On its latest, This Will Destroy You continues its mission to single-handedly destroy the eardrums of post-rock fans.
There is a certain heaviness to This Will Destroy You that betrays the majestic beauty on which the band's compositions are largely built. Functioning in the absurdly titled post-rock realm of instrumental indie rock, This Will Destroy You crafts some of the heaviest, gorgeously lush tracks out there. Capable of widescreen, ethereal beauty one moment and skull rattling heaviness the next, This Will Destroy You manages to tap into a very specific emotional core that doesn’t rely solely on loud/soft dynamics to elicit false responses in the listener. Rather there’s a general sense of uneasiness throughout, knowing that at any time gorgeous, ephemeral moments could erupt in a spasm of seizure-inducing heaviness. Throughout, you’re essentially left waiting for the next massive surge in volume and, when it comes, it functions as a welcome relief that borders on the euphoric, having been finally afforded the release the listener craves with being taken to the next sonic level.
Opening track "New Topia" features a slow, gradual build that abruptly devolves into oppressively heavy, though no less majestic, distortion and pummeling drums. This is the kind of magisterial immensity that begs to be labeled as cinematic, causing all senses to tremble and one’s vision to blur as the sounds reverberate within one’s head, causing massive vibrations to emanate throughout the whole of the body. The bass alone on the last several minutes of "Dustism" is enough to rupture any number of speakers and eardrums and can be felt throughout the whole of one’s body with a startling clarity generally lost when volumes dip this far into the red. Rather than losing anything in the transition from slumbering to full-on roar, the individual elements, like those of the fully awake following blissful slumber, are heightened and snapped fully into focus, immediately and often rudely thrust out of the gauzy haze of sleep.
Functioning essentially as one long, seamless track on the album’s first half, the individual elements are broken down into a handful of distinct tracks that all begin with a smoldering melancholy that, with mere minutes to go, erupts into massive walls of distortion that, in the case of "Serpent Mind", beget further walls of distortion just when it feels as though they couldn’t possibly pile anything else atop the massage sonic structure already erected. While certainly becoming formulaic, this idiosyncratic approach is less so than a number of This Will Destroy You’s contemporaries and, by contrast, show this band to be the sole purveyor of a certain sort of sonic weirdness within the post-rock idiom that leaves the listener wondering just where the volume and song structure itself will be headed next.
Essentially, This Will Destroy You creates some of the heaviest, most beautiful instrumental post-rock out there, crafting massively symphonic pieces out of minimalist elements, forgoing the gradual build in favor of drastic dynamic shifts that, despite anticipating their arrival, can feel jarring to the point of disorientation. But this only serves to heighten the visceral impact music like this can have on the listener, the difference between awake and asleep, occasionally a smooth transition, though more times than not a jarring experience that causes a great deal of confusion and disorientation that can only be absorbed and appreciated fully in the moment rather than dissected and studied at a later time.
"War Prayer", unlike the tracks preceding it, allows for a gradual build into brontosaurian pummeling that never moves much beyond a gentle lumbering roll, occasionally trailing off into dissonant atmospherics that rely on sonic textures as much as the louder sections rely on pure noise to create sounds upon sounds that then create wholly new tonalities and overtones and shapes, allowing for new spaces to appear and shapes to shift and twist and become something new and different before exploding and falling back in on itself. Using the drums to gradually build, "War Prayer" affords the listener fair warning that things are about to erupt into majestic heaviness once more.
Over the whole of its mercifully brief run time, Another Language becomes an almost exhausting listening experience, one that requires a certain level of auditory endurance given the slow tempos and even slower builds, lulling the listener into submission only to pummel them once more at the climax of each song. Only during "The Puritan" is the listener given any sort of extended reprieve, it being the shortest track on the album and also the only to fully forego the soft/crushingly-loud sonic template. Here one’s ears are able to process, through ethereal synths and soothing sounds, the beauty of This Will Destroy You without the brutal oppression that often follows the admittedly formulaic song structures.
Slowed to a somnambulant crawl, "Mother Opiate" provides distinct instrumentation from the start with its brushed snare work, gentle keyboards and brooding atmospherics, all combining to create something akin to a sonic sedative that, again unlike the preceding tracks, operates at a slow burn without relying on turning up the flames for maximum impact. It’s this uncertainty, however, that creates a sense of dread in the listener, the same way horror films rely on cheap scares to unsettle an audience, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats throughout, never entirely sure what to expect. Here the monster never arrives, though its presence is felt and the shadow of dread it casts is enough to unnerve even the most relaxed listener.
"Invitation", with its odd meter martial snare set against a gentle Rhodes, continues to follow the softer, gentler template laid out on the two preceding tracks, only occasionally interrupted by a pair of squalling guitars. Undeterred, the initial figure continues on unabated, allowing for the chaos to gradually build around it, the calm at the center of the storm. Only when the volume is ramped up yet another notch does the initial keyboard figure revisit its initial statement, creating something a bit more declarative in nature in order to be heard amidst the increasingly chaotic maelstrom into which it has been thrust.
For the most part, This Will Destroy You finds its footing on the slow burn, crawling along at a snail’s pace, rarely straying from an established formula (quiet, brooding intro, slow build/hard dynamic shift half to three quarters of the way through, louder still) that, over the course of a whole album, can be somewhat draining. Forgoing the genre’s tendency toward the easy emotional sell, however, This Will Destroy You manages to create a sound wholly its own while still operating fully within the basic framework of the post-rock/instrumental rock genre. All the necessary sonic touchstones are there, only slightly skewed and then turned up to often painfully oppressive levels to create something wholly new and different. Within a genre in which most bands become interchangeable, This Will Destroy You manages to set itself apart.