I’ve no good reason whatsoever for sleeping on Lotus Eater‘s sophomore release Social Hazard. My appreciation for what the Scottish five piece create began with “Break It”; their single released last year. Spotify’s Release Radar kindly reminded me to take time with Social Hazard, which released on 29th March via Hopeless Records. Social Hazard is seven tracks, and continues the gloomy and slimy aesthetic of green and black.
Blink and you’ll miss EP opener “Thug”. The minute slice of heaviness brings swarmy thickness before landing punching beats and driving a bouncier state of affairs. A hefty breakdown moment morphs into a percussive feast and djenty thickness.
“Yuck” was my metaphorical doorway into Social Hazard, and I appreciated the eerie atmosphere that was created, which proceeded to lead into a slow dive. I’m in love with the tone of the drums and the downward spiral they create, along with the guitar. Lotus Eater bring in stomping pressure before a buzzing unsettledness arrives, coming across as unease and persistent pressure.
There’s a really sweet and serene moment before a surprisingly melodic and anthemic section. The guitars and chiming melody lulled me into a surrendered state, before landing with heavy boots again into a pile of frustration and fury. “Yuck” offers a mesmerising fullness of sound, with the last verse hitting the listener with sonic punches from side to side. This combined with the “Where do I go?” vocal paints a sense of desperation.
Electronic and static as it begins, “The Fear” lures us into a horrified breath-holding state of unease. Two-stepping into syllabic fire, the track describes the unnerving discomfort of attention – that is, attention that comes loaded with hate or rejection. It’s a pained reveal of suffocating social anxiety.
Zig zagging, “The Fear” comes across with a sense of secrecy, vulnerability, and newness, like “I’ve never told anyone this, but fuck it’s hard being who I am”. This is painted so well, in pace shifts and striking beats, like turning and finding more eyes upon you. The upward skin-crawling slide of anxiousness is bolstered by squeals, rising dissonance, and bending riffs.
The moment of non-descript voices and noise crafts an undercurrent of tension before plunging into thickness. It’s just plain cool in terms of the scene setting that’s happening. With unpredictable timing as it ends, “The Fear” comes across as embracing individual expression.
“Look at me, are you scared?”
Fat and looming, the buzzing, droning, and punishing “Freak” delivers its lines like punches, harder and faster in what seems like revenge (“Change the norm / Bring back the stares and shouts / And feed off the uncomfortable”). I found it harder to sink my teeth into this thick and heady track for some reason, which came at me with stuttering and blasting drum thuds.
It’s hole digging heaviness, having us deep in muck and mess, with moments of flaring out which seem to amp up the ‘freak’ factor. The undeniable stand out for the track is the doom and gloom stomping beats that everything else seems forced to operate around. It reminds me of the invisible weight of alienation while still needing to function in society.
“Mother” vibes like a living nightmare, obviously detailing a damaged relationship between someone and their mother. I spent a lot of time wading through the density of this track trying to find a time signature. Swinging like a pendulum through the verses with moments of straight hits and two-steppable breakouts, I ended up just going wherever I was led by Lotus Eater.
Hitting with a defined “I. Am. Not. Whole.”, “Mother” speaks of internal tangles of trying to navigate life without maternal support. Flaring out like a statement of ‘Enough!’, “Take a look at me” rains down in static. The growing upward rise as the track comes to a close came across to me as something really uneasy and horrifying. It’s less of a ‘song’ and more like art, where Lotus Eater are musically capturing the experience of growing up in an unpredictable world without anchor.
Thirty second instrumental “Words.Nothing” sets the eerie and uprising scene for final track “Jawless”. As the last cut of Social Hazard, “Jawless” describes the brokenness someone has felt, despite judgements upon their experience. The unrelenting nature of this is well expressed by the instrumental bombardment, the futility by the leaden riffs and empty moments.
“Jawless” contains the surprise of a sung chorus; a searching voice in amongst waves of overwhelm. Looped and soaring instrumentals come across as something of an ultimatum. I took the track as perhaps a continuation of mother; a request to be seen and recognised for the damage that’s been enduring, and the means of coping is to have “this feeling I can’t hide” “carved into a grin”. We’re struck with defeat as the vocals come to an end, leaving a dense fog hovering above the ground.
It’s tough to review something which is hard to find rhyme and reason within, yet is a perfect sonic demonstration of the themes shared; of being different, weird, freakish. Social Hazard comes across congruently with what the band are sharing thematically, and the EP is something unable to be prescribed to a predefined pigeonhole of sound or expectation.. to the extreme: Just when you start nodding along with the beat, Lotus Eater have changed it again. Just when you’re feeling buried under layers of gloom, a cleanly sung section shines lightly upon you.
Predominantly buried under distortion or noise while also rejecting the safety or confines of expected structure, Social Hazard sounds exactly aligned with insecurity and lack of acceptance. It also has these songs seeming to be presented without bravado or ego, because I think we’d hear something very different if Lotus Eater were aiming for popularity. And as ‘edgy’ as it might seem on the surface, I never felt like the band were trying too hard or making choices for no reason. It was the opposite, in fact, where this ‘mess’ of sound is precisely deliberate and well thought out.
Sitting with the EP, I suddenly felt like I got it: I got how important Social Hazard likely is for the band, and perhaps also for anyone who hasn’t felt that they fit. It’s music for anyone that feels like a ‘social hazard’, or expects that others would want to shun or avoid them. With calls to be seen and acknowledged throughout the EP, it’s also a presentation of themselves, even though they know what will be seen is something imperfect and pained. I see it as a reveal of a darker side of oneself, for better or for worse.
Strong and creatively unique, the tracks of Social Hazard are an insight into the world of Lotus Eater, providing something that fellow 'freaks' can hook into.
The constantly changing sound can make it hard for the tracks to stick in the mind without repeat listens. The dense and buried nature might make it hard for new fans to find their way 'in'.