going on in this song, with vocoder effects, an ambient interlude in the middle of the track, as well as the djent that was so prevalent on 'The Cold Sun'. You can still hear the Deftones in this, but more prominently featured influences are Korn and Vildhjarta, with Loathe hinting they have the tools to develop into a bonafide contemporary progressive metal band in the future.
Holding Absence had put out around four tracks officially before 'This Is As One', with 'Dream of Me' and 'Permanent' arriving in February 2017. These were the first tracks written with frontman Lucas Woodland, who replaced their previous singer, with Woodman stating in his first interview with the band that they were hoping to incorporate influences such as Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine and even Smashing Pumpkins. Stylistically, Holding Absence play a brand of melodic and often emotive rock that has become quite popular in the UK in the last few years, with the likes of ZOAX, Crooks and Casey all setting the bar high for this line of work. 'Heaven Knows', released in October of last year, looked to separate Holding Absence from the pack, with Woodland's vocals and the guitar and drum work on the track being very reminiscent of Sam Carter and Architects.
'Saint Cecilia' kicks off the second part of the split and it's a perfect example of what a UK arena rock band should sound like in 2018. The Sam Carter influence in Woodland's delivery is toned down slightly as he highlights how powerful and technically well-rounded his voice is, with some softer and quieter moments, which juxtaposes the angsty post-hardcore riffs and Ashley Green's frantic drumming, which quite possibly steals the show altogether. It's the best song that Holding Absence have ever written and the sort of track that could quite possibly have transported the likes of We Are The Ocean, Mallory Knox and Young Guns into the sort of venues and festival slots that they've failed to achieve in the last few years. If you like Too Close To Touch, Rarity or Landscapes, this will probably appeal to you.
'Everything' is a stripped back emotional ballad, whilst you can't fault the sincerity or quality of Woodland's performance on this track, you also can't behind the fact that it, well, just sounds like a bit like Coldplay. The track slowly builds and for the vast majority of it, aside from the occasional emo tinged riff - it really wouldn't sound out of place on X&Y. I have nothing against the idea of a slower, stripped down song by this band and the prospect is exciting given their noted influence of My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead, but on their debut album I'd like to hear that more, rather than this mainstream British radio in the mid 00's style sound. The song's climax is well executed however, as the band burst back into life and Woodland commands attention with his intense screamed finish - it's just a shame that
what came before it was packaged so poorly.
'The Cold Sun' is a very good EP that achieves what it set out to - it proves that both Loathe and Holding Absence have the potential to go on and achieve big things in a thriving UK rock and metal scene. Loathe show that they're a consistently eclectic outfit that have progressed and improved since 'This Is As One', whilst Holding Absence hint at greatness ahead of their hotly-anticipated debut album, but with 'Everything' they also forewarn us that they could well branch out into the type of toothless alternative-rock music that plagued the UK scene for much of the first half of this decade.