Holden - Ursa Minor

08 May 2020 - Thorsten

Progressive-Sludge | Release date: 08 May 2020

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Some records just need time. Will they ever be your all-time-favorites? You got to find out for yourself - with Holden’s help.

Sometimes it occurs that the first spin of a record leaves you speechless and then you find your voice again more and more with every turn because, well, the record is not making a lasting impression. Sometimes there are records that work just the other way around and these are what we call growers. Interesting about this is, that sometimes there are releases that could be split in half – you listen to a, at first sight, mediocre first half and then something changes and that leaves you spellbound. When going back to the same record again, you might find yourself liking that first half a bit more because of the lasting impression of that second half. Is that then a grower? Or just a convincing way of structuring your record?

Well it is what happened to yours truly when listening to Holden’s debut Ursa Minor (the ‘little bear’ in astrology). At first, the first two songs didn’t really strike a chord in me, but when the 15-minute-centerpiece “However Small, However Hidden” (talk about an adequate for such a huge beast of a composition!) it was all swept away by a very dynamic tornado of a song. Completely instrumental the composition rides on one not-changing soundscape which means that the tonality of the song is pretty constant. And now comes the tricky part: How can a track that is not based on creating an epic and storytelling atmosphere blow you away? Holden’s answer: by variations of groove! This is basically an awesome stoner rock song played within the cavernous sound of good sludge metal. The way that drummer Michael Arcane (again – what a name!) is able to take us on this dragon-rollercoaster-ride is breathtaking. His cymbals are exact on spot and his use of the rest of the drum kit is really great. I could take about this song alone for hours.

After that song the whole attitude towards the debut by the trio from Richmond, VA, changed. Even more if the next song is “Emperor of Maladies” which is like another one of those Mastodon-songs one might have come to miss on some of the last releases by the Atlantans. This might be one of those gems unearthed from the Blood Mountain sessions. Some hints at why this comes across like that? Because Palmer Sturman sings and screams his lungs out like Brent Hinds and plays his guitar in certain moments like Bill Kelliher. This is dirty, this is raw, this is awesome. The blastbeat middle part lead by Arcane and bassist Sam Berson is like the aggressive side that Mastodon haven’t really shown since Leviathan. One could also compare this song to bands like Conan or High on Fire. Nonetheless, Holden are pretty unique and will leave quite some metal-heads spellbound. Especially if they listen to the reprise of the guitar motif from “Emperor” in the final outro “The Way it Was and Will Be”. They even have the guts to seemingly fade out and then come back for a final moment to give the listener one last sweet kiss and then dragging him to play the record again. One might even think that the outro and the intro share some riffs so that the seductiveness is even more appealing and mesmerizing.

Taking another spin on the first two tracks now and probably they will grow on me again after having gone through tracks 3 to 5 again. This record and its song-structure is simple magic. More than a grower or a ‘convincer’!