Album Review: Knocked Loose - 'A Different Shade Of Blue'

19 August 2019 | 2:24 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

Laughter & melancholy; riffs & breakdowns.

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When I say that 'A Different Shade Of Blue' is leagues ahead of 2016's 'Laugh Tracks,' there's the caveat that I don't think much of Knocked Loose's debut LP. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine enough metallic hardcore record with some cool songs, but it does little for me personally. Basically, I can find similar material that I enjoy a hell of a lot more from recent or older artists that do pretty much the same thing, just better. However, now it's high time to add Knocked Loose to that coveted table. As 'A Different Shade Of Blue' makes their first album look like that new Peppa Pig album.

Because Knocked Loose's sophomore LP is a massive step up; a wicked, energetic hardcore/metalcore record that sees them being more confronting, passionate and violent sounding than ever before. It amplifies everything that the band was doing before now yet it pushes it all up to 10. It's darker, bigger, heavier, riffier, and is far more honest in terms of what frontman Bryan Garris is sharing about himself, his life and his innermost thoughts. This album is absolutely the Kentucky heavy outfit laying real claim to the hype that surrounds everything they do; it's them finally catching up to the love and attention they've received so far with the songs to back it up.

Taking on heavier death metal and thrash influences, but also maintaining their Martyr A.D., Disembodied and Turmoil inspirations, MetalSucks' favourite band walks a balanced tight rope of hardcore and metal. (Huh, if only there was just some form of sub-genre that could best sum this up.) There really is something for most heavy music fans to enjoy here; from death metal bruisers to spin-kicking hardcore kids, to the metalcore fans and everyone else in between. Knocked Loose won't win points for originality or variation, nor should they with this release, but what hefty points they do rack up comes down to just how well-paced and how well-written this new batch of dozen songs are. It's an impressive, brutal execution of tried-and-true sounds, one that is fully created with the live stage in mind. (The pace and structure to opener 'Belleville' confirms all of this.) But you know what? Sometimes, that's all you need for a record to be fuckin' sick. Knocked Loose will one day have to evolve and change at some point, but on LP #2, they sure as shit don't need to right now. If this was their fourth or fifth record, it'd be a different story, but here, they just needed to push everything to its breaking point, which is exactly what they've done on 'A Different Shade Of Blue.'

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When you think of the angriest hardcore records, what do you think of? Well, if you don't think of The Hope Conspiracy's 'Death Knows Your Name' (2006), then you're dreaming! However, if you were to think of this newest Knocked Loose record, I would agree with you. As there is such a level of extreme energy, such a level of bitterness, honesty and brooding sonic rage, so much so that I'm sure many bands twice Knocked Loose's age desperately wish they could still muster something similar up. This is the sound of the underground swinging with full force, and this band gets so much mileage and impact out so little; of doing something so expected and "generic." Yet there's honestly a true skill in pulling that off these days, with the sheer frequency of bands that are aiming at this specific sound of hardcore and metalcore. It's just that Knocked Loose are doing it better than most wannabees with their sophomore. As per the one-two punch of the record's first two movements, 'Belleville' and 'Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory', they're indicative of what follows them musically. What you see is what you get; there are no experimental or out-there moments. But that's totally okay because what Knocked Loose do here is competent and sound enough to stand on its own.

Will Putney's production and mixing/mastering job has made Knocked Loose sound their best yet, sonically. Thankfully, that role from the esteemed engineer hasn't come at the cost of removing the group's seething musical anger nor watering down their sound either. The odd sample (like the grisly murder news report at the end of 'In The Walls'), the occasional guitar groan or feedback, (like the end of 'Guided By The Moon') and this record's darker atmosphere (the creepy outro to '...And Still I Wander Sound') are all aided and abetted by Will's great work on the faders. Because his producer-role and his mix do what a good production and mix should do: refine the sound of a band like Knocked Loose who are now firing on all cylinders.

On 'A Different Shade of Blue', there's further lyrical explorations of death, mental health, defeated mindsets, along with personal accountability and personal drama. This is reinforced by how loud Bryan's high-pitched, scathing screams are in the mix. If anything, they are THE driving force behind the record's savage momentum, next to the riffs, of course. But this places the vocalist's personal experiences - sentiments of loss and regret, numbness and vices, mental health metaphors of 'blue' for depression and anxiety, hiding away from the light but just wanting to feel something - right at the record's vehement core. It's deeper in tone than what many may expect from Knocked Loose, but I sincerely hope that these themes and lyrics aren't over-looked by surface deep listeners just looking for a heavy breakdown to pit during. Sure, Knocked Loose send it to Riff Town and back more times than I can count, but there's a lot more that this release wishes to express. So please take notice.

