Review Summary: Possibly one of the most underrated albums in popular music these days.A City By The Light Divided
is probably one of the most inaccessible post-hardcore albums out there. After a few solid, highly praised releases which took control of a whole genre and made it their own, Thursday decided that it was time to change. But this wasn't some huge maturation and 180 degree switch in musical direction--this is very much still the same band. It's the little things that changed. They took their vaguely unpredictable, emotionally charged brand of post-hardcore put it through a huge noise filter, absolutely drenching everything in massive, trebley cymbals and synth static. About 80% of the time on this album, there is a synth drone in the background, with guitars not so much playing chords or melodies as they are simply creating a backdrop of noise. The drums are played way down, and the cymbals amplified ten times--everything
is a wall of noise.
But this isn't your gauzy, dreamlike, My Bloody Valentine wall of noise stuff. No, this is a loud, disconcerting, gut-wrenching wall of noise, with Geoff Rickly's otherworldly, powerful voice coming through on top of it all, singing some of the strongest lyrics of the decade, putting forth more emotion than can be contained. The beautiful, subdued atmosphere of "Sugar In The Sacrament" couples with vivid, genuinely unnerving lyrics about rape and lost innocence somehow cuts so close to home despite its oddly specific subject matter. Immediately following is the absolutely murderous, borderline-screamo track "At This Velocity" (hinting at Geoff Rickly's newer project, United Nations), with some of Thursday's loudest and most intense moments yet.
And here's the thing: the album never lets up. From the devastatingly emotional chorus of "Running From The Rain" to the noise-soaked ambiance of "The Lovesong Writer" to the chaos of "Into The Blinding Light," the record's emotional-release-through-noise approach hits the listener again and again with something new, powerful, and astounding. Yes, it can be hard to penetrate the ridiculous amount of layers to find the heartbreakingly desperate music underneath it all--but it is
there, and when you finally dig through all of the chaos, you find Thursday at the absolute top of their game. By the time the closer, "Autumn Leaves Revisited," rolls around, it's hard to know what you're supposed to be feeling. And then that last song hits.
Sporting an almost seven-minute runtime, "Autumn Leaves Revisited" closes the album out with a massive journey, slowly building off of its somber introduction until it finally explodes into the finale of the album, reaching the even greater desperate emotional highs than the chorus of "Running From The Rain" did, throwing out deeply profound, heart-on-your-sleeve poetry such as There must be somewhere that cigarettes burn through the night, and the leaves don't abandon their trees to the light--where the sky is always clear, and the summer never ends. Won't you take me there?
This is really the best way to summarize this album, too: apocalyptic wall-of-noise production, incredible lyrics, brilliant melodies and just loads of emotion. It's easy to write this off as Thursday's "dud album," but underneath all the layers and obscured melodies, repeated listens reveal quite the opposite. Although it may be tricky, if one puts the effort in to dig deep enough into this album, you can see it for what it truly is: an absolute masterpiece, an experience that transcends description. The mood is almost similar to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's apocalyptic masterwork, F♯A♯∞
, but this album adds a desperation that is absent from Godspeed's meandering soundscapes. What it really comes down to is that this album is simply as good as the genre gets, and if you haven't put in the work to really appreciate it, you should do so immediately. It is absolutely worth it.