A year or so ago, I wrote about Thornhill and their then-fresh EP, Butterfly. As I said back then, the band showed promise, navigating the shoals of progressive metalcore with impressive agility. I even uttered the dreaded word “djent”, conjuring up the spectre of that oft-abused sub-genre in the positive. However, with their most recent offering The Dark Pool, Thornhill have moved even further from the style and deeper into progressive metalcore, landing them closer to their Australian brethren Karnivool (who I also mentioned last time) and The Butterfly Effect, as well as acts like Misery Signals and even August Burns Red. The album, comparisons aside, sees them pare back some of the chuggier elements of their sound in favor of a chromatic, larger than life sort of timbre that works exceptionally well with their overall aesthetic and makes The Dark Pool a fun, energetic, and cathartic album.
“Nurture”, the second track, is probably a good place to start from. No one can hear the guitar effects used on the track and not think of Karnivool’s iconic Themeta, the same kind of staccato energy informing the almost nu-metal vibes on the riffs. However, with the vocals added in, the overall picture is much brighter and more hopeful to be nu-metal, thus landing us firmly in the realms of progressive metalcore (more on the ties between the two movements in a separate, long winded article at some point in the future). “Nurture” also displays the irresistible groove which runs through the album, using those tones and time signatures to focus on momentum rather than complexity as its main value.
This means that The Dark Pool, when it’s in this springy, energetic mood, is an album which goes, spending little time on elaborate structures and ideas but rather bearing down its direction with unstoppable vibes. Cleverly, Thornhill round off this sound with a more contemplative, ambient mode, as can be seen right after “Nurture”, with “The Haze”. True, the album features one hell of a breakdown near its end but it also spends more time with the vocals backed up “just” by ambiance, letting the foot off the gas so that we can catch our breath. This creates enough contrast with the rest of the album (as do other similar passages) to maintain interest while not sacrificing too much of the momentum gained on the more energetic tracks.
This kind of balancing act is what sets The Dark Pool and, indeed, the rest of Thornhill’s discography, apart from the rest of the many, many, many bands working in the refuge of progressive metalcore. Sure, you won’t find passages here that will leave your jaw on the floor with their technicality but you would be sorely mistaken if you took that as a lack of expertise. The expertise instead lies in how all the elements come together, creating an album that’s well balanced. Whether The Dark Pool hits hard, caresses, cajoles into catharsis, or simply bull-rushes along, intent on nothing but jams and great riffs, it just works. Everything in its place and a place for everything; the disparate parts of Thornhill, under careful composition and production, come together to create one of 2019’s more enjoyable albums. This is an album you enjoy with your feet and legs and hips and neck, the way metalcore is meant to be enjoyed, while not sacrificing polish or energy on the altar of the heavy.
The Dark Pool released on October 25th. You can buy it wherever you buy digital records online or via their label.