It’s difficult to ignore the meteoric rise in hardcore music that has taken place in the last 10 years.
A genre that was once the home of delinquents and dudes with bowl cuts has now become an integral part of alternative music. One of the bands at the forefront of this punishing wave of music is Knocked Loose.
After bursting on the scene with their 2014 EP “Pop Culture,” the band quickly put themselves — as well as their proud place of origin, Oldham County, Kentucky — on the map. For many fans, Knocked Loose is the archetype of modern hardcore, and rightfully so.
The band has created a unique sound, garnering deserved credibility and a devoted following. This established them as hardcore heavyweights. On their follow-up to their 2016 debut full-length album “Laugh Tracks,” Knocked Loose has rebuilt the model of hardcore music on their new record “A Different Shade of Blue.”
Building off of the promise that “Laugh Tracks” displayed, “A Different Shade of Blue” is the band at its absolute best. The record opens with the punishing “Belleville,” a song that, if it’s your first time listening to Knocked Loose, feels like a crash-course of all of the necessary parts of the band. “Belleville” seamlessly flows into “Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory,” a panic-inducing barnburner punctuated by intermittent breakdowns and moments of absolute malice.
One of the first singles off of the record, “Mistakes Like Fractures,” starts with a menacing build-up filled with atonal riffage and “panic chords” before barreling into a two-step worthy verse. Between sections of classic hardcore ideas, the band sprinkles in devastating breakdowns and extreme riffs throughout. It’s a format that the band implements on nearly every one of their songs that differs vastly from the pop song with a breakdown format that hardcore has relied on for years.
“…And Still I Wander South,” coupled with its equally intense music video, is an absolute thrill ride that ends with a chilling growl by guitarist and vocalist Isaac Hale, whose low register has become an integral part to the band’s sound. The song fades into a spacious and eerie wash of slow, clean guitars, which is abruptly ended by the force of “Denied by Fate.”
Knocked Loose will be at the Summit in Denver Oct. 4 on their U.S. headlining tour in support of “A Different Shade of Blue.”
The album ends with “Misguided Son,” a song that employs a slow and savagely violent breakdown that leaves listeners needing to take a breath and recover from the brutality of the record.
“A Different Shade of Blue” is by all accounts a Knocked Loose record. The band follows a format that they’ve constructed from all of the best parts of hardcore. What separates “A Different Shade of Blue” from “Laugh Tracks” is a noticeable maturity gained from the years off between the two records. This maturity comes through in every aspect of the songs on the record, especially in the signature vocal style of lead singer Bryan Garris.
Another aspect of the record that separates it from “Laugh Tracks” is the apparent brutality that the band implements in the very breakdown-heavy songs on “A Different Shade of Blue.”
A decidedly darker tone aside, “A Different Shade of Blue” also sees the band experimenting with ideas that have made their songs both relatable to their fans and somewhat uncomfortable to listen to.
Part of Knocked Loose’s sound that has made them so popular with audiences outside of hardcore is their introspective and emotional lyrical content. On “…And Still I Wander South,” Garris sings about the frustration of being stuck in the same place emotionally and the ease of slipping back into comfortable habits. This experimentation is also noted within their instrumental arrangements, as the band incorporates more use of guitar effects and dynamics.
While “A Different Shade of Blue” is a sound record, the songwriting and performances are not safe from an aspect of hardcore that many bands find difficult to escape; many of the songs sound very similar. The record feels somewhat monotonous at times with an occasional break in the form with an interesting lyrical idea or cool riff. This is a side effect of the writing process in hardcore music that many fans have come to accept and, in many cases, ignore in favor of breakdown fetishism.
What Knocked Loose has working in their favor, however, is that “A Different Shade of Blue” is based on a sound that is synonymous with them. Like their contemporaries Vein and Code Orange, listeners know what to expect when listening to a Knocked Loose record, and that comfortability doesn’t necessarily distract from the song on the record or the record as a whole.
The record also suffers from a very familiar format in its breakdowns. The breakdowns on the record, while more interesting and certainly more brutal than many other bands in hardcore, call into question just how many fret breakdowns a band can write.
On “A Different Shade of Blue,” Knocked Loose created an evil twin to their album “Laugh Tracks” while improving on a sound that is so uniquely theirs. All of the traits of the band are present throughout the album and are strengthened by an admirable maturity that resonates in each song. In a genre that relies mostly on the bands asking, “How brutal can I make this song?” while ignoring the necessity of good songwriting, Knocked Loose stands out as one of the few bands that is able to bring punishing riffs and introspective songwriting in a consistent and interesting package.
Album Rating: 7/10
Matt Campbell can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mcampnh.