Thornhill – ‘The Dark Pool’

By Dave Stewart

There’s been an enormous buzz surrounding Thornhill ever since their initial emergence back in 2016. The infectious grooves that oozed out of their ‘Butterfly’ EP turned numerous heads, first in their native Australia, then spreading overseas. After completely commanding the Australian heavy music scene and smashing support slots with Beartooth, Parkway Drive, In Hearts Wake and more, 2019 sees them unleash their highly anticipated full length debut, ‘The Dark Pool’. Does the buzz continue to grow in volume, or does it begin to dampen into a distant hum?

Well, it doesn’t really do either. It kind of just stays at the same decibel level, not creating mass excitement but not really causing intense disappointment either. ‘The Dark Pool’ definitely still sounds like Thornhill, like they’re continuing down the path that their EP saw them start to journey down – it just doesn’t feel as though they’ve taken that many steps forwards.

Don’t think this is a totally bad review of the record, because it isn’t – there’s plenty of headbang-worthy moments, such as the djent-influenced rhythmic pummelling of ‘Views From The Sun’ and the unforgiving melodic barrage of the heart-wrenching ‘Lily & The Moon’. The instrumental ‘Netherplace’ makes for a rich and emotive listen, enveloping you in its serene atmospheric tones as it perfectly leads you into the mesmerising and brutal assault of ‘Where We Go When We Die’, closing out the album in the most triumphant and powerful way possible.

There are some tracks that really do soar, too. ‘In My Skin’ has shades of Architects, utilising some truly stunning dynamic shifts to give the devastating distorted blows even more weight. ‘Red Summer’ serves as a beautifully structured change of pace, gently caressing your ear drums with a plethora of textures before flooding your senses with all of them at once. Single ‘Coven’ is a real monster as well, possessing a venom that grows in potency with every single chug and hellish growl. That it was chosen as one of the leading tracks for the record is completely understandable; not only is it one of the strongest on display, but you can also picture the carnage it would create in a live setting. It’s just a shame the rest of the album doesn’t emit the same vibes.

There are plenty of good moments, sure, but there are also times where the record just feels a little flat. Some songs feel like they’re on an endless runway, preparing to take off but never actually leaving the ground. ‘Human’ is full of lots of impressive riffs and a nice steady pace but feels very samey, recycling the same ideas until they can’t be recycled anymore. ‘All The Light We Don’t See’ is nice enough instrumentally but feels like an unfinished idea, slotted into the album to fill a space rather than truly serve a purpose. Single ’Nurture’ isn’t necessarily a bad song, but it feels like it’s been done before. The main guitar hook is very catchy, as are the vocal melodies, but it lacks that “wow” factor that some of the other songs on the record drive home.

There’s plenty of ingredients here that, with a little more of a thorough mix, could create one hell of a tasty recipe. There’s the technical riff work of Northlane, the raw screams of The Devil Wears Prada, the melodic vocal intricacies of Tesseract, the soul-crushing breakdowns of Heart Of A Coward – there is plenty of power here, but not quite enough to really make a lasting impact. They’ve clearly done their homework and have studied the modern heavy music scene quite intensely, but there’s too much borrowing going on and not enough of their own flair. They clearly have the ability to sprinkle a little of their own pizzazz over their music, they perhaps just need to be more generous with their next record.

If you’re already a fan of the band then you’ll probably love this record. This picks up exactly where ‘Butterfly’ left off and delivers a much bigger serving of the same. But, if you’re new to Thornhill, you might struggle to see what all the fuss has been about. Not a terrible first record, but not a mind-blowing one either – ‘The Dark Pool’ is a great debut effort that unfortunately fails to traverse the high bar that they set for themselves.

DAVE STEWART

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