Knocked Loose are one of the most talented bands in hardcore today. They carry the torch for contemporary metalcore, churning out music with conviction and a strong sense of vision. But their musical turnout isn’t overwhelming. Instead, they seem intent on producing great work, and as a result, we get a new release from them every two to three years that’s more gripping than the last.
This year, following up their highly acclaimed second full-length album, 2019’s A Different Shade of Blue, Knocked Loose give us A Tear in the Fabric of Life, a surprise EP accompanied by an animated short film from director Magnus Jonsson. It’s Knocked Loose’s second EP and their third official release through Pure Noise Records.
A Tear in the Fabric of Life is a concept record about a person who mourns the loss of a loved one due to a car crash, making it the band’s most artful effort. Frontman Bryan Garris came up with the story, which he uses to explore grief and the inability to let go. Jonsson’s film more than compliments the record’s intense mood, offering a grim visual that mixes the aesthetics of silent cinema with H.P. Lovecraft and Tool music videos. The film depicts a gaunt protagonist with a featureless face navigating through creepily designed environments. A prominent, silhouetted figure representing death looms in the background, and the images flicker as if projected from an analog machine.
Tonally, the lyrics convey a kind of descent into madness. Unable to cope with loss, the main character falls into a deep depression. He’s haunted by the ghost of his loved one as well as his anguish. Essentially, this is a horror story similar to the insanity-inspired stories of Edgar Allen Poe, which is a lofty endeavor for a metallic hardcore band. That said, it’s a well-contained story dramatized and elevated by the music.
The EP is darkly atmospheric, inhabiting terrifying territories commonly occupied by sludge metal bands like Black Cobra and Lord Mantis. It’s a bit gloomier than Knocked Loose’s previous albums, yet it still has the signature urgency. In addition, the band’s shocking, beatdown hardcore nature lends itself to the record’s horror narrative.
“Where Light Divides the Holler” opens innocently with the sounds of driving and radio broadcasts. Suddenly, the guitars and drums come in with devastating impact, mimicking a car crash. Concussive and destructive, it does a fine job of depicting the inciting trauma of the story. This traumatic experience leads the record, which often veers into moments that feel like mental breakdowns.
Musically, Knocked Loose succeeds in illustrating disorientation and despair for the sake of narrative drama. The guitar work on “God Knows” is rife with tempo changes, abruptly switching from speed metal to beatdown hardcore, and eerily ending with a sample of “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. “Return to Passion” and “Contorted in the Faille” are equally chaotic, the latter sounding like the point of reluctant burial due to the sounds of shoveling dirt at the end. Ambient sounds are another way the record grounds the songs into the story.
“Forced to Stay” is the catchiest song in the lot. Here, Knocked Loose shows how stylistically indebted they are to bands like Pantera and Madball. The song is a tight execution of angular groove metal by way of guitarists Isaac Hale and Nicko Calderon’s machine gun-like chugging riffs. The song ends with a punctuating breakdown full of panicky guitars chords that harken back to the early days of Norma Jean and Every Time I Die. It feels like an existential crisis, like trying to make sense of your own life amidst the revelation of invariable death. The record finishes with “Permanent”, a massively climactic end that is musically heavy and weighted down by emotional suffering.
With this record, Knocked Loose set a goal for themselves: write a story and tell it through music. This has been done countless times before, but rarely if ever, through the musical stylings of metallic hardcore. A Tear in the Fabric of Life is many things. It’s heavy, tragic, powerful, and rigidly composed. But, most of all, it’s a successful, unique listen.