Apparently it was a controversial opinion to think that Thornhill’s The Dark Pool was just another tech-metalcore album, even though, y’know, it was. Between the liberal amounts of Northlane worship and the sense that they’d just draped themselves over the absolute most standard framework, that album was hardly anything interesting, despite how vehement defence it accumulated in its favour. Evidently in the three years since though, Thornhill themselves have realised that given the amount this new has switched things up. Gone is any evidence of a tech-metal past life and even most of a metalcore influence, in favour of a heady, gauzy Deftones impression that they’re clearly still in the early stages of, but already feels far more gripping. They get the opportunity to play around with dynamism more, between big, caving grooves on Leather Wings, sharper nu-metal crush on Casanova (also the album’s strongest moment, for the record), and more ethereal muscle on the closers Varsity Hearts and the title track. There’s a wider breadth of styles plucked from that automatically elevates Thornhill past where they were, even if the production can be locked in place in a tech-metal mindset to prevent a full Deftones-esque level of immersion. Particularly on songs like Arkangel that try to be more sweeping, the maximalism ultimately engulfs the guitars and drown out a lot of Jacob Charlton’s vocals. It can mean that Heroine feels more defined by its colour and texture above all else, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can limit how far Thornhill can really get with this style.
They make it rather clear that they have intentions too, to craft a narrative informed by the flash and romanticism of vintage Hollywood, something which, based on a purely emotional response, they do fairly well at. They explore a denser atmosphere than before, one that can be a lot more shimmering and heightened, and indeed with a lot of cues from Deftones. And within that, there’s a natural avenue towards a take on ‘glamour’ on the basis of how rushing the soundscapes are. It’s the cleanest in the interlude Something Terrible Came With The Rain, which is explicitly the most theatrical track here in its strings and twinkles that’s rather far removed from the album sonically, but fits in spirit. It’s instances like that evidence Thornhill’s newness to the approach; in the circumstances of a normal song, they’ve got a rough theatrical shape down, without a way to weave their individual instrumental strains into it succinctly just yet. When they do work it out, it’ll improve a lot of the issues with balancing that this album has, like how the guitars have a great, sawing tone on their own but end up blown out thanks to the influence of the percussion, leaving the bass mostly swamped-out and the percussion to cut most of the grooves and progressions into place. But even so, Heroine represents a more interesting form of Thornhill, purely on the basis of breaking away from a restrictive sound they were doing so little in, and moving to where there’s more abundant creative freedom. They’re already exercising that well, albeit in a way in need of fine-tuning to fully show off the impact; when that comes around, this could definitely be strong. As it stands now, this is only a small step forward into across-the-board growth and improvement, but a step forward all the same.
For fans of: Deftones, Loathe, Ocean Grove
‘Heroine’ by Thornhill is released on 3rd June on UNFD.
Words by Luke Nuttall