'Common Existence,' the fifth full length offering from post-hardcore pioneers Thursday, kicks off in the best possible fashion, with impassioned anthem 'Resuscitation of a Dead Man.'
This album-opener delivers a shot of abrasive noise, threaded through with long, grinding chords and black-hearted synths. A chugging backing track, combined with plenty of raw-edged riffs, gives 'Resuscitation of a Dean Man' an under-produced feel.
Frontman Geoff Rickly strikes a perfect balance between impassioned, accessibly clean vocals and tormented screams that'll have you wincing. However, on 'Resuscitation of a Dead Man,' and repeatedly over the course of the album, the music is in danger of overwhelming Rickly's vocals, making it difficult to decipher exactly what he's singing. This is a shame, as a quick glance at the accompanying lyric booklet confirms that 'Common Existence' is packed with grimly intriguing lyrics. However, Rickly's ability to sound like he desperately needs you to believe every last word he's singing, means you can't help but get caught up in the songs, even if you won't have a clue what they're about.
With 'Last Call,' Thursday up their game, as they alternate between passages of steady, brooding riffs and waves of epic guitar, edged in agonised-sounding vocals. Once again, Thursday's coarse edge means it's difficult to understand what Rickly's singing. However, he sings with such obvious passion, that you almost don't need to know the words; 'Last Call' is still an onslaught of desperate noise that's impossible to ignore.
Third track, 'As He Climbed The Dark Mountain' made its first appearance on Thursday's split EP with Japanese post-hardcore band Envy.
On first listen, the verses of messy drumbeats and frantic guitar-picking, will leave you more confused than enthralled. Things do pick up by the second verse, as Rickly contributes some smoother-sounding vocals and Thursday pack in extra riffs to create a more flowing sound. Gradually, you'll begin to appreciate the nervy energy of the verses but, initially, they hold 'As He Climbed The Dark Mountain' back.
While the verses may be slow-growers, the stylish stomp of the chorus is immediately appealing, as Rickly's voice soars across a vast musical landscape. It's impressive just how huge this song sounds.
'Friends In The Armed Forces' is all buzz-saw guitars, layered with grinding chords and yelped vocals. However, 'Friends In The Armed Forces' also boasts moments of surprising simplicity and beauty, most notably a dreamy mid-song interlude of breathy vocals and shimmering synths. Of course, just when 'Friends In The Armed Forces' seems about to peter out, it comes back heavier than ever, with a furious end-section that's rammed with throat-shredding vocals. 'Friends In The Armed Forces' is as great as the rest of 'Common Existence,' but with an extra, experimental twinge.
'Beyond The Visible Spectrum' sees Thursday try something different, with groovy, drum-led verses and choruses of fluttering riffs. But it's after the mid-way point that things really fall into place, as Thursday pile on the epic guitars and breathy vocals, and make a successful play for the listener's heart strings.
'Beyond The Visible Spectrum' is 'Common Existence's most dramatic and theatrical offering, and as such isn't a song for those after a catchy, easy listen. However, for those wanting to get caught up in a song, 'Beyond The Visible Spectrum' is definitely worth a listen.
'Time's Arrow' is 'Common Existence's mid-album low-point, with a definite 'interval' feel about its vaguely eerie, Muse-esque atmospherics. Thursday weave a spine-tingling web of synths and distortion effects around a rattling acoustic guitar, but neglect to provide us with any solid, underlying tune. This is a song that'll leave you unnerved and vaguely impressed by its shiver-inducing theatrics, but it won't get stuck in your head and have you hitting the repeat button.
Thankfully, Thursday get back into their groove with the metal-infused 'Unintended Long Term Effects,' which is easily 'Common Existence's heaviest offering.
'Circuits of Fear' has more than a touch of 'Time's Arrow' atmospherics to it but, unlike the former, it doesn't set out solely to disturb the listener.
Firstly, 'Circuits of Fear' unnerves us with tribal drumbeats and ghostly vocals, before it goes for the throat with a chorus of muttered background vocals, shrapnel riffs, screaming, and wailed backing vocals. It's a tormented sound, and the perfect counterpoint to those delicate, shivery verses. This is what 'Time's Arrow' should have sounded like.
'Subway Funeral' is an awkward song that simply doesn't flow. Disjointed, stop-start riffs combined with a distracting background buzz, create an over-complicated, slightly sludgy sound. The listener is in for another jarring moment when 'Subway Funeral' suddenly cuts out, and we get the sound of a single chord being plucked over and over, while Rickly screams away somewhere in the distance.
That said, 'Subway Funeral' does pick up for the chorus, with longer riffs creating a slightly smoother sound, and carefully measured drumbeats ensuring there's a tune the listener can actually follow. However, for the most part, 'Subway Funeral' feels too much like hard work.
Thursday come over all melodic for the dreamy, electro-tinged shimmer of 'Love Has Led Us Astray.' Relying on an ingeniously groovy drumbeat, this is one song that's guaranteed to get you tapping your toes, especially when the music cuts out for a few moments of pulsing electro. It's completely unexpected, but it works brilliantly, and you really won't be able to get it out of your head.
'Love Has Led Us Astray' builds to a near-perfect end-section of shimmering, dreamily distorted vocals and melodically crashing riffs that manage to sound absolutely huge, whilst still being sublimely easy on the ear.
Album-closer 'You Were The Cancer' builds on the electro theme, gradually layering on more synths as this no-holds-barred hardcore/electro mash-up progresses.
'You Were The Cancer' begins in distinctly tribal fashion, with slick and steady drumbeats, before dizzy electro effects are factored in. Gradually, whirring and grating sound effects are also added, and 'You Were The Cancer' amasses a fizzy, infectious energy.
As if that wasn't enough, 'You Were The Cancer' boasts this album's most furious moment, with a chorus of hardcore snarls that are absolutely drenched in bile. Backing up these frightening vocals, are wave after wave of jagged riffs. 'You Were The Cancer' is a piece of experimental hardcore that goes out of its way to ensure this album expires on a passionate, all-or-nothing high.
Thursday don't make things easy for the listener. There's no crowd-pleasing, catchy chorus or immediate hooks. What 'Common Existence' delivers is eleven tracks of solid post-hardcore with passion and enthusiasm to spare. It also features the occasional experimental flourish that ensures that, whilst post-hardcore as a genre does have a tendency to sound samey, 'Common Existence' doesn't. If you're a fan of the genre, then you probably couldn't do much better than this album. And, if you don't have a soft spot for post-hardcore, then Thursday might just be the band to win you around.