Holding Sand

A Life Worth Memoirs

Written by: TL on 16/02/2015 17:12:52

Breaking through to an international level is a hard feat in music overall, even more so it seems, for bands in the scenes where English isn't the first language. Even in a country as large and culturally prosperous as France, a band like the otherwise ambitious Tours-based metal/post-hardcore quintet Holding Sand, has to struggle stubbornly in hopes of establishing something reminiscent of a consistent career. It has been three years since we last heard of the band, then on their debut full length "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid", and since then personnel has been substituted both at guitar, drums and in the producer chair, as the band has labored to create a worthy follow-up. It was characteristic already on previous efforts that the Frenchmen, who count early 00's heavy bands like Deftones and Glassjaw among their confirmed influences, prefer a more organic take on heavy music than what has long been the trend in modern metal(core) productions, and according to the "making of" video for the new album "A Life Worth Memoirs", new producer Francis Caste was instrumental in making a record where things have been kept purposefully raw and toasty, even a bit more so than on the previous album and EP.

You get a lot of harrowing riffage and beefy low-end punch on "A Life Worth Memoirs" then, primarily at a headbang-friendly mid-tempo, while vocalist Clément Horvath delivers the lyrics with a mix of throat-scraping screams and scratchy, forceful singing. The Glassjaw influence is noticeable here, as Horvath makes it sound like he throws himself into every word, the upside being that you get a similarly unpredictable and relentlessly intense impression, which does however come at the cost of particularly striking, recurring melodies. The desperation however, reflects the album's overall concept, which deals with the frustrations of a man who believes himself a winner in life, yet discovers that he is terminally ill and proceeds to regretfully examine his life-choices as his time inevitably runs out.

The release is thus both technically and conceptually sound, and when the riffing is particularly effectful, like in the spotlight it's given in the mainly instrumental interlude "Worn Out" for instance, you get a feeling for where Holding Sand's strength currently lies. Regretably however, the pervasive concept has not helped the band remedy the concern which was present already on their first album, namely that their catchiest songs were also their oldest and simplest. Those that do not hold metal bands excused from writing good hooks will thus likely appreciate the technical improvements in playing, such as in the punchy "Meat Locker", yet regret that it has come at the cost of the instantly engaging scream-along refrains of old songs like "Black Is The New Black" or "The Future Belongs To Heartless Whores". A song like "Wreck" offers some exception via a reasonably memorable chorus, but it still feels like things have actually taken a step back in this department.

Eventually then, "A Life Worth Memoirs" deserves commendation for the improvements made both in production value, technical complexity and coherency of concept, yet still feels let down by its weakness in terms of key melodies and the lacking dynamics between its otherwise effectful individual parts. Separately, the songs will likely get you nodding in appreciation of a good verse riff or a decent chorus repetition, but as a back to back album listen things start to blend together long before you even make it to an otherwise interesting curveball, like the trumpet-aided bridge of the seven minute "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance". There is still catharsis to be felt and food-for-thought in the lyrics, but it requires some effort from listeners who aren't too put off by a pervasive atmosphere of desolation, so even while you nod your head to the band for the improvements in their handiwork, you have to also observe the distance up to the bands whose qualities feel either more pronounced or just better staged.


Download: Meat Locker; Wreck; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
For The Fans Of: 36 Crazyfists, Blindside, Glassjaw, Deftones
Listen: facebook.com/holdingsand

Release date 23.02.2015

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