Since I went with some highly accessible pop punk material on my last HH post, I figured I should counteract it with something a bit more adventurous this time, and dare I say, obscure? I don’t want to lose sight of the original purpose of this segment, which is to promote heavy music in the hopes that more listeners may come to appreciate and view it as a set of genres worthy of their time and streams.
Hence, I’ll be discussing the self-titled debut album (2018) by American up-and-coming metal/post-hardcore band Louder Than Quiet.
This is the band’s first album. They’ve been together since 2010, each of the members being solo artists beforehand. Although there’s nothing on their Spotify page older than the 2018 self-titled discussed in this post, their older work can be found on their Soundcloud and Bandcamp pages. These indicate that their earliest release was the EP “The Sight of Screaming Children” (2013), followed by the “Living Nocturnal” EP (2016) whose songs all appear on this self-titled album.
Their sound has been pretty consistent throughout these releases. LTQ call themselves “metal/post-hardcore” on their website, which summarizes them well enough. However, what this incredible band are actually doing extends well beyond those labels. In my opinion, they draw from a massive variety of influences, including soul, emo, spoken word, experimental rock, and hardcore.
Live footage combined with credits on their Bandcamp page for “The Sight” EP seem to indicate that vocalist Urico Schuler does the screaming, while the cleans are handled by guitarist and vocalist Ali Rezghi. Several members seem to contribute to the spoken word portions, and even some harmonies on the cleans (kind of goes to show the type of range these musicians clearly have). Hear it for yourself:
LTQ seem to always present an above-average version of that entrancing duality between screaming and singing, a well-loved post-hardcore trope. They’ve also always been quite technical in their guitar work, as exemplified by the video above. These things do not change on their self-titled release.
My experience & why you should listen
LTQ dropped on my personal radar this past June thanks to this AltPress article, which highlighted some underrated bands fronted by people of colour. I’m ashamed to admit that prior to reading this, I knew of very few such bands in the scene, or even of bands that had POC in them (I recall that at the time, I could only think of Neck Deep, Issues, and Meet Me @ The Altar off the top of my head – a pretty short list).
The scene has had its problems with racism and white dominance, but LTQ are living proof that it is slowly but surely diversifying, and I’m always in favour of more new perspectives that create art in the genres that I love.
The first thing that caught my eye when I clicked onto their album on Spotify was that they had a song with Jonny Craig (“Red Gemini”). Regardless of what you may personally think of him (because he is indeed a controversial figure) or whether you even know who he is, this man is pretty legendary in the scene.
For such a small band to have worked with him had me immediately impressed. It’s the very first song of theirs I listened to, and I was not disappointed.
The whole thing is amazing, but everything past the 2:45 mark (on the streamable version, not on this video) is just pure fucking gold. The haunting background cleans with the desperate spoken word over top, followed by that breakdown and solo… wow.
What impresses me the most about this track, though, is how LTQ really hold their own. Many songs that feature Jonny Craig kind of have him stealing the show due to his clout, and of course, his highly recognizable voice.
Yet here, Rezghi and Schuler do an excellent job of putting their stamp on the song and keeping the Craig feature at just that: a feature.
I think that my (brief) previous description about “Red Gemini” past the 2:45 mark can also be extrapolated to a general statement about this entire album: intra-song layering and variety on this entire project is ridiculously good.
LTQ have mastered an aspect of post-hardcore on this record that many bigger bands can’t even successfully achieve at all, and that’s an uncanny ability to combine various musical elements that maybe “shouldn’t” match in a way that sounds good. They’re able to create that thick, complex melodic vibe that encompasses much of the genre, without making their songs sound like pure unplanned chaos.
They make careful and deliberate choices with their instrumentation that lead to complex but sonically appealing songs. For instance, they combine a symphonic metal-like guitar and fast-paced, hardcore drumming in a way that somehow still functions musically (outro of “Gypsies R Us”). Another example is the beginning of “Sanity” – slow, picked-through guitar is combined with desperate screaming/heavier spoken word, which might sound a bit abrasive to some, but to others (like me) will sound highly emotional and artistic. In the best way, it reminds me a bit of La Dispute, who I think are the masters at creating instrumentals that complement this type of unique vocals.
Being able to do this sort of thing consistently throughout every song and still come out with a product that sounds fresh, enjoyable, and non-repetitive is pretty amazing. LTQ take big creative risks by putting different musical components together in a way that in theory, shouldn’t always work, and yet what it actually does is give their songs multiple unique and complex layers that listeners can peel back with continued listens.
I mentioned variety in the previous paragraphs to describe the way LTQ layer different aspects of a single track to create finished products that are full of complex elements, and lead to a very complete album when put together.
