Hardcore, for me, has always been relegated to the sidelines. I like hardcore just fine, and every once in a while I find something that truly resonates with me—but for the most part, hardcore is something I revisit a couple of times a year and them subsequently move on from. It’s powerful, adrenaline-pumping stuff, but I never really got the culture surrounding it, so I’ve always stayed at arm’s length, despite my dalliances. Knocked Loose are the sort of genre darlings that make waves big enough that even melodic punk folks like myself get to feel the ripple. Based on the buzz of the hivemind, these guys are huge and I should be paying attention; they’re bringing something to hardcore that is new, or they’re performing it with the intensity turned up a couple of notches. Maybe. I don’t know. I listen to Tragedy and Comeback Kid four times a year, so I have no idea what, if any of that, is true. But I do know their new album is A Different Shade of Blue, and that despite being somewhat unfamiliar with the tropes of the heavier side of the genre (continually thinking: isn’t hardcore supposed to sound like Minor Threat?), the music comes off as powerful, venomous stuff.
If I were to outline Knocked Loose’s sound I’d describe it as a focused cacophony. It’s wild and unhinged, noisy and loud—but with a strong sense of rhythmic hooks, both in their vocal lines and riffage. The songs are full of forward momentum and righteous rage, with jaw-dropping breakdowns (see: “Belleville”) that play with dissonance as much as melody. Not to say that Knocked Loose is a melodic hardcore band per se, but they know how to write a song and make it memorable, even in such an absurdly heavy, beatdown-influenced arena.
Which is all the more impressive considering the rather narrow sonic range of the genre. Still, Knocked Loose manage to knock out chugger after chugger, swapping from groovy headbangers to high note dissonance to metallic riffing—all while maintaining the singular identities of their songs. “In the Walls” features all of these and more, all led by the throat-shredding scream of vocalist Bryan Garris, who may be the X-factor that propelled Knocked Loose to the top in the first place. Throughout the album, his vocals are unmistakably passionate. There’s been a shift in heavier genres in the last couple years that have strived to make screaming as sustainable and healthy as possible—the influence of vocal coaches and vocalists who want a career that lasts longer than a season. It’s a commendable drive—ultimately, no one should destroy their body for the sake of kids being able to hit each other in a pit—but oftentimes, the end result is a crisp, articulate noise devoid of the volatility of the noise it mimics. I don’t know if Garris is screaming healthily or not, but I do know that it sounds like he means every word that’s coming out of his mouth. And in hardcore, where authenticity is a currency, selling that intensity to your audience is paramount.
A Different Shade of Blue is a sophomore album. And as a hardcore meerkat who pops out of his burrow just enough to know Code Orange Kids is now just Code Orange, I’m experiencing Knocked Loose for the very first time. What I’ve seen and heard is a band of incredible energy, playing heavy-ass music, and executing it with underrated creativity. Knocked Loose may not be the poet-bards of hardcore, but they’re not trying to be. This is a band trying to be nasty heavy—and shit, man, what can I say? They succeed.