Review Summary: The poster boys of post-hardcore mature and progress admirably resulting in a consistent and ultimately very good 4th album.
Following the slight disappointment of Thursday's 3rd album 'War All The Time', it was always going to be interesting what the band served up next. Expectations were high as back in the 'Full Collapse' (their 2nd album) era, it is arguable that this is one of the musical groups who brought the post-hardcore genre to the forefront and caused many other bands to follow suit.
The easy way out would have been to ditch the ideas that resulted in the relatively poor crossover appeal of 'War All The Time' and take a step back in time to literally scream their way to further success. Fortunately, Thursday did not take the easy way out. With 'A City by the Light Divided', Thursday show further progression and a clear sense of maturity that is admirable even when it doesn't quite come off. Their 4th album is also a more consistent effort than its predecessor with few, if any, tracks completely worthless.
Opening up this album is an interesting track that does indeed take us back to 'Full Collapse' as 'The Other Side of the Crash/Over and Out of Control' is an alternate take on the past album's terrific opener 'Understanding in a Car Crash'. It is a nice little shout-out of sorts that suggests to their fans that while their music may have changed, they definitely do not forget their past accomplishments. And the song itself is a tell-tale sign with its blend of aggression & smoothness working rather well. It's not perfect, as the emotion of the earlier track is not replicated as well here and it is a little overlong for an opener, but it is still a fine song in its own right.
1st single 'Counting 5-4-3-2-1' follows and there is much to like about this song as it is impressive and memorable in achieving its aim of being a sing-along anthem. Not only is it rather catchy and quite intense, but it does an excellent job of effectively showcasing lead vocalist Geoff Rickly's trademark voice that includes traits from an indie-rock style. That was one thing too often missing on 'War All The Time'.
Another song which reminds of earlier releases is track 4, the 2nd single 'At This Velocity'. It in fact would have made for a good opener as it is predominantly up-tempo, loud and aggressive (similarly to the more straight-forward rocker of penultimate track 'Into the Blinding Light'), but is still able to showcase the band's trademark switches in pace, vocals and structure that made 'Full Collapse' so unpredictable and effective. But if we were only to see slight signs of progression from these 4 songs, the maturity I spoke about in the introduction takes over the album elsewhere.
Track 3 'Sugar in the Sacrament' is ultimately nothing more than a decent album track, but its ambition is there aplenty. A slow-burning 5+ minute ballad that climaxes well, it is at least fascinating to listen to in a similar fashion to the near 7 minute closer 'Autumn Leaves Revisited'. However, it is the middle section of this album which is most rewarding. Excluding an instrumental of sorts, 'We Will Overcome', 'Running From The Rain', 'Telegraph Avenue Kiss' and 'The Lovesong Writer' either sound smooth, melodic, lush and/or epic. One contains choir-like backing vocals, another is piano-driven, but they all are sound musically, effective vocally and have the ability to hook in a listener successfully.
It is these tracks used in conjunction with the opening hard-hitters that ultimately make 'A City by the Light Divided' a very good album at the end of the day. Not everything comes off perfectly, but nothing bombs either. It is simply satisfying to see Thursday mature and progress in such a way that will hopefully, with the help of the album's standout 'Counting 5-4-3-2-1', impress enough newcomers to build on their fanbase.
Recommended Tracks: Counting 5-4-3-2-1, We Will Overcome, The Lovesong Writer & Running From The Rain.