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Loathe

Loathe - The Cold Sun album art

The Cold Sun

14th April 2017 - SharpTone Records

01. The Cold Sun
02. It’s Yours
03. Dance On My Skin
04. East Of Eden
05. Loathe
06. 3990
07. Stigmata
08. P.U.R.P.L.E.
09. The Omission
10. Nothing More
11. Never More
12. Babylon

Something wicked this way comes. Stalking out of Liverpool are Loathe and their first album, The Cold Sun. With a ferocious debut EP Prepare Consume Proceed unleashed initially in 2015 and developing a reputation for ribcage-flattening intensity for their live performances, expectations are high. Can they deliver?

The short answer to that question is ‘Yes’. A longer answer would be a most emphatic ‘Hell, yes’. Exactly how they’ve managed that, and why The Cold Sun is such an essential listen deserves further examination.

The Cold Sun‘s title track serves as its introduction. Breathy synths, bringing to mind the Blade Runner soundtrack, emerge gradually from the silence, very much acting as the calm before the storm. This gentle, albeit bleak, opening to the proceedings is the first indication that Loathe have a keener grasp of the potency of dynamics than many of their peers – but more on that later.

With the stage set, The Cold Sun plunges into the more familiar ground of “It’s Yours” and “Dance On My Skin“, the pair of singles that have preceded this release and neatly illustrate the core of Loathe’s sound. For the uninitiated, Loathe take the grooves, buzzsaw tones and tunings of modern progressive metal, then put them through the twisted wringer of caustic hardcore. In effect, they have done the same thing with djent that early and interesting metalcore bands like Johnny Truant and Poison The Well did to groove metal – and the results are tremendously compelling.

The case could be made that this is what any number of deathcore or beatdown bands have done already, but in their general desire to go as brutal as possible as soon as possible and stay there, it has the same effect as jumping into a cold lake – its a hell of a shock at first, but you get used to it really very quickly. Loathe neatly sidestep that by constantly shifting gear, and by remembering that even for a heavy band, ‘melody’ is not a four letter word.

With the hooky chorus of “It’s Yours“, soaring vocal melodies on “East of Eden” and at various other points, Loathe have embraced melody and the heavier passages feel even heavier as a result. They’ve also, consciously or not, avoided a potential future outcry from affronted ‘fans’ by introducing the singing at a later date. This is very astute. What’s more, they clearly appreciate the impact of brevity; the last four bars of “Stigmata” are so gloriously filthy that you’ll happily skip straight back and listen to the whole song again, just to appreciate the full force of that final drop. Disgusting.

Elsewhere, “The Omission” is a diversion into glitchy electronica and “Nothing More” is a haunting piano interlude. “P.U.R.P.L.E.” even takes a quick jaunt through blackgaze territory. For a band that could easily have gained plaudits for releasing an album comprised of a dozen slight variations on the sound of “It’s Yours“, the diversity, maturity and restraint displayed on The Cold Sun is to be applauded vigorously.

Alongside the biting guitars and practically feral vocals, Loathe further embellish their sound with remarkably dense and ominous backing tracks. Slipknot-esque metallic percussion, surprisingly effective hand claps on “Dance On My Skin” and all manner of jagged synthetic noise add significantly to the overall dark and claustrophobic vibe of the album, as well as helping to tie the whole thing together. As a result, The Cold Sun very much feels like a complete entity, rather than simply a collection of tracks. These additional layers of sound might even stand up on their own as a Tribes of Neurot style ambient companion piece.

It’s obvious that a considerable amount of thought has gone into the entire Loathe package. From the repeated mantra of “Loathe As One”, through the presentation of their videos and live shows all the way to the terse, matter of fact voice of their social media presence, there is a tangible sense of cohesion that fully does justice to the devastating vitality of their music.

All of which adds up to say that in The Cold Sun, Loathe have delivered something really very special indeed. Listening to them brings about the same rush of excitement at a genuinely fresh and invigorating approach to heavy music that this hoary old metal fan felt when first encountering bands like SikTh and Slipknot. Yup, that’s some big talk right there, but Loathe have earned it.

If there is any justice in the world, this time next year Loathe will be playing rooms twice the size they are now, and we’ll be knee deep in new bands trying – and largely failing – to follow the template they have laid down on The Cold Sun. But fate is fickle and capricious, so while we wait to see if that happens, we still have a tremendously compelling album to listen to. Exhibiting considerable imagination and maturity, packing an immediate and thrilling punch that stands up to repeated listens, The Cold Sun should be considered as one of 2017′s essential listens.

Simon

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