Title: The Things They Believe
Released: 7 February 2021
1. The Things They Believe
2. Don't Get Hurt
3. "Do You - -
4. Love in Real Time
5. The Year Everything and Nothing Happened
6. - Remember -
7. You Never Came Back
8. Black Marble
9. Keep Fighting the Good Fight
10. Perpetual Sunday Evening
11. - The Moment?"
12. The Rain Outside...
The Things They Believe
“I Let it in and It Took Everything” was my favourite metal album of last year. I think it’s an absolutely phenomenal record, and it included multiple songs that could have easily ended up in my favourites of the year. But after that album came out, which could certainly hold me over for another couple of years until their next release, I was still extremely eager to hear what they would come out with next. And surprisingly enough, a year to the day after “I Let it in…” came out, the wait was already over for a new Loathe release. I hadn’t heard anything about “The Things We Believe” until around a week before it came out, making it somewhat of a surprise album for me, in more ways than one.
And that’s because “The Things We Believe” is less of a direct follow-up to “I Let it in…”, and more of a sister album that deals in similar emotions through a completely different perspective. It deviates completely from the Deftones-esque metalcore of the previous album and instead investigates further into creating haunting and desolate ambient soundscapes. “I Let it in…” had a series of ambient interludes that acted as moments of calm before and after the heavier tracks on the record. And here, it sounds like they’ve taken those moments and allowed them to slowly grow and expand, until forming this huge, organic mass we can hear on this record.
I think ambient music, by nature, is extremely personal and subjective. Some people are more open to generating an emotional connection with music that doesn’t have any explicit structure or message than others. And how willing to embrace the formlessness of the genre corresponds exactly with how much you’re going to enjoy the music. This album is no exception. Although I think at times the record could do a better job at justifying its length, there are a definitely some moments on here that are completely worth the listen, especially if you were a big fan of the previous record. While never feeling as though it stands entirely on its own as an album, “The Things We Believe” does do a really great job of complementing “I Let it in”. And if the quiet sections of ambient reflection appealed to you on that album, then this is catered towards you. I should preface by admitting that I went into this album through the perspective of someone who isn’t particularly well-versed in ambient music as a whole. My knowledge extends about as far as Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, and Stars of the Lid, the latter of which being most resemblant of this record. I also fully expected to be hearing another metalcore album when I started listening to this. But although I got almost the opposite of that, I was still pleasantly surprised by what the band had done here in general.
The way the album plays with space is its most compelling aspect. Some moments feel expansive and spacious, leading to the most ethereal and beautiful parts of the record. And in contrast, some tracks, such as ‘Don’t Get Hurt’, are terrifying and claustrophobic, sounding more akin to some of the transitionary moments from Swans’ “Soundtracks for the Blind”. But no matter what form the album takes on, everything here seems to be born from the same large, vacuous space. And how it occupies and stretches that space, whether it be from spreading itself thinly over it, or utterly consuming it, really dictates the atmosphere and mood of the record at any given time. It does this very subtly, often taking long periods of time to morph between dynamics. And while this can sometimes make songs feel inconsequential, due to a lack of structure on a small scale, it can lead to moments that are quite emotionally evocative. For instance, the track ‘ – Remember - ’ on its own is relatively uninteresting, but the absolutely gorgeous payoff in ‘You Never Came Back’, makes it completely worth it.
However, I don’t really think the band explore enough of the sound they’re diving into here to warrant a full-length album. Ambient music, by nature, is extremely minimal and sparse. But when it’s done well, it can establish an extremely strong atmosphere that can even conjure up entire narratives and emotions from almost nothing at all. This album does a really great job of creating that atmosphere, but it struggles to maintain interest throughout due to a lack of diversity in its sound. In its best moments, “The Things They Believe” can be emotionally intense and beautiful. But in its least interesting moments, it sounds as though it’s just going through the motions. And this is often at fault of its length. While I think there is some excellent material on here (the absolutely gorgeous saxophone inclusions throughout from John Waugh are particular highlights), a lot of the album ends up feeling like a muddied, homogenous clump. It wouldn’t take too much to fix this, either. The groundwork is here for a great record. An occasional more noticeable dynamic shift, or the presence of some more concrete melodies to juxtapose against the blurred and obscure synth lines, would all go a long way. And it’s for this very reason that the standout moments on the album are the smooth saxophone sections, or the twinkling piano on ‘Perpetual Sunday Evening’. Because the record is so formless and abstract, these sections are really accentuated, contrasting beautifully against the ambience. And while the rest of the album is constructed out of really beautiful and understated compositions, there really isn’t enough happening across its 35 minutes to maintain a steady interest throughout.
If this had been an EP, or a long single that sat beside its predecessor as a complementary piece of work, then I think this would be absolutely worth the time to listen to. After all, at points, this is absolutely fantastic. But as it is, it would have definitely worked better if it had shaved fifteen or twenty minutes off of its runtime. It’s always great to see a band exploring new sounds though, especially with Loathe deciding to play around with the ambient soundscapes that made their previous album so unique. And while I think this was a little to underdeveloped and overlong to properly stand as its own full-length release, it’s still a commendable album with some great moments, and a great foundation for the band to work off in the future. Whether they decide to explore ambient music even further, or revert back to their original sound after using this as a short detour, the band are clearly unafraid of expanding their horizons, which is a sign of incredible potential. It’ll probably be a while before the next Loathe release, since they’ve clearly worked extremely hard over the last few years on these sister albums. But “The Things We Believe” closes the book on a great pair of albums from the band. And while I think this particular record is best viewed as a side-project to “I Let it in…”, it’s still quite decent in its own right, and worth checking out, especially if you were a fan of the first album.