2020 should have been Loathe‘s year. Their sophomore album, ‘I Let It In And It Took Everything’, was one of the finest releases of that year, a barn-stormingly brilliant fusion of intense modern metal and complex, nuanced textures. It was a classic case of a talented young band trying to create a masterpiece and coming very close to succeeding.
But, alas, the not-so-small matter of the pandemic got in the way. Little more needs to be said about everything that happened, however, like all of us, the Liverpudlian band found themselves living in a locked down world, unable to celebrate or create in the ways they’d come to know how.
Instead, Loathe used this to put together ‘The Things They Believe’, a collection of electronica-based ambient sketches unlike anything they’ve released thus far. In place of their trademark baritone guitars and gargantuan anthems are haunting soundscapes; strange, swirling atmospherics that creep around your head and lodge themselves in your brain.
Formally, it’s strikingly different to the rest of Loathe‘s oeuvre. Tonally, however, it falls neatly in line with their vision. The band are noted disciples of the Deftones church of textured metal, one that’s primarily interested in “suggesting emotions rather than announcing them”, to paraphrase a Chino Moreno quote. Their previous work was built on a bedrock of textured-focused songwriting, utilising lush synths, spacious guitar tones, and ambiguous, oneiric lyrics to captivate and move as much as bludgeon.
‘The Things They Believe’ also succeeds in following this maxim. The gorgeous, noir-like ‘Love In Real Time’ utilises John Waugh of The 1975‘s saxophone to conjure up a neon-lit vista, as if stepping into the rain-soaked futurescape of Vangelis‘s Blade Runner score. ‘The Rain Outside’ is similarly lovely, utilising birdsong and more saxophone to paint a melancholic and impressionistic portrait. These tracks are ‘The Things They Believe’ at its most optimistic and dazzling, though not strictly its most original or provocative.
It’s in the darker moments that the album really comes alive. ‘Black Marble’ is a creeping delight, with cosmic, Blanck Mass-esque synths and a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross-like expressionist angularity that really gets under your skin. ‘Don’t Get Hurt’ is ambient perfection, with a brilliant opening stretch that recalls the crackled soundscapes of Burial or Andy Stott. These tracks manage to capture a sense of paranoid danger, tonal territory that Loathe have thus far left unexplored.
It’s hard to listen to ‘The Things We Believe’ and not read it as a reflection of the purgatorial weirdness of lockdown life. Titles like ‘The Year Everything And Nothing Happened’ and ‘Perpetual Sunday Evening’ are neat summations of the strange places that 2020 took us to, and the general register of the album seems marked by mystery and vagueness, as if the the real music is hidden behind a sheet of gauze and what we’re hearing is just a glimpse of its true possibilities.
That’s not to wholly write off Loathe‘s skills when it comes to creating this style of music. ‘The Things We Believe’ is engaging, ambitious, traverses much of the emotional spectrum, and is highly technically accomplished. However, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is just a stop gap for a band who deserve to be doing so much more. Hopefully, in the not so distant future, they shall.