However, I think that I can also use it to describe the inter-song variety on the record. “Louder Than Quiet” has, so to speak, loud moments (“Red Gemini”, “A Grandfather’s Widow”, “Come to the Darkside… We Have Cookies”, “An Effortless Twilight 2.0”), mixed moments (“Sanity”, “Gypsies R Us”), and a few quieter moments (“The Scales”, “Interlude”). This creates a really pleasant push and pull within the record, which is also why I think it could really appeal to many people who maybe don’t listen to heavier music, but who maybe want to give it a try. It proves that one album doesn’t have to be just one thing; it can successfully be many, while still sounding cohesive.
What’s especially impressive with this project is that despite the fact that there can be such stark differences between tracks, there isn’t a single one that doesn’t sound like a LTQ song. They have managed to stamp their personal identity as a band on a plethora of sounds and genres, making their music one that truly defies labels.
The individual instrumental prowess on this album is also really something to behold. You can tell these guys are not just great artists, but they’re also extremely skilled musicians. Their metal influences really stand out in their guitar work, which is highly technical. I’d say the same of their drums, and I’d point to “An Effortless Twilight 2.0” as a prime example of the way they manage the skillful interactions between these two instruments, which really carry this album as a whole.
I’ve talked a lot about the instrumentals on this album, because I think that’s its true focus, but that’s not to discount the vocals and the lyrics, which are both strong.
I really like the way Schuler sounds as a screamer – he can do deep growls quite well along with mid-range screaming, which I’m personally most partial to. However, what really caught me by pleasant surprise was his ability to nail that late 2000s deathcore-type fry-scream (“A Grandfather’s Widow”, “Pantheon”, “An Effortless Twilight 2.0”). This refers to a higher-pitched scream with long, drawn out notes.
I’m ridiculously picky with when I like this type of scream, so the fact that I enjoy it so much from Schuler says a lot. His range is ridiculous, and I think the fact that he uses this scream so well along with the many other facets of his voice will help listeners less familiar with unclean vocals realize that there is more than one way to scream (which is a common misconception). These people can then find the type that appeals most to them, and branch out to more music that sounds similar.
We also need to talk about Rezghi – this man has pipes like I haven’t heard in a long time. His runs are so fucking smooth, and the slightly ethereal nature of his soulful voice suits the band’s sound perfectly. Don’t let that fool you, though: he’s also got extreme power. He reminds me of Jonny Craig in that way, and his timbre makes me think a bit of Anthony Raneri (Bayside) at times, but he’s honestly got his own unique sound that you just have to hear for yourself. He hits some really nice high notes throughout the album (“Ain’t Nobody”, “Sanity”) and just brings a whole other level of melody to the project, especially in slower moments like “The Scales” – just incredible.
Due to all of the awesome instrumental and vocal aspects of this album, I’m actually glad that its lyrics are a bit simpler, because it allows the listener to really focus on the music. This is not to say that their lyrics are bad; far from that. They’re just less elaborate, favouring a vague poetic nature rather than a complex one.
Still, there are some stand-out moments for me, the main one being “Red Gemini” – take a look at this little section from the song:
These acts won’t be approvedLouder Than Quiet & Jonny Craig, “Red Gemini”
Sheep around all these wolves
If you weren’t feeling that you’d lose
Why forfeit in the end?
A bit vague, sure, but simple and full of feeling. I love it. It does enough to be interesting, but not too much so as to draw the attention away from the music.
I recommend that you listen to “Red Gemini” first as I did, to see if this type of sound works for you (and also because it’s arguably the best song on there). I feel like there’s a bit of everything LTQ does extremely well on this album in this track alone.
Then, if you listen to heavy music, as usual, start from the top. If you were a bit off-put by that first one, I’d say go to”The Scales” then “Sanity” then “Gypsies R Us” first – if those latter two especially really don’t work for you, then don’t bother with the rest, because it really only gets heavier from there.
All in all, here’s why I think you should listen to this album:
1) The instrumental layering, which creates complex intra-song variety
2) The inter-song variety, notably its nice combination of louder and quieter moments
3) The band’s pure instrumental prowess – notably, the highly technical riffs + the great cohesiveness and interaction between the instruments
4) The incredible talent of vocalists Schuler and Rezghi
5) The simple and poetic lyrics that effectively allow listeners to focus on the music
IMPORTANT EDIT: Here is a correction from LTQ themselves regarding what I was saying about the vocals on “Sanity” and some of the band’s other songs:
If you took a listen to Louder Than Quiet’s self-titled album, let me know in the comments!