Liverpool has given us the greatest death metal band of all time in Carcass. Prog legends, Anathema, are also from the great port city, but few acts have surfaced since the 1990s. Until now.
Loathe are a five-piece metal band with djent stylistics, alt-rock soundscapes and shoegaze sensibilities packaged through a savage attack reminiscent of Scottish mathcore bruisers, Frontierer. Their 2017 debut album, Cold Sun, landed them a Metal Hammer nomination for best new band, so the anticipation and hype could not be any greater. Are they up to the task?
On the evidence of ‘Aggressive Evolution’, ‘New Faces in the Dark’ and ‘Heavy is The Head That Falls With The Weight Of A Thousand Thoughts’ it is clear they’re keeping one foot in the extreme metal camp. The down-tuned guitar riffs of Meshuggah and Periphery provide a pulsating backdrop throughout the record and a brief foray into the raw savagery of black metal creeps in near the end. But the biggest evolution in the band’s sound is their homage to Chino Moreno and Deftones. Vocalist, Kadeem France, can switch from hostile growls and vitriolic mid-range screams to dreamy choruses in a split second. It’s both a strength and a weakness. Strong in its execution and emotional impact but bordering on plagiary in its obvious source of inspiration.
Perhaps the main surprise is the incorporation of distorted guitar melodies straight out of the alternative rock playbook. Listeners will find this a welcome addition to the sound and will soak up the melodies of ‘Screaming’ and ‘Is it Really You?’ with inverted eyebrows and a heavy heart. Standout track, ‘Two-Way Mirror’, is a monumental composition with a gorgeous guitar melody reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr or even forgotten UK alternative rockers, My Vitriol. It’s the type of song-writing prowess most bands would kill for yet never achieve.
At fourteen tracks in length, this record is punctuated throughout with at least four instrumental interludes of ambient beauty. But this is a metal album first and foremost and one that ramps up the heaviness to levels that will crush a live audience. Think Rolo Tomassi with lower tuned guitars. The intro to ‘Gored’ is ready-made to rattle your chest and the bass-heavy distortion of ‘Broken Vision Rhythm’ is as nasty as a Vildhjarta sound check.
Despite a brief meander near the end on ‘A Sad Cartoon’ and ‘A Sad Cartoon (Reprise)’, Loathe have delivered and justified the hype. The title track closing out the album encapsulates everything they’re trying to achieve with a reverb heavy chord progression, wailing vocals and a monstrous detour into Meshuggah madness. And for the record, Kadeem France’s schizophrenic vocals guide Erik Bickerstaffe’s guitar chuggs to places far beyond the Deftones soundscape.
The future is bright for these Liverpudlians. Ask Jens Bogren, who mixed this album fresh off the back of his wizardry on the latest Sepultura record.
Release Date: 07/02/2020
Record Label: SharpTone Records
Standout tracks: Two-Way Mirror, New Faces in the Dark, I Let It In and It Took Everything
Suggested Further Listening: Deftones – White Pony (2000), Frontierer – Unloved (2018), Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It (2018)