By Kyle Harcott
Melbourne’s Thrall returns with their fourth full-length, Schisms, after a nearly seven-year hiatus from recording. Their last full-length, Aokigahara Jukai, was this writer’s favourite album of 2013. A lot has changed in that time. The band’s lineup continues to revolve around Tom Void, and Thrall still sounds like some kind of demonic wind-tunnel vortex of blackened thrash, I’m happy to report.
A snarling, whirling amalgam of chaos blackmetal, Thrall continues to mesmerize invoking elements of doom, thrash, and even post-rock at times, and fear not – the OUGH! factor remains high.
But, while despair is a component at the heart of Schisms, and the lyric content remains suitably
nihilistic – I dare say, to this writer’s ears – I hear an element of hope buried in the mix there as well. It’s hard to explain; this is, after all, black metal; you’re meant to leave any sentiment of goodwill or life – affirmation at the door, abandoning all H-word who enter here. But there’s something in the riffs that come across triumphant and offering strength. Even though Thrall has always been masterful at
illustrating what a plague humanity is, going back to their first album, and that’s no different on Schisms, I cannot help but find myself breathing a sigh of relief. Humanity’s fucked, and a plague upon the earth – but hey, at least we’re all on this sinking, burning ship together.
The title track kicks us off with a bang; a relentless crushing blast that mesmerizes into a blackened roil, in the midst of its hellish chorus. But it’s the head-caving onslaught of those blasting verses that jump out at me, and right down my throat. Stellar lead guitar work as well.
“Tyrant” meanwhile, storms out of gate like sheet-lightning season with an attack worthy of classic
Immortal – invoking deepest winter with freezing-cold, right-angled lead riffs that feel like ice daggers aimed at your heart.
“Veils” is pure triumph, summoning thousandfold vitriol and martial riffs that definitely call up latter-day Darkthrone in all the best ways possible. While “Hollow”, with its lyrics painting the fall of religion and eventual returning to dust, swirls and heaves like a dark forest dirt road driven at breakneck speed, with momentary interludes to give you that false bit of security.
There’s something sublime in the poetry of “Nihil”, a lyrical paean to time, suffering, and ultimately, the
same death that none escape. The guitars course slow like freezing syrup, like some kind of stringed
march unto death – there can only be one ultimate end.
The straight-up rock riffing in the beginning of “Abyss” is a clever deception before the song summarily marches you off a cliff. While “Epoch” is just that – epochal and apocalyptic, illustrating the violent
death throes of a world driven to its doom by one parasitic species.
Finally, we’re left with “Dust”. Epic in its sprawling scope and running the gamut of styles in a kitchen-sink mix of riff violence and deceptively hard-rocking… well, “rocking” – the song is the ultimate fitting
ending to an album celebrating the vaunted end of mankind’s reign.
Thrall’s masterful return with the vicious nihilist prayer of Schisms is much welcome, especially in a world where it’s never felt closer to the end. Come, headbang, celebrate as Rome burns.