Review Summary: Thursday strip down the hooks but remain strong
Having released their breakthrough album Full Collapse
two years previously, Thursday quickly became one of the
bands to listen to, and consequentially had a lot of hype to live up to with their follow-up. With War All the Time
they made several important changes to their sound that resulted in an album that most fans appreciated but almost unanimously dubbed as inferior to its predecessor. Well, to cut the crap, War All the Time does not only maintain the high standard that Thursday set with Full Collapse, but it also surpasses it.
The emphasis here has changed from catchy hooks that infected the listener with instant nostalgia to more cohesive songwriting and a more polished overall sound. Don’t misunderstand the last point; Geoff Rickly’s beautifully strained and passionate vocals are still right at the forefront, perhaps even more so than before, since the amount of screaming has decreased significantly in favour of his cleans (a wise decision in my opinion, since the screaming on Full Collapse did very little for me), and the interesting post-hardcore instrumentation is still there, but it is all performed with a much slicker aesthetic. This is a mistake, since the rougher production style was a significant part of what made Full Collapse sound so passionate, and War All the Time is also a very much an emotionally-fueled album. However, the slight overproduction is more than made up for by the content of the songs themselves.
As I mentioned, the songs on War All the Time succeed not because of hooks (Geoff Rickly himself has described it as having “no hooks”) but because of their power and quality; they are concise and don’t waste a moment of their running time. A great example of this is Marches and Maneuvres
, which features a clean intro, aggressive verses, a driving breakdown riff, and an extended clean bridge at the end; in short it has a lot of changing dynamics and maintains a chaotic vibe throughout without relying on a catchy melody or lick. Other key tracks include opener For the Workforce, Drowning
, which crams a lot of ideas into a short running time and sounds all the better for it, conveying frantic desperation very well, the title track
, which is a slower, more emotional song guaranteed to inflict maximum nostalgia, Signals Over the Air
, features the only serious hook of the album (“They stole the love from our lives to put the sex on the radio”) and was a great choice of first single, Asleep in the Chapel
, which is the only song reminiscent of Full Collapse, and the album’s only soft song This Song Brought to You By a Falling Bomb
, which is a beautiful moment especially in contrast to the rest.
However, special mention must be given to the absolute highlight of the album, Steps Ascending
. It is an excellent combination of an upbeat and a bleak sound that is maintained throughout the first half, with a furiously passionate chorus and powerful verses. However, the song really takes off in the bridge, where the song cuts out and then picks up quietly, building up over a beautifully desperate vocal delivery until it reaches the emotional climax of the album in the form of the repeated lyrics “Red roses”, and then the listener truly understands what makes the album work; it is so powerfully driven that it doesn't need to rely on hooks. I would highly recommend this song to anyone as one of the best of the genre.
Sadly, there are two sides to every coin and War All the Time is no exception; by cutting the majority of the catchiness from their sound, Thursday stripped away any potential that the weaker songs might have had. Certain songs on Full Collapse relied completely on hooks and would have been pretty mediocre without them (for example, A Hole in the World
). M. Shepard, Between Rupture and Rupture, Division St.
and Tomorrow I’ll Be You
are not strong enough to make up for their lack of accessible moments and consequentially hold the album back from being the near-masterpiece that it could have been; they aren't bad songs, but they are extremely forgettable since they neither have sufficiently powerful moments or catchiness. Despite this, the better material on the album is easily enough to make it a rewarding listen and overpower the average songs enough to make this a better album than Full Collapse.
Several weaker tracks
Lack of hooks
1. Steps Ascending
2. For the Workforce, Drowning
3. Marches and Maneuvers
4. War all the Time
5. Asleep in the Chapel