Song-wise, 'By The Grave' sees these little phased guitar riffs swing hard into distorted, shattering riffs backed up by meaty breakdowns and guitarist Isaac Hale's commanding growls merging with Bryan's piercing screams. In fact, this dual-vocal style compliments each other so well. 'In The Walls' wins the album's gnarliest track award, with some seriously violent pinch harmonics and wailing feedback, with pummelling mid-scooped riffs that could be endorsed by Boss. 'Guided By The Moon' (where the album's name comes from lyrically) creates a deftly eerie atmosphere with washing distortion and distant spoken word parts intersecting this mental Slayer-riffage-like track about feeling the reaper nipping at your heels. And the song's ridiculously big breakdown that stands against the loss of friends that should come with a goddamn warning label: "do not touch, this will fuck your shit up."

The lurching pace of the riffy 'Road 23' is insane, and the song's "misery" build-up/breakdown is going to decimate venues, just you watch. The stomping intro of 'Forget Your Name' could level cities, and the killer Keith Buckley guest vocal feature in the final section is the cherry on top, with some great lyrical word-play from the Every Time I Die frontman. Speaking of guest vocals, the venomous third song 'A Serpent's Tongue' sees Dying Wish vocalist, Emma Boster lend her aggressive roars to a chugging, pit-ready finale that's an early highlight for the record. (If you haven't already, check out Dying Wish ASAP; that band is stupidly good.)

Singles 'Mistakes Like Fractures' and '...And Still I Wander South' fit into the larger record perfectly and are just as good in the context of the wider release as they were as standalone tracks. The gloomy guitar chords and droning, ringing atmosphere of the outro to '...And Still I Wander South' hears a sharp breath inhaled before Knocked Loose erupt with the penultimate fatalist cut, 'Denied By Fate', where they race along through a chaotic, explosive riff-fest in this dissonant-interval-loving brooder. Then, closer 'Misguided Son' is a great example of how much Isaac brings to the table as a backing vocalist (and as a guitarist.) His output here cannot be understated: the album wouldn't be the same, wouldn't be as good, without him dominating behind the mic at times. As his reverberant lower growls in the mid-section becoming a domineering focal point that allows the band to launch into a classic, discordant, breakdown-laden outro; leaving us with a final, confrontational proclamation of "I'd rather die than be like you.'

With Knocked Loose's second record, do not expect a ground-breaking old-school metalcore album. With 'A Different Shade Of Blue', do not expect a game-changing new hardcore record. Because it isn't. No, what you should instead anticipate with 'A Different Shade of Blue' is Knocked Loose paying brilliant tribute to the sounds and styles of late 90's and early 2000's heavy music, the kind that so clearly influence and inspire them now, whilst also refining what people love about their band into what is now an air-tight, deadly art-form. For Knocked Loose's latest effort is as tight and as solid as metalcore revivalism, hardcore worship and not-so-subtle thrash and death metal appreciation can get these days. And that's all it is, but it doesn't need to be anything else for it to be this good.

The breakdowns are huge, the lyrical emotion and honesty are so authentic, the riffs are off-kilter and killer old-school throwbacks, the vocal interplay between Bryan Garris and Isaac Hale is full of weight and chemistry, and these 12 songs have a whole new level of energy. It's consistently the same sounding record throughout, yet what's key is that it has a consistently strong track flow and execution. An album like this can work because it's so passionate in delivery and so driven in its songwriting and urgency. To the point that Knocked Loose's latest is near-impossible to not appreciate; damned hard to not enjoy. This is Knocked Loose's sound and songwriting all pushed up to that next level of intensity. And there's also zero "arf arf: barking, so that's a huge plus right there!


Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory

A Serpent's Tongue (feat. Emma Boster)

By The Grave

In The Walls

Guided By The Moon

Mistakes Like Fractures

Forget Your Name (feat. Keith Buckley)

Road 23

...And Still I Wander South

Denied By Fate

Misguided Son

'A Different Shade Of Blue' is out August 23rd.