Review Summary: I am rejected at heaven's gate.
It's hard to pin down exactly why Knocked Loose has become such an overnight success. The Kentucky, metallic hardcore quintet burst onto the scene with their 2016 debut Laugh Tracks
to much critical appeasement, an album that secured them a stint at the annual Vans Warped Tour and recognition from industry giants Post Malone & Halsey – not to mention, a slot as the opening act for legendary hardcore outfit Every Time I Die. Yet for every cavernous breakdown and meme-certified call-to-mosh rallying cry (read: arf arf) that gave Laugh Tracks
legs, you'd be hard pressed to call it an original or a substantial piece of work; it was a mere 30 minutes worth of larynx-rupturing shrieks laced on top of half-tempo breakdowns and lyrics that touched on a douchy fraternity kicking out a guy for being homosexual. Yet an insanely hectic touring schedule and boisterous, hell-raising live shows net the band a large following and the pressure was on to pen a follow-up record to capitalize on the band's ever growing fan base.
Fortunately, A Different Shade of Blue
is exactly the sophomore record the band needed to make to prove that they aren't a fad or merely the product of good timing or a shout out by Posty on Twitter. The 12 tracks on A Different Shade...
sees Knocked Loose doubling down on their strengths with bigger riffs, meatier breakdowns, more fleshed out lyrical content and a more developed vocal performance by front man Bryan Garris – whose distinct, raspy screams are beautifully complemented by guitarist Isaac Hale's guttural growls. Lead single "Mistakes Like Fractures" hits like an absolute battering ram and guides the listener through one increasingly heavier section to another with the outmost finesse and grace, and Will Putney's punchy production lets every band member's individual performance come to life and has received his full and undivided attention.
While breakdowns reign aplenty, they aren't crutches or gimmicks that the band relies on solely for fan service; instead, they serve as satisfying payoffs to prolonged buildups or as an effective contrast to blazing fast sections that often precedes them. Opener "Belleville" unveils itself with a metallic crunch and bombards the listener with a litany of riffs, ear-piercing shrieks and a cataclysmic rhythm section and the blend of old-school, 80's metal riffs and modernized hardcore elements up the heaviness thrice fold throughout. "In the Walls" is a straight up, no-holds barred structural mess whose intensity is matched only by The Dillinger Escape Plan's top-shelf material and manages to elicit multiple intense and fist-clenching responses out of the listener. Bryan's lyrics appropriately follow suit in intensity and are often as poetic and detailed as they are effective in spearheading the band's notably darker sound.
"I run towards the light
In search for escape
I am rejected
At heaven's gate"
Bryan aggressively shrieks on the blazing fast. penultimate track "Denied by Fate", which sees drummer Kevin 'Pacsun' dance around the kit with funk like rhythms amidst roaring guitar riffs, and the more reserved "Guided by The Moon" features La Dispute levels of hardcore poetry with clever use of metaphors and play on words.
"In the bloom of agony
I grip tight to feel the pain
With all the blood I draw
Leaving handprints of your name"
Like so much of A Different Shade...
the lyrical content isn't meant to push boundaries but rather serves as an effective weapon in the band's arsenal, ensuring that every song is a ready-made wall-to-wall banger destined to bring venues to the ground and save for some grating bits of repetition – chugs unfortunately take center stage more often than they should – they mostly succeed with flying colors. Emma Boster from metalcore band Dying Wish and Every Time I Die front man Keith Buckley show up on the tracks "A Serpent's Touch" and "Forget Your Name" respectively by way of effective, if fleeting guest appearances and the band even flexes their video-game knowledge with an audio excerpt from the scrapped Silent Hill-demo “PT” on the tail-end of "In the Walls", all of which are elements that coincide to offer some much needed variety. A Different Shade...
is a dark record, encapsulated well by the eerie album art and the subtle use of tone and texture throughout its 12 songs. It's practically the metal/hardcore equivalent of a haunted house thrill ride, wherein jolts lie around every corner and the few moments of respite you're offered are few and far between. Most importantly though, A Different Shade...
is a much better album than Laugh Tracks
and sees the band sounding more assured and heavier than their often-disjointed debut, complete with bigger production and bigger ideas that often culminate in satisfying and explosive ways. More so than anything, I really hope that more mainstream celebrities give Knocked Loose the time of day, because their sophomore effort is just a god-damn sweet follow up album all-around.
A Serpent's Touch (feat. Emma Boster)
By The Grave
In The Walls
Mistakes Like Fractures
Denied By Fate