For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That there has been quite the buzz around Liverpudlian quintet Loathe since their debut EP, Prepare Consume Proceed, dropped in 2016 makes the existence of skeptics and detractors as inevitable as a rabid and dedicated fanbase. Their first full-length, The Cold Sun, released a year later, along with a truly relentess gigging schedule, entrenched those positions further. Even amongst the Heavy Blog staff, opinions on the band are sharply divided. Although it’s probably not going to take too long to figure out which camp this particular writer sits in. Either way, it is clear that many eyes are on Loathe as they release their second album, I Let It In And It Took Everything.
Like The Cold Sun, Loathe ease listeners into I Let It In And It Took Everything gently, with an introduction featuring the similarly bleak-but-mellow breathy Vangelis-style synth pads that provide moments of respite through both albums. Of course, barely a minute later Loathe deliver the first of many stout punches to the face in the form of the opening riff of “Aggressive Evolution”, doing pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Pairing a ferocious verse to an uplifting, anthemic chorus and capping the song off with a frankly disgusting breakdown, it’s a notably self-assured statement of intent. However, the track also sows the first seeds of what is likely to be the largest criticism of where Loathe have aggressively evolved their sound. But we’ll come back to that in a minute.
Before we get there, second track “Broken Vision Rhythm” and lead single “New Faces In The Dark” showcase most strongly Loathe’s ability to churn out a tremendous number of riffs and variations upon them, and then their discipline in leaving them behind after just a couple of repetitions. I Let It In And It Took Everything rarely stands still, with each track cramming in as many distinct, and distinctive, riffs as most metalcore bands manage to cobble together across a whole EP. Loathe’s signature riff sound is now instantly recognisable – a heady cocktail of a snarling, downtuned guitar tone, a deft use of rhythmic dissonance and an unmistakable cocksure swagger in the heavily syncopated grooves. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of ways they find to deploy the weapons in their compositional arsenal, and just how many of them are deeply satisfying, places them streets ahead of their peers, not to mention the growing number of other bands now clearly drawing influence from them.
Indeed, it says something about the high standards of quality across I Let It In And It Took Everything that Loathe can afford to bury lead single “Gored” ten tracks deep in the running order. The track, which first started appearing in live setlists last year, beats out stiff competition to lay claim to several of the most devastating riffs the band have penned to date, bolted together with a groove visible from space. Loathe in full flight – like the inspired decision to throw a wall of double-kick at the second verse of “Gored” – is easily one of the most thrilling experiences to be found in the UK metal underground right now. It is the meticulous attention to detail, even when knocking out the most primeval, knuckle-dragging riffs, that deliver such a satisfying listen.
It is the quieter moments of I Let It In And It Took Everything where opinions may diverge most significantly. The first hints in “Aggressive Evolution” bear more significant fruit on third track “Two-Way Mirror”, and “Is It Really You” later on. These quieter moments carry a particularly strong Deftones influence, especially in the vocal phrasing and spacious, dreamy guitar atmospherics. Of course, it is not like The Cold Sun didn’t have it’s melodic moments, but it is undeniable that the Deftones – or maybe Crosses – influence is noticeably more pronounced than before. Whether or not this is a deal-breaker will be a matter of personal taste. For some, it could well be simply too much of a distraction. For others, it could even be the reason they have been looking for to dismiss them entirely.
But, whilst the influence is undeniable, the results are well-formed and far from a cheap knock-off. These moments fit comfortably within the flow and context of the album, with the elements coming together in particular style during the title track itself, introducing a thick, predatory riff to a loping, languid groove. Importantly, these more pronunced influential nods don’t sound gratuitous. In fact, the short burst of blackgaze at the beginning of “Heavy Is The Head That Falls With The Weight Of A Thousand Thoughts” feels closer to being guilty of that particular crime than any Chino-inspired vocal melody.
Ultimately, I Let It In And It Took Everything shows that Loathe really are the complete package. They are capable of writing singalong choruses, and breakdowns caustic enough to strip paint. It is clear that the band put a herculean amount of thought into every tiny aspect of their overall presentation, from the songwriting, through their stagecraft and even as far as their merch lines. This effort has resulted in Loathe delivering an album that instantly grabs you by the lapels and throws you through the nearest window, but still contains enough subtlety and depth to remain a fresh listen for far longer than the average half-life. Loathe have hit upon a particularly compelling way to balance high-minded concepts and finely detailed songwriting with the pure, almost reflexive, thrill of a thick groovy riff. They prove that a big dumb riff doesn’t actually have to be that dumb after all, and that is quite a skill.
I Let It in and It Took Everything is available Feb. 7 via SharpTone Records.