Artist: Hollow Front
Album: Loose Threads
A story is not unlike a hand-spun piece of clothing—a common thread weaved and traced with care and thought, taking unforeseen twists and turns to create something altogether more complex than its initial form. While it might be a bit dated, thereabouts lie the origin of one of my favorite old-person-isms of “spinning a yarn” when it comes to telling a long, winded tale. But what happens to the scraps? The bits and pieces cast asunder somewhere along the road to making some (presumably) dazzling end product?
Sometimes, It turns out, those loose threads end up more valuable than the end result itself.
Case in point: the breakout full-length effort from Michigan metalcore marauders in Hollow Front, Loose Threads. While the record itself might boast a somewhat modest title, rest assured, it is anything but mere scraps. Well over half an hour of grooves, punchy breakdowns, mesmerizing choruses and persnickety attention to detail, Loose Threads is a collection of metalcore anthems woven together into a cohesive display of modern metallic mastery, bar none.
Loose Threads is a smart, solid display of contemporary metalcore with enough wit and creativity to give it personality enough to stand apart from the masses of metalheads churning out otherwise unremarkable contributions to a crowded genre. Hollow Front range from hellaciously heavy to ambient and atmospheric throughout their debut full length record, touching on just about every shade between the two ends that metalcore itself can lend—much thanks to the foundation paved by percussionist Devin Attard. Attard’s work behind his kit makes the groovier, more aggressive cuts like “Vagabond” or “Panic” hit like a ton of bricks, while his more tame percussion on “Afflicted” allows him to play more in the pocket, leaving plenty of room for atmosphere from guitarist and singer Dakota Alvarez. Alvarez is a dynamo in his own right, effortlessly oscillating between outright brutality on “Vagabond” to prog-tinted leads reminiscent of Invent Animate on “Wishful Thinking” or “Falling Apart.” Here, he shows off his ability to use jaw-dropping leads to dazzle the listener with an unexpected right hook of creativity before laying a jaw-busting uppercut on them in the form of a grisly, gut-wrenching breakdown. The latter—those breakdowns—are amplified tenfold in density by bassist Brandon Rummler’s rumbling, low tone, adding a thick, tough layer of grit between Attard’s drumming and Alvarez’s crushing chugging. The band aren’t all heavy, all the time though; “Serendipity” highlights their ability to be dynamic, while album opener “Afflicted” is much less aggressive than the remainder of the record, using catchy vocal patterns atop a soundscape that runs the gamut between ethereal and bouncy to draw the listener in. Hollow Front’s debut effort finds enormous amounts of success in capturing the energy of their two previous EPs, but brilliantly stretching it out and making it last across an entire full length album.
Loose Threads, somewhat fitting to its name, sees frontman Tyler Tate using each song to tell a different story; and as varied as his stories are, so are his vocal efforts. While “Afflicted” and “Falling Apart” highlight less technical range and diversity, they see Tate exploring a broader range of singing–aided by the efforts of guitarist Alvarez–alongside a burly, raw mid-range yell. Others—like “Vagabond” and “Serendipity” display that Tate’s screaming has taken on more technical range but also emotive capability, effortlessly capturing sensations of frustration and desperation in the latter with hatred reigning supreme in the former. The only potential bone to pick comes with a single lyric line found in “Serendipity,” where Tate shouts I fell in love and I let it destroy me—a lyric oddly similar to a single released by Polaris mere years ago. The hard truth is that the lyric is an adaptation of a quote by Kinky Friedman (not Charles Bukowski, as many surmise) so to judge one band for using it as a lyric in the wake of another is akin to judging the 50+ deathcore bands who have used samples of Charles Manson interviews before a creepy breakdown—that is to say, it doesn’t matter. Tate’s work in “Serendipity” and indeed throughout Loose Threads highlights his growth since Still Life, and also his increased ability to work with his bandmates to create something cohesive and engaging.
At its core, Loose Threads is a metalcore record, through and through. It takes no great leaps to heroically try to “advance the genre,” nor does it fall flat on its face in achieving its modest goals. It’s fun, catchy and heavy—more importantly, it ages well and is highly replayable, bordering on binge-able. While the songs don’t necessarily always transition smoothly into one another (the middle stretch is particularly guilty of this), that’s really the only objective “flaw” to be found. Those who don’t enjoy metalcore won’t get much out of Loose Threads, but those who are even passively interested in the genre will find one of the most well-rounded efforts the genre has seen in 2020; nothing loose or hollow about it.
For Fans Of: Invent Animate, Fit for a King, Currents, Spirit Breaker
By: Connor Welsh