A surprise release, somewhat of a sonic curveball, the new Loathe album may have caught some off-guard, but anyone who saw beyond the hulking chaotic riffs and screamed vocals of last years I Let it in and it Took Everything may not be so shocked upon pressing play.
This is an album Loathe have been threatening to make for a while, something more conceptual, akin to that of a film score; less Meshuggah, more David Lynch. The heavy, distorted guitars are absent for the duration of The Things They Believe. Instead, they are replaced by waves of otherworldly synths and more subtle instrumentation. Admittedly upon first listen, I was waiting for a crushing down-tuned riff to come crashing in and began wondering how long this intro was going to be. Whereas previous releases hit you head on, this album washes over you, bathing you in layers upon layers of brooding, ethereal soundscapes. Whilst these sounds were somewhat present on last year’s record, they are pushed very much to the forefront here.
It is difficult to pick out individual songs or moments from this album; it is there to be experienced in its entirety. The record is not simply a collection of tracks but a singular moving entity, shifting between various vibes and moods. The Things They Believe is sonically very dense; the synths are both soothing and suffocating, lulling you into a meditative state whilst at the same time maintaining a tense, foreboding atmosphere.
This is very much what has come to be known as a ‘mood album’. Even though the record sometimes feels like one long continual piece, the feeling and atmosphere often change, both between and during tracks. ‘Black Marble’ affronts you with its clipped audio and large stabs of electronics, its industrial pulse conjuring up images of being chased by some imperceivable threat. However, there is beauty to be found amongst all the dystopian dread of songs like ‘Don’t Get Hurt’. ‘Love in Real Time’ features a gorgeous solo saxophone, as the background instrumentation laps at you likes waves softly kissing the shoreline.
Arguably one of the most difficult challenges an instrumental album faces is making the listener feel something. Without the inclusion of a human voice, a song’s meaning is very much open to interpretation. However, it has to be said that this album is ultimately successful in achieving a sense of emotional gravitas. The record is not only drenched in reverb but also soaked in feelings of melancholy. The album is encapsulated by its closing track ‘The Rain Outside…’ which manages to sound both heart-breaking and optimistic.
It’ll be interesting to see how this record is adapted to a live setting. Will these songs serve as palette cleansers between the band’s more frantic material? Or perhaps allow Loathe to venture off into different musical territories? With how good this album is, it would be a shame for the band not to further explore and build upon these ideas in the future.
‘The Things They Believe’ is available on all major streaming platforms.