Review Summary: Nice try.
Hello. In some secret imaginary corner of the universe there exists an exhaustive list of things that would improve the world beyond recognition but will never transpire because fate’s an arse that way. In a marginally less secret corner of the notebook I used to draft this review there exists my best guess at what this list might look like. This goes as follows:
-> My dishwasher remembers how to self-drain.
-> Harvey Weinstein is found guilty and sentenced to physically consume the entirety of the world’s greenhouse gases.
-> Musicians are directly subsidised in an international attempt to put brakes on the power of streaming companies.
-> Wintersun’s sauna is nationalised.
-> The American and UK voterbases decide to just not
, please and thank you.
-> Users on Sputnikmusic.com are fucking instabanned whenever they misuse the Progressive Rock genre tag.
-> The Art Pop tag is never introduced in an attempt to avoid further such bans.
-> The cure for 2019-nCoV coronavirus is swiftly found and accidentally turns out to also cure cancer.
It’s a steep list, but when you give it some thought a lot of these things don’t seem so much to ask fo-
-> Every metalcore band with even the most spurious of experimental leanings (or any leanings at all for that matter) will take a crash course in basic songwriting.
Loathe are a UK band who play a variety of experimental alternative shoegaze progressive metalcore, as heard on their second album I Let It in and It Took Everything
which came out February 7th 2020 and runs at a not inconsiderate forty-nine minutes and fourteen seconds. Fans of experimental alternative shoegaze progressive metalcore the world over have great reason to rejoice at this. It is an exciting album. It is full of excellent ideas. It has experimental moments. It has alternative moments. It has shoegaze moments (I guess). It has progressive moments, and - you guessed it! - it has more metalcore than the central particle of good ol’ Z=22 in a rod of the best stuff would know what to do with. If such things are of appeal, go ahead and put it on. You’re in for a whirl of good times. Only, one small caveat to be passed in the best of faith from one patron of experimental alternative shoegaze progressive metalcore to another is that, should you find yourself enjoying one of the album’s laudable good ideas at any given point, you must under no circumstances ask yourself how you got there. What was the name of the person who opened Pandora’s Box? Oh - Pandora. Duh. Pandora couldn’t let a box be a box, so she started asking the questions that matter. Don’t do this. Some things aren’t foregrounded for a reason.
What I’m getting at here is that for all its bold ideas as drawn from a pantheon of genres that you should have successfully memorised by this point, I Let It in and It Took Everything
is a dysfunctional wreck of an album engaging end to end in no small part due to the intrigue of where and when its next car crash will kick off. This is not because its components are individually weak, but because they are strung together with the cohesion and nuance of a chimpanzee building an aeroplane out of a scrapyard of retired Land Rovers and a few reels of dental floss. No part of any song feels like it’s in the remotest communication with another. That’s kind of what songwriting is, uh, for. None of that here. Turning to a slight positive, the album’s nomenclature is on point with titles such as “Aggressive Evolution” and “Broken Vision Rhythm” (yes thank you, we get it),. However, a still more appropriate decision would have been to chop the album into approximately one hundred entirely distinct tracks given names such as “The Loud Part”, “The Shoegaze Bit That Comes Out Of Nowhere Ver.7” and “Is A Breakdown Still A Breakdown If It Is Preceded By Another Breakdown?” This would have been more honest and excused a decent part of this album’s incohesion, but there’s also a progressive metalcore album literally structured in this way (Comity’s kickass ...As Everything Is A Tragedy
) and that plays out a damn sight more smoothly than this, so who knows…
That just about sets the scene. Great. Onto the real stuff. The cakewalk. Actual concrete analysis. The song that demonstrates the album’s incohesion most glaringly is probably “Aggressive Evolution”, which is unfortunate because it’s also the first full song and therefore gives the game away before Loathe have a chance to get a thread going. This track opts for a simple back-and-forth exchange between pyrotechnically heavy verses and a cookiecutter clean chorus that have absolutely zero to do with one another; in the manner of Car Bomb, the two kind of end up paired on the basis that overstated freneticism is a substitute for linking entirely distinct ideas together. Spoiler alert: this is not the case. Similarly dire is “Red Room.” It’s hard to tell if this track is best described as one minute of ambience tacked onto one minute of momentous chugging or the other way around. However, its final twenty-second soundscape of a robot banging its head against a table as heard from afar is much appreciated.
I won’t be unfair; these two songs are below even this album’s cohesion threshold and are cherry picked as such. A more appropriate reflection of the album as a whole is the track “Heavy Is The Head That Falls With The Weight Of A Thousand Thoughts.” I have yet to extract a shred of irony from its being named as such. It’s as apt as they come. This aptness stems partially from its musical content; it kicks off with a gazey intro that develops into something fairly intriguing only to be guillotined a minute or so in by a breakdown that cannibalises the remainder of the song like the eternal serpent eating its own shit or whatever. This is a trend you’ll see a lot of here and is worth taking notes on. However, the bulk of its pertinence is from the fact that the human Head can't process more than 7+/- 2 thoughts at any given time, let alone a thousand - especially if those thousand thoughts are not, in fact, thoughts, but rather musical ideas thrown around this album like that time your dumbass childhood neighbour stuffed his paws into your Lego box on a playdate your mum signed you up for so she could make baked alaska for her book group without you distracting her for a couple of hours minimum, praise be. For what it’s worth, the song is pretty damn heavy.
I Let It in and It Took Everything
is full of tracks like this. They are distinct enough that I made a reasonably detailed list of them, and numerous enough that I removed said list for the sake of readability. However, the album’s perks are equally important and deserve due emphasis. Most if not all these songs contain fairly killer individual sections. “New Faces in the Dark”, for instance, has an excellent introduction and segues far more fluently between clean and heavy sections than its neighbours, although its progression is still fairly nebulous. “Broken Vision Rhythm” and “Gored” are two of the album’s more cohesive cuts and hold their own from one end to the other. The fact that they are also the cuts that deviate the least from metalcore is pure coincidence. And then there’s the obvious highlight and strongest melodic track by a good margin, “A Sad Cartoon.” This track carries itself from start to finish with an impressive emotional urgency matched by an impressive showcase of the band’s scope for melody and atmosphere. Its abrupt inversion of dynamics around two minutes in is one of the few that works, and it’s developed to such strength that the inclusion of an ambient reprise immediately
afterwards somehow doesn’t feel like a laughable move. Good stuff, Loathe.
All things considered, I feel bad for Loathe; they’re a sympathetic case where you can say that they’re full of potential without it sounding like a token courtesy. They’ve got the right idea(s) about what they should be doing with the separate ends of their sound, even if they have no idea how to tie them together. This is almost enough to make me regret throwing them under the bus in such a headlong fashion, but if they insist on setting up this many cheap shots, I’m sure as hell going to take them. Many would make the argument that you don’t listen to this kind of music for the songwriting and that this kind of short shrift is misplaced as such. I would be sympathetic to this were it not for the extent to which Loathe draw from Deftones, a band universally revered for their watertight songwriting, atmospheric nuance, and admirable policy of never using heaviness as an end in and of itself. Live by the sword/die by the sword, and all that. The last thing worth adding - and one of the most important! - is that I never once felt tempted to use the skip button going through this album; chaos in motion it may be, but it occupies a precious middle ground between being a barrage of engaging ideas and an irresistible disasterpiece, and that alone makes it worth your time. That’s about it for Loathe, so, um, see you at experimental alternative shoegaze progressive metalcore club? We can drink squash afterwards and maybe swap numbers if things go well? Ciao for now.