Arts & Entertainment

ARTIST REVIEW: Live, laugh, LOATHE: A band’s macabre dance between nu-metal and shoegaze

Up-and-coming band LOATHE has found a way to create a modern, unique sound by utilizing the instrumental and vocal intricacies of the shoegaze genre and the Djent technique, all woven between raw death growls.

It is with much eagerness that this writer welcomes you all back after a much-needed winter break, hoping you have all regained your energies from a strenuous last quarter. Despite this, I am quite eager to continue sharing my love of writing and music with you all. This time, I’d like to introduce a relatively new band that has entered the metal scene in recent years: LOATHE.

Composed of drummer Sean Radcliffe, bassist Feisal El-Khazragi, guitarist and second vocalist Erik Bickerstaffe, and lead vocalist Kadeem France, the band LOATHE was birthed from the remains of another band, Our Imbalance. While Kadeem was originally the drummer for a completely different band named Escapists UK, he was recruited by Erik as the new lead singer of the band LOATHE after listening to Kadeem’s back-up vocals in his previous band.

LOATHE originally started out with a bit of a gimmick that was heavily criticized during their early years. Kadeem and the rest of his fellow band members went by different stage names to keep their identities hidden: DRK, DRT, SNK, MWL and NIL. Kadeem also wore a mask to conceal his face, which was also used as the cover of their first independent EP: “Prepare, Consume, Proceed”. After touring with Oceans Ate Alaska, the band managed a record deal with label SharpTone Records, which then allowed them a re-issue of this EP.

Shortly after, the band received acclaim for their unique use of Djent (which encompasses the use of distorted, down-tuned and palm-muted strings, and masterful vocal control that bleeds into heavy reverbs) alongside deeply atmospheric synths. Yet at the same time, they were quite brutally critiqued for their hidden identity schtick, as critics believed it to be unnecessary and apparently cheap looking.

The band took this critique to heart and admitted that they did not have a deeper or necessary reason for doing this other than being inspired by bands such as Slipknot and Ghost, which also consist of masked band members. Bickerstaff went further to say they were simply doing this in order to gain more traction and seem more interesting, and simply take ideas from other bands. With this, they ditched the entire hidden identity concept and started their aesthetic from scratch.

Kadeem France, lead singer of LOATHE, performing live in Birmingham in February 2020. | Photo by Pulse Media Photography

Since 2017, the band has been producing back-to-back EPs, and most recently came out with two albums. For the sake of brevity and relevance, I will be focusing on their most popular album since they are a fairly new group that is currently still trying to build a reputation. “I Let It In and It Took Everything” is the band’s second album and was released in 2020. This album demonstrates the great range of this band. Not only do we experience brutal and aggressive sounds found in metal, but we also hear this meld into other genres. Most noticeable are shoegaze (a subgenre of indie and alternative rock with ethereal tones), melodic hardcore and a hint of synth-wave.

Despite the occasional vocal distortion and heavy reverb, Kadeem France’s vocal mastery shines through in every single aspect. His violent growls transitioning into emotional belts both between and inside songs heighten the experience of this album. Though the instrumentals show the band’s own experimental nature, France’s vocals are the final knot that ties them all together.

His voice is what can best be described as comforting, soft, with a subtle edge. There is an emocore quality to it, but it’s not overwhelming or as exaggerated as heard in the emo and scene genres. This leaves room for us to appreciate the raw skill needed to transition from that to the heart-jolting death growls he manages to deliver.

The instrumentals – on the other hand – aren’t just supporters of these vocals. They stand on their own and can be appreciated equally. This becomes even more apparent through the most recent album, “The Things They Believe,” which is fully instrumental. Something about the melting pot of genres LOATHE exhibits gives this band such a stand-alone presence in the sea of ever rising nu-metal bands. It’s one of the only bands I’ve recently encountered that has given equal spotlight to their instrumental production.
As per my previous articles, I have touched on bands and artists that bend conventions and their primary assigned genres. I specifically touched on another nu-metal band that takes inspiration from synth and R&B, Sleep Token. So, what makes LOATHE different? For starters, their diverse sound centers around shoegaze, a genre that surfaced in the 1980’s alongside post-punk and goth-rock. This gives LOATHE’s music an almost nostalgic, longing quality to it. While keeping an equal synergy between this and nu-metal, the band’s overall sound remains current.

Recently, the band has begun receiving some more love and attention thanks to TikTok communities that center around alternative subcultures and music genres. “Is It Really You?” became the band’s number one hit after it became a trending sound for users inside these communities, which further propelled the band to success.

The band Loathe taking a commemorative photo to celebrate the end of their latest tour across the USA, 2023. | Photo by Loathe via Instagram

Many alternative and metal POC fans also sang their praises to this band as their lead vocalist is an extremely talented Black man, which –surprisingly – is still an uncommon occurrence in the metal scene. The band has spent most of 2022 and 2023 touring the country, and recently headlined for Sleep Token.

Though LOATHE has gained more popularity, they’ve yet to reach the height of their success. I’d go as far as to say they should be appreciated in the same ballpark that bands such as the aforementioned Sleep Token, Deftones and Slowdive share. I for one am eager to continue supporting their current and future projects. The band has already confirmed that there will be a new album drop sometime this year, so I’ll patiently be waiting for a drop date.

For new listeners, I’d highly encourage you to listen to the entirety of “I Let It In and It Took Everything” in order. It is a perfect introduction to what this band is capable of, as you can experience the waltz between metal and shoegaze that LOATHE masterfully composes.

My favorite songs in the album are: “Two-Way Mirror,” “Screaming,” “A Sad Cartoon,” “Is it Really You?” and the album’s titular song.
LOATHE’s entire discography can be listened to on all music streaming platforms.