2018 has already been kind to Melbourne alternative metalcore band Thornhill, with the band signing to UNFD, as well as releasing their second EP Butterfly today. Featuring Jacob Charlton (vocals), Ethan McCann (guitar), Ben Maida (drums), Nick Sjogren (bass), and Matt Van Duppen (guitar), Thornhill shared that they are “equal parts nervous and excited to show everyone this release through a label that we’ve looked up to for years.” We dove head first into the six tracks of Butterfly.
“Sunflower” is first on the EP and very soon we’re faced by complex layers and fluid pace. There’s a feeling of tumbling and being thrown about, with vocals hard to grip onto at the introduction. This foreshadows the massiveness to come; a shift with huge drums, intense and driven riffs, and clear vocals. “Sunflower” takes on a feeling of being chased down and the ‘dance’ between guitar and vocals feel like a game of cat and mouse. The vibe is ‘Where are we going from here?’ in a relationship mess. Whispered vocals with a drum focus builds up into a raw revenge-fueled outburst and breakdowns. Distant echoing vocals add another dimension to the sound, with tight riffs keeping us present. It’s brilliant, and I’m in love already.
Plunging into darker territory, “Parasite” offers a sense of unease, and is skin-crawling with the combination of voice, beats, and rippled riffs at the first verse. This amps up to raw assault with rhythmic hits and knowing guitar. Spine-chilling clean vocals hit insane heights, while a rugged terrain of sound unfolds below. The effect of these intertwined parts is gorgeous, and I’m impressed by the unity across the band as well as their expression of music with intricate and interesting rhythms that are backed by the entire band, much like what I love about Deadlights.
“Reptile” was released as a single prior to the release of Butterfly and kicks off with a grooving sound and a loitering vibe. Raw vocals and twisting riffs flow into breathy expression. This leads into driven complexity and a layered adventure, and I’m yet again in love with this. A punishing djent section before sky-grazing vocals seek an open space to breathe. Lost in layers, I’m mesmerised.
“I’d crush my empty skull if it meant no pain
I’ll stay hidden underwater till you go insane”
Probably the most ‘simple’ introduction so far, “My Design” begins with relatively emotionless vocals buried under distortion and an inquiring feel via guitars and pushing beats. As the track unfolds, the lack of emotion becomes explained by a sense of giving up upon another. Their emotional disconnect is expressed by gorgeous vocals that trail off into the sky, and a sense of reluctance. The standout for me of “My Design” begins from the bridge (“In control I can’t pretend”), and I replayed this section several times before going onto the next track because it was just so good. From that point, with exploratory riffs, crashing beats and engaging rhythms, Thornhill feel like they come alive again, with an escalation in complexity, and rich layers. This really feels like the sonic ‘home’ of the band.
“Lavender” takes off from the very start, and plunges the band’s tight sound into a story of self-destruction. I’m in love with the hectic pace here, driven hard and fast. And then I fell even more in love with the shift of crashing drums, ethereal vocals and spaciousness. Thornhill are relentless in drawing us in, not content to be complacent in their sound. The dynamic dance between raw and more melodic vocals is delicious:
“Do you think you ended me?
Have you listened to the words that remain unseen?
I know you know who I wanted to be
Why do you put this hate on me?”
As “Lavender” continues, we’re taken off again, headlong into this desperation to be heard. I’m sitting stunned, and left feeling very keen to see/hear this live on April 7th at the EP Launch at Cherry Bar.
The final track on Butterfly, “Joy” begins with a more warm and experimental sound. I’m left lost for words as this track progresses into places I didn’t expect, and uses chords I didn’t see coming. It takes on a darker feeling in this way, acknowledging the finality of life lyrically, and feeling moving in it’s searching sound.
Given that “Joy” ties back in with ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Butterflies’, I’m wondering what I’m not getting here, in terms of the interconnectedness of the tracks of the EP. Mostly lyrically ambiguous, giving the listener the opportunity to apply their own meanings, it’s still not hard to recognise commentary on growth in our lives, and facing mortality. But there seems to be something more that Thornhill are sharing here.
Regardless of the thread that ties Butterfly together, this EP is breathtaking, with collective energies of the hardworking five piece poured into the six tracks. It’s a mission for the listener of trying to keep up with the sonic adventure that we’re taken on, courtesy of Thornhill pushing boundaries of genre and expectations. Butterfly is an impressive and intense ride.
Impeccable musicianship and courageous experimentation with rhythms and layers of sounds. The result is a gorgeously immersive sonic adventure.