Album review: Loathe – The Things They Believe
Sometimes, you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt.
A year on from the release of their astonishing second album I Let It In And It Took Everything, Liverpudlian alt.metallers Loathe should have been on the mother of all victory tours, giving their complex, cathartic sound full life in packed live arenas around the world. Instead, they’re stuck at home, frustrated by a stratospheric trajectory so cruelly cut short, and pent up more than ever having not yet truly expunged the tribulations of that record’s tortuous creation alongside their fans. Rather than dipping into defeatism, though, they’ve adopted and plumbed the aspect of their sound best suited to life in lockdown.
Featuring 12 ambient, instrumental recordings, The Things They Believe offers an extension of the world of I Let It In… and a significant addendum to the broader Loathe universe. Album 2.5, if you will. Aesthetically and thematically, it fits the bill. That purposefully ambiguous title was borrowed from the script of 2007 vampire thriller 30 Days Of Night, but it perfectly matches their themes of twisted reality and human interrelationship. Likewise, the expressionist, experimental, synth-heavy sounds of tracks like Don’t Get Hurt and Love In Real Time ring like the distended echoes of what’s come before. Even when The 1975 saxophonist John Waugh weighs in he feels like part of the furniture that just hadn’t been rolled-out before.
The band insist that this is the soundtrack to the ongoing movie playing inside their heads. Scanning over evocative song titles like Perpetual Sunday Evening, Keep Fighting The Good Fight and The Year Everything And Nothing Happened, it seems it could as easily be for the one unfolding in front of their eyes. Sure, periods of chest-tightening high drama swell and subside, daringly evoking the soundtracks to David Lynch’s surrealist cinema, Vangelis’ iconic Blade Runner score, and the accomplished work of Radiohead multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood on movies like There Will Be Blood and You Were Never Really Here. More often, however, these are aural representations of the stasis and strange serenity of life on hold.
Many fans will doubtless be disappointed by what is missing: frontman Kadeem France’s urgent lyricism, the clearly-defined light/dark dynamic of their best work, and any sense of traditional heaviosity. Although such feelings are justified, they miss the point. When we’re all stuck listening with headphones on in our bedrooms, it’s better to have deep sounds to fall into than music that’ll leave us even-more-frustratedly bouncing off the walls.
Even more crucially, this is a project that presses against the boundaries and sets a new precedent for what exactly Loathe can be. “I want to expand our universe in any way possible to make it something fans can live inside,” enthused Kadeem when he spoke to K! at the end of 2020. Guitarist Erik Bickerstaffe was equally zealous: “We want to expand the Loathe lore in any way possible to give people in all different walks of life a way into what we do.”
It turns out those were far from empty words. Their vision is out there in the musical unknown. This is proof of the fearlessness to leap out and make it real.
For Fans Of: 65daysofstatic, God Is An Astronaut, This Will Destroy You
The Things They Believe is out now via SharpTone.
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