Submission Hold – What Holds Back the Elephant

Submission Hold
What Holds Back the Elephant

When I saw this record in my review packet, I was immediately taken back to a summer afternoon when I was in high school. My friend Beau had booked Submission Hold to play a house show in his basement, the summer before my senior year. I have to admit that I had some pretty mixed feelings about Submission Hold left over from way back when. The band’s live show is really awesome and the music was exciting and powerful, but I bought one of its records at the show and was severely disappointed with the way that the band came off when recorded. It seemed that every bit of energy had been sacrificed in order to make the lyrical content more clear. Now don’t get me wrong, Submission Hold is a very political band, and I happen to enjoy my politics and rock in the same package most of the time if the music is good, but I don’t really care for the singer’s vocals. Every time I have ever heard a Submission Hold recorded, the singer sounds just like the girl from that Lookout Records pop-punk band Tilt. I realize that this may not matter to some of you, or in fact it may be a positive thing, but live I don’t think she sounds like this and I was pretty shocked that the record sounded so different.

Fast forward a couple of years and I am still struck with the same problem. The music is really tight and powerful, combining some interesting aspects of punk-rock, post-hardcore, and some straight-up math-rock to really entice the listener in for some political discourse. Much like myself, Submission Hold leans toward the left end of the political spectrum. What Holds Back the Elephant contains nine songs covering topics such as feminine empowerment, animal cruelty, religion, McCarthyism, and war among others (at least this is what I have inferred from the lyrics, if I’m wrong please correct me). It also seems that in many of the songs the political content is approached from a much more personal perspective, sort of a modus operandi for many bands these days. The lyrics are even translated in French and Spanish, which I think is pretty cool and more bands should do it.

The one thing I still can’t get past is that girl’s voice; it just doesn’t fit right somehow. This is really a small thing in the context of music, and as I stated previously it may even make you like the band even more.