Review: “I Let It In and It Took Everything” by Loathe

Liverpool Gloom Metal pioneers Loathe are a band we’ve followed since the before anyone knew who they were outside of the Metal Underground Scene. They were playing a show at the no longer in existence dive bar Sanctuary in Basingstoke in September 2017 with Harbinger and lit the place up with at most a hundred people in the venue. It was a floor show, no stage to speak of, the audience at eye level as Kadeem France bounced and ranted and raved while the band played out tracks from 2017’s “The Cold Sun“. From there we followed them through their split with Holding Absence which features the brilliant Deftones inspired single “White Hot”, saw them play the main stage at Tech-Fest 2018 and open the “Eternal Forward Motion” album release show for Employed to Serve, where we witnessed “Gored” for the first time. Not to mention appearances at Upsurge Festival and alongside Stray From The Path across Europe. A lot has happened in those two years including ex-Holding Absence guitarist Feisal El-Khazragi replacing original bassist Shayne Smith and for Kadeem France (vocals), Erik Bickerstaffe (guitars, vocals), Sean Radcliffe (drums), Connor Sweeney (guitars) it seems like this is very much their moment.

Loathe’s sophomore album starts with “Theme“, which is a throwback to “The Cold Sun” with it’s 1979 Alien synth vibe that aches over it’s 83 seconds before the sound of rain, a cassette being turned over and the DJent fueled gloom groove of the powerhouse single “Aggressive Evolution“. It’s perhaps not a surprise that the Deftones esq clean vocal parts first heard on “White Hot” are present here but the clincher is that for every melodic moment there is an equal polar opposite aggressive violent one. One second they’re the musical equivalent of a mothers gentle hand on the forehead of a sick child, the next they’re the sonic knuckle duster enclosed punch in the face that the playground bully uses to knock your front teeth out. “Broken Vision Rhythm” drives the aggressive tendencies home with some seriously crunchy chugged riffs and a play as fast as you can attitude while France spits venom. The tempo shifts in the track are perfectly timed and there is the obvious influence of Bickerstaffe and Sweeney, who have become highly thought of producers in their own right by this point. “Two-Way Mirror” was the single that gained a lot of attention with it’s Chino Moreno inspired vocal harmony and shoegazing quality which is as much Deftones as it is one of Moreno’s other projects Crosses. It’s a melodic bright sunlight through the dark clouds moment, however what makes the signature Loathe sound – heavily syncopated grooves with rhythmic dissonance in a downtuned guitar tone – is completely absent on this one. Being completely honest, it’s one that we didn’t like at first but that does grow on you with repeated listens, put into the middle third of the album so that the listener doesn’t simply switch off if it were the final cut.

Returning to “The Cold Sun” once more for “451 Days” which has a barely audible speech sample buried within the mix of synths and acts as an introduction to the vicious “New Faces In The Dark“. One of the pair of singles that were released as a double “A” side well before the album was released, it splits in the same way that “Aggressive Evolution” does, part clean melodic harmonies from Bickerstaffe and part bloodcurdling roars from France. The key difference being that the heavier aspect doesn’t hit as hard until the brutal final breakdown section which has to be one of the heaviest parts Loathe have conjured in their career. Schizophrenic noises in the background of some off kilter warped guitar sounds make for a epic closing. “Red Room” takes the atmospheric route of “451 Days” and “Theme” in it’s opening half and when you least expect it, it bursts into life like a bi-polar killer who was asleep in a chair and is now chasing you down a corridor with an axe. The clean and crisp drum sound of “Screaming” that is arguably the biggest surprise of the album. It threatens the shoegaze moments of “Two-Way Mirror” but instead throws up some caustic backing vocals while it’s life affirming if seemingly ordinary rhythm guitar work has enough hook and nuance to take hold. By keeping the fuzzy dark tones they keep the link between their core sound and this evolved one and the result is a track that will grow on you with repeated listens. “Is It Really You?” takes the Space Rock sounds from earlier in the record and puts them inside a Loathe encapsulation. The song is dark and twisted enough not to be commercial while working hard on the atmospheric of how despair feels. For every high there is a low and for every aggressive tendency there is an adverse reaction. A challenging listen, this cut is expertly crafted with nuances that you might not notice the first time around.

Putting the brilliant “Gored” so late in the the album is essentially to give the record a better balance, Loathe clearly not wanting to top heavy with their aggressive material in the first half and then essentially creating an album split in two with the distinctly separate pair of stylings on show here. If you haven’t heard it already as a standalone single, the track is a tour de force of the signature Loathe sound with DJent bounce with both vocalists going full on scream out and Radcliffe’s double kick jackhammers making for a brutal menacing track of evil skill and dexterity. Longest title in the catalog “Heavy Is the Head That Falls with the Weight of a Thousand Thoughts” starts as Loathe doing a Grindcore track before twisting into their usual swagger and adding in some off kilter horror film synths and juddering riffs. Its part, an acoustic moment that makes way for “A Sad Cartoon” may seem out of place but acts as a palette cleanser for the style shift into a track that seamlessly blends some solid rhythmic guitar patterns in a gentle sea crashing against the shore line moment that has enough dark energy to carry it through. The “reprise” version that follows it is seemingly a leftover piece of the instrumental jigsaw puzzle that didn’t fit the original track before the warped tones of the album title track “I Let It In and It Took Everything” swings in like a vulture from the sky to pluck it’s prey from the desert sand and fly away. It’s dark twisted guitar tones are sinister and menacing while the synths add a sense of foreboding tension which makes for an final piece of epic grandeur. As a whole, at 49 minutes the album is probably two shoegazing songs too long as while it holds together nicely with an overarching melancholic sadness and dark textured beauty, it’s also a bigger stylistic leap than some fans will enjoy [7.5/10]

Track listing

  1. Theme
  2. Aggressive Evolution
  3. Broken Vision Rhythm
  4. Two-Way Mirror
  5. 451 Days
  6. New Faces in the Dark
  7. Red Room
  8. Screaming
  9. Is It Really You?
  10. Gored
  11. Heavy Is the Head That Falls with the Weight of a Thousand Thoughts
  12. A Sad Cartoon
  13. A Sad Cartoon (Reprise)
  14. I Let It In and It Took Everything

I Let It In and It Took Everything” by Loathe is out now via SharpTone Records

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