Album Review: Thornhill - 'Butterfly'

4 March 2018 | 5:04 pm | Staff Writer

Thornhill bring out all the stops.

More Thornhill More Thornhill

Yep, I fucking called it!

I first saw Thornhill live a few years ago when they played their first ever show in support of Hellions’ Opera Oblivia’ tour in Melbourne. I reviewed that gig and in that write-up, I sweated the newcomer band fairly hard and for good reason. They were a great band from their first outing into the world - something they kept up with on 'Temperer' and 'Limbo' - and they've continued to fully follow through on that.

The group's new ‘Butterfly’ EP shows that Thornhill weren't going to be a one trick, Northlane-worship pony. Though the strong influence of that band is still prevalent throughout, the Melbourne five-piece make it their own in a lot of ways. Each of the six songs on this EP has an incredible sense of emotional depth and instrumental density to it. Layers of atmospheric guitars and synths all amount to one hell of an enveloping 20-minutes, and the level of polish here is unprecedented.

Parasite’, as one such example, does this oh so fucking well with its haunting tremolo guitars and intrenching atmospheres that shift and flow, giving it a terrifying tension throughout. And when the falsetto vocals come in and seemingly join in these heavy but ghostly soundscapes, it creates a stunning, dynamic track.

Not one single second here feels bare or wasted, with all the "gaps" filled in and glued together with layered synths and crunchy guitars to make for a release that is always moving forward and filling out your speakers whilst also not lacking in dynamic. In fact, the band's dynamic here is absolutely on point: the softer sections are personal and real and the loud parts are crushing and defiant. It's that simple and it's that fucking good!

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That’s not to say that this whole EP is just Karnviool-love, spacey pads, high-register vocals, and djent riffs. ‘Lavender’, despite its pretty connotation, is the heaviest and hardest hitting song of the whole lot and the Thorny boys are already such a finely tuned machine they don’t just write a minute-long breakdown. At one point in the middle, a moment occurs with some fantastic call and response vocals occur that I could only describe as an early Memphis May Fire section but written by Northlane. It has this immense swagger to it and although it’s short-lived it helps break the track up and bridge the gap between the traditional metalcore beginnings and the ambient laden, vocally harmonious chorus. Plus, that ending breakdown is going to be one hell of a wicked moment when played live - you have all been warned.

Closer ‘Joy’ did what I was thinking was unthinkable during my listen through these six tracks for the first time – it got even bigger. ‘Joy’ is at times dark and brooding but also violent and emotionally weighing. It shifts between gorgeously sombre ambient breaks, into fuzzy and hazily textured breakdowns, until it all culminates into one last sonic explosion of a closing chorus. The last fifty seconds of the track is oceanically deep and as layered as that delicious lasagne you had that one time at your Italian friend’s house in primary school and just as heavenly. It's clear that Thornhill really worked hard to build the entire EP up to this very moment and it doesn’t relinquish. And I think that’s what I appreciate most about it: there’s a wonderful progression to ‘Butterfly’ that feels very cinematic. There’s this constant rising tension on every song until a final climax hits, but there also these little moments throughout that feel like the turning acts of a masterfully written film.

Yet the one caveat I have for this EP is that it does feels just a touch to samey at times. If you can break out of the trance that this EP can put you in or your listening experience isn’t as internalised then you will see the theme of the EP stronger than ever. The songs here do feel a touch too alike to one another and at just six tracks, this indeed small issue rears its head ever so higher. Though, admittedly, if you were to ask me what song should have been left on the cutting room floor, I just couldn’t tell you. Which is a good thing in and of itself because it means that everything here is quality... even if it is familiar quality.

Thornhill have nailed it. Though this is far from their debut release, ‘Butterfly’ feels like a monumental moment for the growing Melbourne band. It’s the start of an epoch for these five close friends that will see them hopefully rise up the ranks of Australian heavy music and find themselves on bigger and better tours, all alongside bigger and better contemporaries. There is more than enough present to break this new EP's slight sameness up and not render it a real issue but we’ll have to wait until a full-length album from Thornhill arrives to see if they can really pull it off. Either way, I can't wait!

1. Sunflower

2. Parasite

3. Reptile

4. My Design

5. Lavender

6. Joy

'Butterfly' is out now.