Make it to the end of Laugh Tracks and you’ll hear an actual laugh track. At first, it makes very little sense – you’ve got Knocked Loose, perennial underground hardcore favourites, rounding off their debut full-length with what’s often considered the nail in the coffin for cheap, tacky sitcoms. Upon reflection though, it makes slightly more sense – this album sees Knocked Loose essentially battering the listener with one of the most vicious hardcore assaults put to record this year, and then laughing in their face. And make no mistake, Laugh Tracks is one seriously hefty beast of an album.
Much of Knocked Loose’s brand of heaviness seems to stem from the same streets as bands like Turnstile and Stray From The Path. It’s liberally reminiscent of both the kerb-stomping ’90s hardcore of the former and the metal-flecked rapcore of the latter, but Laugh Tracks cross-pollinates them both with influences of metalcore and even hints of crossover thrash at points. It makes for an album that does inch close towards meat-and-potatoes hardcore, but manages to stay fairly compelling through its relatively slight runtime thanks to sheer brute force. And that’s something that Knocked Loose have in spades – from the mammoth grooves of opener Oblivions Ruin, the only time this album lets up even slightly is in the soft rock outro of Deadringer which genuinely sounds like – no lie – Joe Cocker. It’s the sole moment of reprieve on Laugh Tracks‘ 27-minutes – A Fetish‘s metallic pummeling sees vocalist Bryan Garris’ guttural screams sounding uncannily like Bury Tomorrow’s Dani Winter-Bates, while My Heroes and Blood Will Have Blood surge by with the kind of guitar growls that could level a house.
But pure brutality isn’t a substitute for personality, and it feels as though, on Laugh Tracks, Knocked Loose are yet to fully grasp that. Yes, the onus on unwavering heaviness does have a certain appeal, but with the hardcore world as glutted as it already is, that’s really the only distinctive feature that Knocked Loose have. And even then, Laugh Tracks feels extremely one-paced, even if that pace isn’t terrible. So while the likes of Billy No Mates and the minute-long Counting Worms are the kind of tracks that would spark stagedives aplenty in a live setting, their recorded counterparts feel distinctly faceless when placed in the context of the entire album. And that’s a problem because, while Knocked Loose are brimming with potential when it comes to the live environment, there’s a huge imbalance with their recorded material that becomes more and more noticeable with each subsequent listen.
That’s not to say that Laugh Tracks is a bad album though, because it certainly isn’t. It has the kind of potency and viciousness that the best metallic hardcore has, with an even stronger emphasis on the ‘metallic’, and in that respect it’s a decent overall package in isolation. But there isn’t enough that’s fresh about Knocked Loose to really make them stand out, and while this album steamrolls on a sonic level, the same can’t be said in terms of a lasting impact. As a debut it’s definitely good, but Knocked Loose could really afford to offer more in future.
For fans of: Terror, Turnstile, Expire
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Laugh Tracks’ by Knocked Loose is released on 16th September on Pure Noise Records.