You’ve never heard Fender Strats and Gretsch Jets sound so devastatingly heavy as in this new Loathe session

Loathe's Erik Bickerstaffe
(Image credit: Erik Bickerstaffe/Instagram)

Liverpool metalcore heavyweights Loathe are one of the most exciting alternative metal bands on the planet – as evidenced by the plaudits for 2020 opus I Let It in and It Took Everything, and their recent US tour with Underoath and Periphery. But in guitar circles, they’re also known for their love of cheap electrics, in particular the Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster, which soared in price and popularity when players got hip to its gnarly low-tuned tones.

So we were surprised to see guitarist Erik Bickerstaffe turning to a regular ol’ triple single-coil Fender Stratocaster alongside his more trusty Gretsch Jet Baritone for a newly released Audiotree session – and making both sound ridiculously heavy in the process.

The Stratocaster got the first runout for brooding groover Screaming, a track written by drummer Sean Radcliffe and tuned way down to ADADGB, a modified baritone tuning.

Bickerstaffe’s model is one of Fender’s latest Player Plus Stratocasters – so it’s got noiseless single coils, a flatter 12” fingerboard radius and that tasty Aged Candy Apple Red finish. We’d wager it’s had some serious setup work to accommodate those low tunings, too.

The more punishing New Faces in the Dark and Gored both saw Bickerstaffe turn to his Electromatic Jet Baritone which, again, sounded absolutely devastating despite its relatively low-output mini-humbuckers.

We’ve seen Bickerstaffe wield a Gretsch Jet Baritone for Gored before, in the track’s official playthrough, premiered here at Guitar World. Back then, he told us the song was tuned to C#AEADF#, using hybrid string sets that stretch to a supersized .105 for the lowest string.

Bickerstaffe’s pedalboard features nothing but a Boss TU-3, DigiTech Whammy, a DI box and a TC Electronic 3rd Dimension Chorus – which means all that gain is coming from the amp – in this case, a Hiwatt DR504, according to the band.

If all this has whet your appetite for more Loathe, we might not have long to wait: elsewhere in the video, the band reveal they have been writing and recording on the road, and are nearing the completion of their fourth record. It can’t come soon enough…

Loathe’s Audiotree performance follows Russian Circles’ recent session, which was so loud it actually shook the Chicago studio and caused us to pose the question: is this the heaviest guitar sound of 2023?

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.