Just over five years ago, Derby’s Crash of Rhinos dared to become one of the UK’s most successful and respected acts to come out of the emo and DIY punk scene at the time. Following an inexplicably positive review from Pitchfork (granted by the resident “emo scholar” Ian Cohen) of sophomoric record _Knots_, the Derby 5-piece, rightfully so, was on the verge of mainstream explosion. They toured with Chicago-based emo-legends Braid for their reunion shows off the back of this exposure, and even returning to it now, _Knots_ remains one of the best records of this decade.
Sadly, in some respects, the sudden praise came at an unfortunate time as members of the band were beginning to wind down from full-time music due to personal responsibilities. After a failed attempt to revitalise the quintet in 2016, three members – guitarist Jim Cork, bassist Ian Draper and drummer Oli Craven – were given the blessing to form Holding Patterns, a new incarnation of Crash of Rhinos if you will. After much re-working of losing an extra guitarist and bassist to the sound, the trio has created a pleasingly streamlined version of Crash of Rhinos’ emphatic bombast without losing any of the energy that made them so compelling.
Given their five-piece setup (two guitars, two basses, a multi-armed drummer and five voices) one of the easiest signifiers to Crash of Rhinos’s sound would be “dense”. What was remarkable about their two records Distal (2011) and Knots (2013) is that they still managed to find a lot of room for melody and reflection over the rumbling sea of noise they created. Holding Patterns, now as a trio, have successfully condensed the chaos into something more palatable while maintaining the enticing flourishes that defined Crash of Rhinos.
‘House Fire‘, for instance, is the epic track the record centres around, making just as much with less as when they had more. Meanwhile, opener-proper ‘At Speed‘ shows the group’s melodic capabilities while providing a re-introduction to the band. ‘First Responder‘ shows a new, breezier-side to the band which comes as a welcome groove-laden addition. Lead-single ‘Centered at Zero‘ is about as classic of a late-90s ode to emo one would expect from a band who have deeply studied the craft.
Elsewhere, ‘Dust‘ proves as a love-letter to the Midlands’ former mining communities, an extremely personal matter to the band and their parents’ generation. The trio has cited ‘This Shot Will Ring‘ as formerly being a Crash of Rhinos song, and given its frenetic pace it is believable. However, everything here sounds like a matured and subtler version of Holding Patterns’ previous incarnation. For example, drummer Oli Craven remains an insanely talented and ambidextrous drummer. But, as he doesn’t have an extra guitarist and bassist to contend with any longer, he no longer has to push himself so hard to the front such as on his stunning turn in Crash of Rhinos’s single ‘Opener‘.
Still, for those desperate to hear new material from the UK’s former shining stars of the emo/DIY punk scene, Endless more than fits the bill. Finale ‘Momentarily‘ begins as a typically fast-paced affair, until a sudden change of heart brings matters to a crashing conclusion, a fitting end to an excellent return from the Derby trio. While Endless may not “pop” in the way Distal or Knots do, make no mistake, Holding Patterns are still committed and pushing themselves into your hearts once again.
Endless is out on Vested Interest now.