Las Vegas’ best live band returns with their long-awaited third full length, The Sea. No one can prepare you for this journey on the treacherous high seas, but with the band as a formidable set of companions you’ll navigate the waters in good care.
The Sea churns and pounds and is quite viscous. Beautiful and ugly in the same moment.
This world does not belong to us…
It doesn’t “belong” to anyone. And self-preservation being very real its only a matter of time before the Sea swallows everything.
Three years after Songs of Freedom, Las Vegas’ own Holding Onto Sound return with The Sea, an impressive concept album of sorts featuring oceanic metaphors, themes of rebirth and talk of the death and destruction of war. If that all sounds a little heavy for you, don’t worry, this album is nothing if not fun to listen to.
The Sea opens strong with Questions, and the band wastes no time in showing off the fuller sound brought about by new second guitarist Robert Gates. Gates perfectly complements bandmates Bennett Mains (guitar and vocals), Vanessa Tidwell (drums), and Zabi Naqshband (bass and vocals). Main’s voice in particular sounds better than ever, switching from melodic and restrained singing to bellowing lyrics and back again with ease, successfully managing to carry the emotional weight of the album’s dark but optimistic lyrics.
Never content to rest on their laurels, HOTS shows a lot of range here, with Tidwell’s drums setting the pace for a variety of tempos and musical influences. Watery Grave’s strong riff and excellent bass line recall early Against Me! and Cobra Skulls. The song features a catchy rhythm that slows down just in time to remind us that “everything you know and everyone you love will be swallowed by the sea.” A number of songs on the album eschew the reggae influences the band is known for. Tommy Boy is a blisteringly fast, straight up punk song telling the all too familiar tale of a boy that goes to war and won’t be coming home. Running Rampant, an album highlight, sees bass player Naqshband take over lead vocal duty to great success, showcasing a gruff voice that is perfect for the song and a backing refrain of “whooas” that would make Black Sails-era AFI jealous. With lyrics like “when there’s blood in the streets, you’re screaming world peace,” Running Rampant was made for singing along to the song’s anti-war message.
The band has matured with each release and it’s obvious by the concise and catchy nature of The Sea that they’ve become better at self-editing. This is arguably the best record Holding Onto Sound has released and it wouldn’t be surprising if it garners the band the wider audience that they deserve.