Knocked Loose: You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To review – hardcore punk’s dark stars go supermassive

Knocked Loose: You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To review – hardcore punk’s dark stars go supermassive

The previous release from Kentucky metalcore quintet Knocked Loose was 2021’s A Tear in the Fabric of Life, a six-song horror story about a car crash that kills the driver’s partner, sending the driver increasingly mad with grief to the point where they dig up the corpse, have sex with it and then kill themselves to be permanently alongside their former lover. If anything, the follow-up is heavier.

A bright node in today’s wonderfully diffuse hardcore punk scene, Knocked Loose formed in 2013 and, via viral shows at US festivals such as Coachella and Bonnaroo that respectively drew kale-enamoured influencers and larky stoners into their circle pits, have built a sizeable buzz. This third album is the glorious sound of a band duly cutting the catapult’s cord and launching themselves into a different league.

Onward from the blast beat and lung-emptying roar that kicks off opener Thirst, You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To brings together some of the densest elements in music (high-speed kick drums, distorted guitars, glottal screaming) and – in a production masterclass from Drew Fulk, AKA Wzrd Bld – gives them gigantic mass, resulting in music that overshadows everything with its vastness: the “eclipsing weight” sung about on the single Suffocate.

They end up doing the opposite of what plenty of heavy bands do when they approach the mainstream, which is to sacrifice the less easily palatable parts of their sound with a view to not freaking out the masses. Knocked Loose’s genius is to use pop to intensify their songs and raise the stakes: this is their most melodic, verse-chorus-verse album (relatively speaking) and yet that sense of shape means their songs are more clearly terrifying.

So many elements distinguish the band, beginning with frontman Bryan Garris, whose boyish looks and high-pitched voice undo any alpha-macho associations to roaring and riffing: “Time is dead, but still it moves!” he yelps with rising panic on Piece By Piece, as if regarding a tarantula scurrying up his arm. Two-part suite Moss Covers All/Take Me Home has a house “clenched in the teeth of endless rain, barren moor”, and gothic settings like these frame songs full of Job-like struggle against an uncaring or actively violent world: Slaughterhouse 2 denounces an America of “total war driven by the lower class … one mutilation under God”.

The Old Testament quality to the sermonised storytelling is offset by Garris’s denunciation on Blinding Faith – “with my final breath, I deny the church” – and a phantasm that seethes back at him: “Bend the knee, son of God!” The cover art features a glowing crucifix, but Garris has said it “can symbolise anything that constantly towers over you and pulls you back in: death, depression, addiction”.

Knocked Loose: You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To album coverView image in fullscreen

The guitar tone, smeared across each song in downward arcs, is singularly, gorgeously horrible, and Knocked Loose are also rhythmically brilliant. Lots of bands of their ilk do clever time-signature trickery or groove-metal, but rarely both, and even more rarely with as much funk. Suffocate has an astonishing megaton-reggaeton breakdown; drummer Kevin “Pacsun” Kaine gives The Calm That Keeps You Awake some hip-shimmying Latin percussion fills before the band suddenly hare off at breakneck hardcore pace.

A certain measure of enjoyment comes from the expertise in these shifts, like watching a Red Bull-branded mountain biker negotiate a particularly hairy spine of rock, but it’s so much more than showing off. The rhythmic choices enhance Garris’s spiritual-existential crises, such as when Piece By Piece slows in its final phase, Garris dragged down in the quicksand of his mental strife.

They have always had headturning samples – early song Deadringer abruptly ends with smooth 80s soft rock, while A Tear in the Fabric of Life had snatches of the Beach Boys, Appalachian folk and the sound of a shovel in earth. Here, the band deepen the drama with more of these flourishes. The sound of buzzing flies – above a corpse? – features throughout, while the monumental blackgaze closer Sit & Mourn has a voice, degraded and lo-res, uttering “Why’d you leave?” before the song suddenly crashes back in again: a moving summation of the suddenness and totality of grief.

For all its immediately bracing energy, You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To is an indulgently rich record that keeps revealing more on double-digit listens. And at various moments, just when you thought it couldn’t get any heavier, it does. Take Blinding Faith, which seems as chaotic, fast and loud as speakers or headphones can countenance, and then, as Garris screams the title words, doubles in weight. Being crushed underneath this album is one of the great musical experiences of the year.

This week Ben listened to

House of Protection – It’s Supposed to Hurt
More quality noise here: the debut single from the US duo, produced by ex-Bring Me the Horizon whiz Jordan Fish, is a thrilling pell-mell blur of breakbeat cyberpunk.