Sometimes it can feel like heavy music scenes are the only places where musical experimentation is actually allowed to flourish. Be it less pressure to shift units than more mainstream-centric acts or a more open listener-base who can be willing to dip further out of their comfort zone, but the current generation of hardcore and metal bands really are leading the charge when it comes to the vitality of modern rock. And more often than not, getting the platform to let those ideas soar amounts to little more than being at the right place at the right time, a factor that’s paramount to the excitement around Loathe’s new album I Let It In And It Took Everything. That may sound a bit disingenuous when this is a band who’ve steadily built their reputation around testing the foundations of modern hardcore and metalcore for a good few years now, but Loathe have always been in need of the right push and a substantial turn in the spotlight to really show what they can do; it’s what ultimately held back their 2017 debut The Cold Sun from locking in their spot as the uncompromising, experimental band that there’s been a gap for for a long time. In hindsight, that could’ve been seen as slightly premature to expect that straight away, especially when I Let It In And It Took Everything has the benefit of increased experience and a far more defiant streak to its experimentation.
But even so, an album that sounds like the feral lovechild of Slipknot and Deftones is going to be a remarkably easy sell for a certain stripe of listener, and when that’s topped off with the sort of unique, progressive shifts and grinding oppressiveness that have always forged a certain level of untouchability for Loathe, I Let It In… really is something to behold. As monolithic in ambition as it is in sound, this is the defining moment for Loathe, effortlessly sloughing off any growing pains that might have held back their previous work, and diving headfirst into their own creative cesspool with the confidence to blatantly avoid any sort of trends or conventionality. And within that massive, quaking force, there’s one of the most inventive and enthralling metal albums of the last few years.
It’s probably easiest to get the nitpicks out of the way first as well, because there’s really not many of them. Loathe embody an almost deconstructionist take on metal from a sonic perspective, and while that encompasses this album’s main stumbling block of an often unclear sense of direction when it comes to some of the most drastic sonic shifts, that’s also kind of the point. This isn’t supposed to be an easy album, and to see Loathe jerk between guttural nu-metalcore to heady, ethereal post-metal encapsulates that, but also the fearlessness of an album like this. It’s where the Slipknot comparison goes deeper than obvious surface-level similarities, where brooding interludes and fragments like 451 Days and Red Room foster the pitch-black destructiveness and volatility that becomes so crucial with tracks like Broken Vision Rhythm and especially the opening blastbeats of Heavy Is The Head That Falls Under The Weight Of A Thousand Thoughts. As well as that, Kadeem France is an absolute monster of a vocalist, not just in terms of raw power, but in the contorting, curdling pain that forms the underlying current of Loathe’s work, with the sense of betrayal and self-destruction that colours the both immolation on Aggressive Evolution and Gored, and the isolation on Screaming.
It’s to Loathe’s immense credit that such an emotional breadth has been utilised the way it has, as well; nothing feels wedged in where it doesn’t fit, instead leaning into melody and atmosphere when needed for a love song like Is It Really You, and without losing the ramping intensity with the tense, building guitars and vocal samples. It makes for a contrast that very few bands can muster, but Loathe certainly have the musical acumen to do so much with it. France continues to show off the range of his voice with a gorgeous ethereality on the fairly blatant Deftones riff of Two Way Mirror (though that’s far from a bad thing), and the grungy rumble of Screaming adds yet another string to Loathe’s bow that’s already showing an impressive amount of dexterity. They’re not quite at the point of tightening everything up and losing some of the clunk that’s unfortunately built-in, but with production that imbues the same seismic magnitude and weight into everything and ensures that the insidious pulse is a firm and permanent fixture, there’s definitely the rectifying of shortcomings that already seems to be taking place.
And it’s not like there’s much that really needs rectifying, more a case of tying up the looser ends that aren’t quite as well-realised as everything else. It’s still a great album regardless, as Loathe fully show what they can do as one of the most impressive and individual talents in modern metal, and channel that into an expansive, destructive and nuanced package. It’s that nuance that really takes I Let It In… over the top as well, as emotionality piles on another dense layer to a band who are in no shortage of interesting twists and personae. Combined with the live reputation that Loathe have earned, this is the sort of album that could send them rocketing to the modern metal stratosphere and staying there for a long time to come. With an album like this, it’s the only just result possible.
For fans of: Slipknot, Deftones, Lotus Eater
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘I Let It In And It Took Everything’ by Loathe is released on 7th February on Sharptone Records.