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Album Review: ALBUM REVIEW: Thornhill - 'Heroine'

31 May 2022 | 2:26 pm | Ollie Midson
Originally Appeared In

"Heroine is a masterful and bold move from Thornhill, with more time and devotion to crafting a living breathing atmosphere than breakdowns. This record is a breath of fresh air for the Australian heavy music scene and will no doubt catapult them to superstardom."

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The years have been very kind to Thornhill. From their humble beginnings in 2016 with the release of their debut EP “13”, to the sonic maturation and expansion on 2018 follow up “Butterfly”, and the release of the hotly anticipated debut album “The Dark Pool”, Thornhill have gone from strength to strength, adding even more tools to their proverbial belt. On “Heroine” - the Melbourne five piece’s 2nd LP under UNFD - we see them really come into their own and create a sound that harkens back to the tunes of decades past, by adding a refreshing new take on the alt-metal formula that simultaneously sounds nostalgic, and innovative. The Dark Pool, this is not. This. Is Heroine.

The album, co-produced by vocalist Jacob Charlton and guitarist Ethan McCann, broadens the scope of the Thornhill universe by clever use of cinematic orchestration, synth production, and lush soundscapes that embellish the instrumentation on offer from the entire band and elevate the Heroine experience to something so deeply emotional. For those expecting The Dark Pool 2.0, you will not find it here. Except for one little regression back to that sound on Track 2, the tools and palette on this record are broader, more colourful and truly exciting.

'The Hellfire Club' cautiously opens the album, with the tremoring hum of a low synthesizer that Hans Zimmer would be proud of. The song has an impressive ebb and flow as the familiar filth of McCann’s guitar pokes through and ushers in a grungy emotive tune that positively oozes notes of Smashing Pumpkins and Silverchair. 

'Leather Wings' takes the award of the heaviest song on the album, with dense riffage and a spacey atmosphere that serves as a loving nod to their previous album. Brooding, dark, and effortlessly charismatic, Charlton’s vocal performance on this track, and the album as a whole, is beautiful. Channelling his inner Elvis and Justin Timberlake, his voice soars, swaggers and serenades in spades, and produces screams that, while seldom-used across the entire album, will leave you dropping your jaw.

'Blue Velvet' takes a sharp left turn and offers a more contemplative, lamenting sound as images of a lone figure walking down a rain-soaked alleyway as he reflects on lost love. Dripping with atmosphere, this is a lovely lighter reprieve before the gothic onslaught of 'Arkangel', with guitars and synths painting a very vivid black and white image with the storm only bringing the rain down in bigger torrents.

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'Valentine' sees Thornhill explore uncharted territory within their back catalogue as a drunken, lo-fi beat permeates its way throughout, while Charlton croons with a romantic obsession akin to American Beauty. 'Casanova', our first taste of the new record, has the sensual energy and danger from a classic James Bond film with drummer Ben Maida sitting right in the pocket and tightly grooving with bassist Nick Sjogren. Take note, kids; This is how a rhythm section should sound.

To begin the second act of Heroine, we have 'Something Terrible Came' with 'The Rain', possibly the most beautiful cinematic interlude to ever have been composed. Film buffs will recognise snatches of Danny Elfman, Alexandre Desplat, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross here, as McCann’s guitar is joined by bright pizzicato violins which bounce against industrial percussion that ultimately crescendo into a sweeping string orchestra that can only be described as a poetic swim through space before all the starlight goes out and we’re left with a singular beacon to follow back home. 

What’s waiting for us is 'Hollywood', a pummelling, epic track about the dissolution of a relationship before the start of a new one with a girl in the city of angels. That chorus takes off to the stratosphere and is guaranteed to be a loud singalong at future shows. 

'Raw'...all I really need to say about this track is, they’re bringing sexyback, and them other bands don’t know how to act. Wow. If Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand had a baby and plugged that baby into a Kemper, this is what you’d get. 

On the comedown of this album, we have to go back to our days of uni heartbreak and She’s All That, as the gentle, lackadaisical strums of Matt Van Duppen’s guitar augment the unwilling complacency on 'Varsity Hearts' where the atmosphere is given more time to shine and cements McCann’s status as a producer within the alternative community. There’s a real sensitivity and deep pain that’s tangible within Varsity Hearts and dreamy, shoegaze-y closing track, 'Heroine', which serves as the perfect encapsulation of all the textures and colours we’ve encountered on the record. Charlton has said in recent interviews that he’s made an effort to truly emote and feel the emotions he’s writing about, and his hard work has truly paid off in the form of vivid, cinematic vignettes that explore the many facets of the human condition through the lens of classic Hollywood films. And the characters and stories we experience on this album have so much life within them, that if you close your eyes, you’ll most definitely be watching it all unfold on the cinema screen in your mind.

Heroine is a masterful and bold move from Thornhill, with more time and devotion to crafting a living breathing atmosphere than breakdowns. This record is a breath of fresh air for the Australian heavy music scene and will no doubt catapult them to superstardom.

HEROINE is out this Friday via UNFD

Pick up a ticket to the Heroine Album Tour this July with Dayseeker (US), Gravemind & Banks Arcade here: