When asked about his band’s mission statement, Loathe frontman Kadeem France answers with venomous drive: “I want us to be the band that makes heavy music mainstream again.
“We’re in a golden age of metal with so many great new bands, like Sleep Token, Lotus Eater and God Complex. All of them are the future and I wanna be at the head of that. I want people, when they think of that, to think of Loathe.”
Kadeem’s confidence in his band is justified. He’s only 24 and it already feels like the world of metallic hardcore is Loathe’s for the taking. Since bursting onto the UK scene five years ago, they’ve released two albums via SharpTone Records and toured with the likes of Sikth, Hollywood Undead and Stray From The Path. Their new full-length, I Let It In And It Took Everything, will herald Loathe’s biggest UK tour to date and features music that’s been endorsed by Deftones legend Chino Moreno.
“When Chino shared one of the singles [Two-Way Mirror] on Twitter, I screamed the house down!” Kadeem laughs. “It confirmed everything that I thought this album was. To have someone at that level give it a thumbs up, it’s made me believe in everything a hundred times more than I did before.”
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Chino’s affinity for these Liverpudlian lads is no surprise, since I Let It In… is a fusion of shoegaze and hardcore unlike anything the British metal scene has produced before. While songs like Gored are acerbic ragers perfectly at home in a post-Code Orange metalcore world, others, such as Two-Way Mirror, are soft numbers with crystalline production, enrapturing chords and harmonious clean singing – recreations of Deftones-style loveliness with a dangerous, when- will-the-bough-break unpredictability.
I Let It In… is as much a heartstring- plucking ’gaze album as it is a metallic belter, with that enigmatic 50/50 split the culmination of its creators’ small but increasingly experimental discography. Although their first songs saw the light of day in 2015, Loathe’s journey started in May 2011, when Kadeem and future guitarist/co-vocalist Erik Bickerstaffe literally bumped into each other in the moshpit at a Funeral For A Friend show. “He went, ‘This pit’s crap,’” Kadeem laughs. “‘Wanna start another one?’”
While Erik spent much of his youth enamoured with the melodic antics of Attack Attack! and Miss May I, Kadeem converted to metal later. It wasn’t until his mid-teens – when he “started hanging out with the skaters at school” – that he discovered the likes of fellow Liverpudlians Carcer City and Leeds’ The Oceans Between Us. Inspired, he became a regular at nearby shows and took up the drums, manning the kit for a troupe called Escapists UK. “We booked ourselves a gig before we had any songs and I had no drumkit,” he laughs. “So the band didn’t last long.”
However, during their brief tenure, they recorded an EP. Escapists’ guitarist suggested a friend to produce and, coincidentally, it turned out to be Erik. Shortly afterwards, Kadeem jumped ship to join Erik’s band, Our Imbalance, as their new lead singer, replacing future God Complex frontman Harry Rule. “I’d been to all their shows and knew all the words, so Erik was like, ‘Why don’t you just do it?’,” remembers Kadeem.
Our Imbalance were a straight-ahead melodic metalcore crew, with a clear aesthetic and sound taken from the hyper-catchy superstars of Erik’s formative years. With he and Kadeem leading, along with future Loathe drummer Sean Radcliffe, they lasted until 2015, by which time the trio had broadened their musical horizons. Kadeem explains, “We started drawing from bands like Meshuggah and Deftones. The first Loathe EP [Prepare Consume Proceed] was meant to be for Our Imbalance, but it didn’t fit the vibe.”
Still wanting to release the EP, Our Imbalance rebuilt themselves as Loathe and released Prepare… in late 2015; by then, it wasn’t just their name that had changed. Driven to stand out from the generic metalcore they were previously allegiant to, the members adopted ambiguous codenames, while Kadeem went the extra step and donned an all- too-familar-looking mask. “We were just Slipknot,” Erik sighs. “There’s no other way to put it. It was shamelessly taking ideas from other bands. We got rid of the mask and the codenames, because we don’t want to be an extension of someone else’s history.”
Still, the EP did its job, introducing Loathe’s Meshuggah-meets-Slipknot-meets-hardcore brand of anarchy, as well as small smatterings of ambient music that they would expand upon as their career progressed. After signing to SharpTone – who reissued Prepare… as their first-ever release – in 2016, debut album The Cold Sun followed less than a year later, introducing clean melodic rock songs to Loathe’s ever-diversifying canon. Kadeem and Erik’s love of anime, especially the 1988 cult film Akira, was prevalent; the album created the same pre-apocalyptic aura by mixing creepy quietness with anarchic rage.
During the three years between The Cold Sun and I Let It In…, Loathe toured relentlessly, climbing from small clubs to support slots at large academies thanks to their charismatic, cinematic shows. Under a red hue, they barrelled through their bleak anthems, flanked by screens that projected enigmatic, black-and-white imagery. As Loathe’s profile rose, the stress of making album number two began to mount. Erik explains, “We wanted to keep the momentum going when we started I Let It In…. The live shows were just constant then, suddenly, we got off tour and had to do the record. It took us a while to get going.”
Not wanting to let the pressure of expectation impact their art, Loathe wrote and recorded I Let It In… in seclusion. They sealed themselves in a cabin near Llanelli, Wales, and in Erik’s studio in his garden. Unlike The Cold Sun, which was produced by Matt McClellan, they engineered this album themselves – which they cite as their biggest regret. “We didn’t want others to go, ‘Oh, this is what Loathe should and shouldn’t be’,” says Kadeem. “But it was the most stressful time we’ve had as a band.”
“Every song was an argument,” Erik adds. “Five creatives really do need that one person to tell them what to do.”
As the band fought and Erik struggled with the technical side of recording, Kadeem used the isolation to confront his demons. During the sessions, he had the first conversation of his adult life with his father, with whom he’s had “a pretty rocky relationship”.
“That phone call was the first time I spoke to him as an adult,” he says. “We connected for the first time in my life. As I walked back into the studio afterwards, the instrumental for Two-Way Mirror was playing. I just broke down in tears.”
Similarly, the song Screaming is a candid self-portrait, in which Kadeem tries to analyse his worst habits and the past relationships that have ended because of them. “It’s gonna be hell playing those songs live,” he concedes.
“I’m not into the idea of recording like this again,” Erik continues, audibly exhausted at the idea. “But, at the end of the day, getting those finished songs back, it was like, ‘What a journey!’”
“It drove us all insane,” Kadeem replies, “but in the best possible way. If we were in any other situation, we wouldn’t have the album we have now. The pressure made the diamond.”
I Let It In… is the sound of five driven artists at war: sometimes apoplectic, sometimes downtrodden, sometimes beautiful and harmonious. It’s Loathe exaggerated, with their loyalty to both the extreme and the ambient amplified by the echo chamber that was that secluded studio space. “We couldn’t just do The Cold Sun 2,” Erik summarises. “The next album is gonna be different again. It’s always gonna be different.”
Published in Metal Hammer #333