The shift in genre tendencies over the course of metalcore’s existence has been an interesting topic to discuss, as there are only so many bands and records in the world of metal music that can be referred to as “visionary” works. We saw it when Converge began blending hardcore and heavy metal elements together (Jane Doe), we watched As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage become rock juggernauts with their blend of screaming and singing (An Ocean Between Us and As Daylight Dies, respectively), and we have seen Bring Me the Horizon pioneer this current wave of hard rock interlaced with electronics, samples, and emphasis on lyrical sincerity over cliché metaphor (Sempiternal and That’s the Spirit). In 2020, the current trend of metalcore is moving towards a more progressive tonality; using aspects of music not only from more subdued alternative categories (such as indie rock or shoegaze) as well as influence from music completely outside of the rock genre (electronic dance or pop being the two main examples) has allowed for a lot of variety to come out of newly released material. Despite this shift, another trend of metalcore has started to emerge; one that utilizes components of hardcore punk and nu-metal, which has led to the community refer to this genre as “nu-metalcore”. Bands have taken advantage of the chaotic nature of the music and have been able to tap into that energy in a live setting. Bands like Knocked Loose, Dealer, and SeeYouSpaceCowboy… are all indicators of this ever-growing subset of metal music. On the opposite end of that spectrum, Liverpool quintet Loathe have pulled pieces from all of alternative metal, intimate rock, and nu-metalcore in order to create I Let It In and It Took Everything; an absolute masterpiece of an album that has the potential to shift metalcore’s direction as a whole moving forward.
“Theme” and “Aggressive Evolution” start the album with lots of distortion, dissonance between guitar and electronics, and then… breaks into an alternative metal chorus? The key to this album is already shown throughout the first three minutes of its runtime; expect a lot of off-kilter, clashing pieces of music, because unexpected can bring a bigger payoff. The hardcore breakdown in the third half of the song reinforces that statement by breaking into chaos incarnate. “Broken Vision Rhythm” keeps that pace up from the first second; with pummeling hardcore drums forming the backbone that supports Kadeem France’s throat-shredding performance. The song does not let up and eventually leads into “Two-Way Mirror”, which in my opinion, is one of the best songs that has been released in the year (and in recent years as well), and has the potential for radio airplay. The song queues up the musical inspiration of Deftones (Chino Moreno actually shared this song on social media upon its release) and carries accompanying lyrics that bleed emotion and vulnerability. Loathe also managed to destroy the stigma of having clean songs as a metalcore band shunned due to “selling out” claims arising. The instrumentals in the back add a level of atmosphere to the music that is both eerie and feels as if the listener heard these tracks through purgatory.
“451 Days” is another interlude (adding to the conceptualization of I Let It In) before the sonic assault of “New Faces in the Dark” brings back the signature nu-metalcore sound that Loathe had a hand in popularizing. An atmospheric lull about halfway through the song leads into a final push for heaviness in the back half, and leads into “Red Room”. This song was hard to review, as I did not know whether or not it was an interlude or an actual song. Sitting at just over two minutes, the minimalist approach to the song suddenly flips a switch, and Loathe finds themselves flirting with the heaviest track they have ever released. “Screaming” brings a more industrial sound with another alternative metal-inspired chorus. Erik Bickerstaffe lays some solid groundwork here; his clean vocals do not go unnoticed throughout the entirety of the mix, and with this track toying with being almost “dance-y”, the singing really cements the identity it is trying to create.
“Is It Really You?” sheds any skin of metalcore that the band has used in the first half of the album… well, for some of it, anyways. The song seamlessly transitions from a by-the-book, cliché hard rock song to a breakdown and an acoustic guitar passage in the back half. Succinctly put, this song is all over the place (as is the case with most of the album preceding it). The ending leads into “Gored”, which was the first taste of new Loathe that we got when the double single was originally released. The song fits amazing in the context of the album. For those who like the heavy aspect of the band, the song contains plenty of that. The next song on the record, “Heavy Is the Head That Falls with the Weight of a Thousand Thoughts” (this song had to have been inspired by Fall Out Boy). This song begins by opening up on the deathcore spectrum, with blast beats and shrieks piercing the soundscape, eventually settling into that signature Loathe groove for some more heaviness. The sense of doom is strong on this particular track; the song ends with noise fading out and then, as the biggest shock on this album, is concluded by the return of the acoustic guitar.
“A Sad Cartoon” carries more of the same feel that “Two-Way Mirror” and “Screaming” provided with more of a straightforward melody and progression. There’s elements of dreampop and shoegaze here, working together to create something that sounds ethereal. This song has some metal tendencies, but strays away from heaviness in order to convey their emotion (outside of some instrumentals). “A Sad Cartoon (Reprise)” is the final interlude of the album, and contains nothing but interspersed passages of electronics and distortion. It leads into the album closer, “I Let It In and It Took Everything”, which is probably the song that sounds most like Loathe to casual listeners. It takes everything that the album has expanded upon and culminates into in epic conclusion. The song ends with soft crooning, before the sound just ceases to be. No fading out. A simple musical conclusion brings I Let It In and It Took Everything to an end.
The album will undoubtedly have a lot to be deciphered by keyboard analysts on Reddit and other reviewers trying to pine for any sort of hidden meaning that Loathe snuck into their concept (trust me, I was looking for one too). The sheer abrasiveness of the music is definitely going to be the subject of debate for casual metal listeners and elitists, however, the onslaught of stylistic change between songs is enough for someone to sit back and admire the pure musicianship that took place over I Let It In’s 49-minute runtime. The incorporation of clean vocals to supplement non-metalcore tracks was a brilliant move, and while people will continue to try and pigeon-hole Loathe into a genre, the band’s second studio album has already transcended the band’s status as a metalcore band, and in my opinion, has given them the status of a metalcore pioneer.
Erik Bickerstaffe said it best when discussing the new album. “We’re not here to add to someone else’s legacy. We’re trying to create our own.” Eloquently said, Mr. Bickerstaffe. I think that goal has been achieved.
I give this album a 10.0 out of 10.
If you don’t want to listen to this album but still want a feel for the record, listen to “Two-Way Mirror”, “Is It Really You?”, and “I Let It In and It Took Everything”.
I Let It In and It Took Everything will be available via streaming services, digital retailers, and physical retailers on Friday, February 7th, 2020, through SharpTone Records.