Calling Kentucky’s Knocked Loose a “beatdown” band isn’t inaccurate—their music is built around floor-punching breakdowns, the ones where someone can catch a felony by spinning a trash can like a discus medal is on the line. But it doesn’t paint their whole portrait: They’re a band looking for a brawl, with careful consideration for the attack. Their second full-length, A Different Shade of Blue, shows them growing up without growing out, and it will be one of this year’s central hardcore records.
Despite their use towards very ignorant ends, breakdowns are not exclusively the domain of the meatheaded and the technically inept. Like any musical standby, they’re a tool. A simple pleasure they are, but Knocked Loose don’t use them as shortcuts, instead positioning them as both foundation and springboard for other flourishes. Opener “Belleville,” which rips open with reliable slamming breakdowns and crisper production, takes off into early to mid-’00s melodic death metal(core), when Massachusetts was the new Sweden. “Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory” is both Botch skronk with a center of gravity and modern death metal pared down to its most lethal strikes. Though that same skronk rears up in “In the Walls,” Knocked Loose keep you on your toes in a different way than a band like Vein; this is an endurance match, as opposed to a cavalcade of unpredictability.
That’s not to say that Blue puts up the same fight over and over again. “Forget Your Name,” which features Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley, comes with a flurry of punches, yet also knows when to cool down, which makes the knockout all the harder. Three years since Laugh Tracks, KL have gained a lot of finesse and vision. “Denied by Fate”’s syncopation takes into consideration that your feet can do more than evade the burly dude swinging, and even more straight-on tracks like “By the Grave” and “Road 23” don’t get lost in the new touches and upgraded compositions. If you needed a guide to a transcendent hardcore single, “… And I Still Wander South” is fucking it. Knocked Loose add a heavy dose of futility, making everything slam harder because you’ll never be able to slam life hard enough. Most of these songs have an endpoint; “South” collapses from its hopelessness, a guttural Devourment-style growl the last cry for help.
Blue is not quite the genre-shattering record it’s touted as, but it’s a well-crafted and resonant hardcore album, and that’s enough to make it stand out. There’s maturity, but not at the expense at the base energy that first made a lot of kids lost their shit to “All My Friends.” —Andy O’Connor
Review taken from the September 2019 issue of Decibel, which is available here.