For A Tear in the Fabric of Life, Knocked Loose wanted to do something different. Or they may have been forced to. With quarantine upending their extensive touring schedule — “we’ve kind of been consistently on the road since 2014,” says vocalist Bryan Garris — the group found themselves in early 2020 sequestered near Louisville, in Oldham County, Ky., where they’re from. By June, they were hunkered down in a cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., focused on writing a concept album. By the end of September they had finished recording.
What they came up with is a six song-EP that expands on the narratives hinted at on A Different Shade of Blue, their 2019 full length, and grows beyond them sonically. It’s the band’s most dynamic and contained offering to date, and a balancing act: a mid-length EP with grand ambitions and scope, one full of new sonic elements and a cohesive aesthetic that hangs onto Knocked Loose’s trademark anthemic delivery.
It’s also pretty brutal. The tunes tell the story of a road trip gone wrong: a car accident, a passenger who passes away, survivors’ guilt, and a reunion in death. Musically, the narrative follows. The songs were written in order and speak to each other. On the opener, “Where Light Divides the Holler,” ambient sounds of a radio switching give way to a harsh, punishing breakdown. “Permanent,” the closer, is crushing, and ends in a majestic, almost soundtrack-like ring-out. In between there are new elements — guitars droning out, radio interludes, vocal-only suites — and the immediate heaviness listeners have come to expect from Knocked Loose. It’s hardcore, filtered through what Garris says is a more prominent death metal influence. The new sounds the band never tried before have the goal, guitarist Isaac Hale says, of making everything sound “more extreme and abrasive.”
Which is saying something. Young, but accomplished — along with Garris and Hale, there’s Kevin Otten (bass) and Kevin “Pacsun” Kaine (drums), everyone in their mid to late twenties — the band’s been trading on heaviness for a while. “We’ve written a lot of songs,” says Hale, “and a lot of breakdowns.” Their discography — along with Blue, there’s Laugh Tracks, from 2016, both on Pure Noise, as well as a demo and a handful of singles — is full of them. Every record up to A Tear has been very much hardcore, building off its predecessor, adding some metal and higher emotional stakes. More growth means more heaviness. Says Hale, “nothing gets taken away.”
So too with A Tear, which is a massive progression, but not a departure. The end result feels like a stress test: six songs that speak to each other in a language that’s equal parts Phil Spector and death metal and that balance the tension between technical mastery and catchiness. This is Knocked Loose, distilled, and taking a leap. The same band, more themselves, bigger and better.