Thursday’s newest record is entitled No Devolución, Spanish for “no return.” They weren’t kidding. This isn’t so much of an album title as it is a proclamation, letting fans know that the days of Full Collapse are over and that they can stop pleading for its sequel.
Thursday has flirted with the densely atmospheric sound that dominates No Devolución in last few releases, though it wasn’t done so heavily or persistently as it is done here. Thursday makes it clear that the days of them being a post-hardcore band are over and that they have matured along with their sound. This record is the darkest and most bleak work of the band’s career; however, it somehow finds a way to be the most melodic.
The first song, “Fast to the End,” quickly sets the tone for the record and establishes the brutal, yet touching, sound. The instrumentals pound away, with deafening drums from Tucker Rule, who excels throughout the record, and jangly guitar lines from guitarists Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley. Heavy instrumental songs like this are where singer Geoff Rickly would typically shout and scream himself silly on past records. Right away, you realize this is not going to happen. Rickly takes a more natural singing approach on this song, as well as many others on the album. It would not be a far-shot to compare this song to the work of Deftones, circa Around the Fur. Andrew Everding also has a larger role on keyboards than ever before. He has an almost DJ-esque, scratchy moment as the song nears the climax, which meshes perfectly with the sound-scape crafted by producer Dave Fridmann, now on his third album with the band and sounding more natural with the band than ever before.
Everding also commands the launching of the second track, “No Answer,” which will be an early favorite for fans in this new chapter for the band. The striking sonic landscape created by Everding and Rule’s complex drumming strikes up a beautiful image in the head of the listener. Rickly quietly croons over the backdrop throughout the track, except for the chorus, where his voice soars effortlessly above all else. Everding establishes himself firmly as a full-time member of the band, as his instrumentals dominate the track, setting the mood of the song perfectly. The somber tone is continued on “A Darker Forest.” For a man who has always been praised for the passionate yelps of his early days, Rickly shows that he can give just as poignant of a performance when he is quiet and singing as he could in the ways of his youth. When he sings in the chorus over the buzz-saw of guitars, you can palpably feel his pain. The bass playing of Tim Payne is worth mentioning, as the heavy thud of his strings helps drive the morose sound. The song is in the upper echelon of tracks on this album, and stands as one of the first few standouts of this year.
On “Past and Future Ruins,” Everding sets the tone (again) with a melodic piano line over the drone of guitars. Anyone who listens to this song and doesn’t praise the band’s instrumentation is simply being stubborn. Rule establishes himself as one of the foremost drummers around and his work on this song provides him with ample reference for the title. The muted, jumping guitar lines that begin “Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart” work hand-in-hand with the thumping bass line from Payne to establish the darkly harmonious instrumentals for Rickly. Fridmann makes Rickly the “MVP” of many of the songs by placing just the right amount of echo and effect on the front-man’s voice, allowing it to trickle through the music behind him.
If a breakup could be epitomized by a song, that song would be “Empty Glass.” This is the most pained and sincere the band has ever sounded, almost to the point where it feels wrong to listen, like this is something so personal you have no business being involved. It’s impossible not to love this track though, as you feel Rickly is right next to you as he sings, courtesy of the sparse instrumentation (only Everding’s keys for the most part) and Fridmann’s production. This song is undoubtedly a highlight track. While the thunderously-industrial “A Gun in the First Act,” and the breakneck “Millimeter,” also stand out as great songs, they are perhaps better served for iPods on shuffle, as they drastically pale in comparison to the phenomenal “Empty Glass.”
Thursday again flirts with a Deftones-style sound on “Turnpike Divides,” this time sounding similar to White Pony, which could easily be similar to the level of acclaim this album receives. As the crescendo of guitars build toward the end with Rickly singing “Those days I wanted to sleep, you’d wake me up just before you’d leave, and I’d fall back into a dream,” you can’t help but feel remorse as the album nears its end. The closing track, the mostly instrumental “Stay True,” begins with some heavy, tribal-sounding drums from Rule and a repeated, fluid sliding guitar riff. When Rickly comes in, the post-rock styled instrumentals are taken to a whole new stratosphere with the subdued vocals. This is another highlight for the band. Right before the buildup of the song, which leads into a viciously touching passage that propels the album to its chaotic instrumental end, Rickly sings, “I don’t want to talk about the old days.” No kidding.
This album may not be for your typical Thursday fan, someone who enjoys distorted guitars and frenetic singing. It’s almost more likely to draw in a new crowd of listeners than it is to carry over old fans. For anyone who abandoned ship after Common Existence, you’re missing out. This may very well be the best album Thursday has ever released.