I have a controversial confession to make: I never liked Nirvana. Growing up first on the fast-paced pop-punk of the likes of early Green Day and early Blink-182, and later the relentless hardcore of Minor Threat and zig-zagging ferociousness of Black Flag, Nirvana and the whole grunge thing lacked the fierce energy of the punk rock world I had thrown myself into. If only there had been a band that perfectly merged the two…
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On LOOM‘s debut LP, grunge and 70s punk fight to the death in an industrial estate while post-punk looks on. The range of genre influence is staggering, but the overall sound is cohesive. LOOM sound like LOOM. And what a fitting name it is, because that’s exactly what these songs do: they loom like a dark cloud of acid rain, ready to burst at any moment and burn a hole through the world. The English three-piece wear their influences on their sleeve, made all the more obvious by the covers EP they released in 2013. The Jesus Lizard, Bad Brains, Pixies, GG Allin, Misfits, and Warsaw got covered on that, but ‘LOOM’ also exhibits a clear influence of the Seattle sound, as well as bands like Hüsker Dü and Joy Division.
But for all that, LOOM have their own sound. At times Tarik Badwan’s vocals are the gothic baritone of Ian Curtis, other times the aggressive rasp of Kurt Cobain, and sometimes even the operatic roar of James Hetfield, but beneath them the music is a consistent union of charged, visceral punk and the deep dissonant darkness of grunge. A rage runs through each track that holds them all together, even on the slower, more atmospheric song the record closes with. And speaking of atmosphere, ‘LOOM’ is a whole soundscape in itself, one almost physical. The sound is bleak, uncomfortable, and a little industrial. It frequently made me feel like I had been plucked out of my reality and plunged into the horrifying dystopia of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. A thrill exists in such an intensity of identity, and LOOM delight in it.
The first two tracks are the most grungy. A section of a vocal “Hate!” on ‘Hate’ could have been lifted right from ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Post-punk meets The Stooges with a very slight touch of psych rock on ‘Salt.’ ‘Seasick’ is a faithful Jesus Lizard cover, but with a faster tempo and added bite, another example of LOOM flaunting their influences. ‘Nailbender’ is the darkest track, like a very gothic Butthole Surfers. But as always, very much LOOM. In fact, LOOM are so much themselves, it becomes a little exhausting by the end. But that’s probably the band’s intention. The overly simplistic lyrics become repetitive, a couple songs feel too similar in parts, and more experimentation with the band’s sound would add a lot, but with 10 tracks over a succinct 31 minutes, those complaints aren’t very significant.
‘LOOM’ is a truly distinctive record from a band sure to continue making big splashes in the rock world with their unique mesh of genres. An unsettling sonic itch you cannot scratch, this album is so filthy you’ll need to shower afterwards. Look out for it on quite a few Albums of the Year lists come January.
LOOM are playing a handful of shows in June and July…
14 June – Cologne, Germany, Blue Shell
15 June – Berlin, Germany, Maze
16 June – Hamburg, Germany, Headcrash
04 July – Edinburgh, UK, La Belle Angele
05 July – Stoke-On-Trent, UK, Sugarmill
o6 July – Tunbridge Wells, UK, Forum
‘LOOM’ is out now via Silent Cult.