Album: Never Young
I remember way back in the day—and I mean way back—when I had my heart broken by the first girl I ever gave it to. If you’re tuned in, reading this, I’m going to assume that you can relate. At the time, one of my best friends’ father was a big role model of mine, so I talked a lot about it to him—I was young, impressionable, easily devastated, you know, the works—and he helped me process how I felt and learn to accept it. Several years later, albeit in a similar scenario, I was talking with him from the perspective of a college near-graduate, counting down the weeks until my graduation ceremony. He asked me an interesting question, and one that I still play with from time to time:
If you could miss it all, would you?
If you could go back in time and skip past the adolescent heartache, the sleepless nights, the dreary, never-ending days, the things that got you worked up and pissed off for no reason or the friends who cut you off and girls (or boys, or whoever) that left you for dead—would you? Whether you answer yes or no isn’t really relevant—what is relevant is that the entire phase; the angst, drama, depression, drug-addled summer-turning-to-fall days that define the adolescence of so many is the distilled spirit of Michigan grunge-turned-soundcloud-rap-turned-nu-metalcore act Loser. Never Young is an anthemic collection of songs that blurs conventional genre lines to deliver a hazy and ethereal sense of nostalgic, nuanced longing for the past, mixed with the all-too-prevalent bitter twinge of remorse, regret and embarrassment that defines it. In so many words, Loser are a band without a genre, and Never Young is a record you have to hear to believe.
If you’re familiar with Loser’s debut, you know the band are a musical chimera. Drawing influences from across the musical spectrum (not purely limited to heavy music), Never Young sounds a little bit like a Soundgarden-meets-Bones-meets-Nirvana-meets-Korn-meets-Speaker of the Dead-era Emmure. Sound dizzying? Good—because the truth is that not even that description really does Loser justice. Percussionist Sammy Morales (who has filled in for countless touring metalcore and deathcore acts as resident peddler of blast-beats) lays down the foundation for Never Young, and he does so brilliantly. Handling production and percussion both, Morales’ work is solid, giving songs like the album’s intro, “Ronin 94” a bouncy, thick candor while “XXX” and “Roam” are much more ethereal, with the former sounding like a lo-fi Soundcloud rapper’s lovestruck nightmare, and the latter excellently balancing grunge and groove. Morales’ work as a drummer is just are noteworthy, sprinkling fast, fun fills into “Pump Fake” and “Hole in My Head” to keep the more extreme portions of Loser’s fanbase attentive, while proving he can pen softer, more melancholy portions on “Roam” as well. Morales’ work goes hand in hand with that of bassist Erik Into, who can be heard slinking about plentifully on Never Young, especially on songs like the album’s title track, which include a heaping helping of hard-hitting metalcore to contrast the dazed, dream-like alternative and 90’s rock elements abundant throughout “When I Fall Down” and “Standing Still.” Finally, guitarists John Hillman and Brandon Hamilton hammer home the musical diversity—with almost every track beginning with a heavily distorted late-1990s-acid-trip riff but rapidly morphing into something raunchy, ruthless and heavy before the song is done. “Ronin 94” and “Pump Fake” are excellent examples, with the former serving as one of the album’s heaviest cuts. Here, Hillman and Hamilton work in excellent dynamism to blend the great scope of Loser’s influence into one quick, catchy and crushing cut.
All this instrumental dynamism would mean next to nothing if there wasn’t an adequate voice to match it. With the numerous styles and sounds ushered into a single band, Loser’s frontman must be versatile and authentic—nothing half-done or half-assed. Fortunately, just as he did on the band’s debut, Alex Stankewitz delivers and then some. Where “Ronin 94” is a headrush of raw, aggressive vocal styles, “XXX” is a mellow, almost-ambivalent sounding hip-hop cut with a couple surprises tossed in. Then, songs like “Roam” or “Cotton Mouth” find themselves smack dab in the middle, using that Cobain-esque grunge-influenced style in contrast with a sharp, nu-metallic scream to keep the listener on the edge of their seat. While many of Loser’s lyrical themes mimic the melancholic, depressive sound taken on by the band’s musicianship, other songs like “Pump Fake” are ravenous, going for the throat of trend-hopping musicians and fairweather friends both. “Never Young” the album’s title (and closing) track is different again, taking a nostalgic slant and addressing heartbreak and youthfulness from a bitter and retrospective angle. The takeaway is that Stankewitz is immensely talented at his lyrical and vocal undertakings throughout Never Young, leaving no portion of the record feeling contrived.
If I’m being honest, I don’t like grunge. I don’t like nu-metal and I don’t like the vast majority of the lo-fi, emotionally-driven “SoundCloud” rap (although I shudder at the use of that term). I just don’t. It isn’t to say it’s not good or anything like that—that’s a topic for another article—but it doesn’t tickle my fancy. What’s marvelous about Loser is that, while using influences from all of the aforementioned genres (and more), they really do tickle my fancy. They’ve made a believer out of me once more with Never Young, taking seemingly contrary elements and juxtaposing them, crafting something as heavy, heartfelt, catchy and creative as it is unique.
For Fans Of: Lordis, Slipknot, Nirvana, XXXTentacion, Weeping Wound, VCTMS
By: Connor Welsh