Artist: Knocked Loose
Album: A Different Shade of Blue
Knocked Loose, despite—or rather in spite—of their well-deserved fame are one of the most divisive bands in the heavy music community. Everything about them, from the vocals, to the riffs, lyrics, arfs and even their genre has been under near-constant scrutiny since their critically acclaimed EP, Pop Culture. The band’s notoriety only continued to grow with Laugh Tracks, a record that would literally send the band around the world, from Oldham County to Osaka. It would be reasonable to expect an act to fold under that kind of pressure. Hell—you’ve been at odds with adversity, right? Felt the tireless stare and relentless weight of others expectations fall firmly on your shoulders? It sucks, and it’s easy to buckle when the going gets tough.
So did they? Did Knocked Loose succumb to the expectations and pressures put forth by the demanding nature of heavy music fans and critics alike?
A Different Shade of Blue is a resounding “hell no.” Knocked Loose’s 2019 full-length record has not one second of filler from start to finish, and it is quintessential Knocked Loose throughout its entirety. Catchy, crushing, immolating and completely true to what made the act a household name, A Different Shade of Blue is an excellent example of raw heaviness with an introspective and intelligent twist that is bound to make countless album-of-the-year lists come December.
Instrumentally, Knocked Loose take a very bare-bones approach, and it pays off immensely. A Different Shade of Blue feels like the natural follow-up to Laugh Tracks in many ways—the riffs from guitarists Isaac Hale and Cole Crutchfield feel big and hit hard, all while being immensely catchy, just as the band’s percussionist Kevin Kaine uses punchy patterns juxtaposed against quick fills to keep the listener on their toes. “Belleville” and “A Serpent’s Touch” are two great examples—Crutchfield and Hale weave monstrous metallic leads between immense breakdowns while Kevin Otten’s bass adds punch and thickness to Kaine’s drumming. But this isn’t necessarily different from Knocked Loose’s previous dynamic—after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—but just because Knocked Loose use the same general dynamic doesn’t mean they haven’t stepped up their game. In short, every song on A Different Shade of Blue feels like a hit single; every riff and groove feels big enough to fill a stadium, every fill and drum pattern is beefy and bold and the bass is omnipresent, giving everything weight and crunch. This is showcased further on “Denied By Fate,” where the band—for lack of a better term—lets loose with some of the hardest metalcore this decade has heard. The band take their dynamic that they’ve spent a discography building and spend A Different Shade of Blue refining it, ensuring that every second of the record feels fresh and energetic, leaving no room for filler or superfluous material.
If there’s one single factor that can be labeled as Knocked Loose’s most divisive, it’s the vocal element from frontman Bryan Garris. Those who hate his unique vocal style, well, they hate it, but there’s no denying that there isn’t another voice out there like his. A Different Shade of Blue sees Garris’ voice sounding brighter and more aggressive over Knocked Loose’s sharper and tighter instrumentation, with songs like “Guided By the Moon” and “By the Grave”—as well as the aforementioned “Belleville”—hosting a plethora of hooks that are bound to get stuck in the listener’s head. However, like the band’s instrumentation, Garris’ work has changed for the better. No longer are entire songs build around what feels like one or two solid lines—instead, songs detail a narrative, climactic to those crowd-friendly one-liners, but cohesive and cleverly written throughout. This isn’t a shot at Laugh Tracks or Pop Culture, but more so an observation that listeners will no longer spend an entire song waiting for that one perfect line from Garris, but rather are hit with line after line right from the get-go. Plus, with the appearances of Emma Boster and Keith Buckley, there’s enough star power to give that extra oomph to A Different Shade of Blue.
Pop Culture was a work of art—and while, personally, Laugh Tracks fell a little short of that mark, it still is a solid record. Where does A Different Shade of Blue stack up? How does it compare? Well, it doesn’t, really. It feels bigger, heavier, catchier, more anthemic, all of the above, really. Knocked Loose took their time with crafting this release and it shows—from the guest spots, to the spooky as hell sample in “In the Walls,” or how catchy the closing sections of “Belleville” or “Denied by Fate,” there is so much to love about A Different Shade…that even if you hated the band’s previous work, it would be criminal to not check it out.
For Fans Of: Sanction, Counterparts, Sharptooth, Stray from the Path
By: Connor Welsh