Aussie black metal force Thrall continue mission to warp minds on devastating mauler ‘Schisms’

Black metal is a strangely inhabited forest with plenty of trees, the ground fertile and overflowing with vegetation and bloody soil, and the opportunity to truly separate oneself from everything else something of a struggle to get right. That’s a bizarre way of saying there’s so much dotting the black metal landscape that it’s easy to lose sight of the bands worth your time and attention.

Australia’s Thrall have been going at things for some time, scorching the early for more than 15 years but remaining eerily silent for most of the past nine. That silence is about to end with the arrival of their fourth full-length record “Schisms,” a scathing album that’s packed with the virulent power the subgenre expects but also manages to rise above the flood with creativity and heart. The band—guitarist/vocalist Tøm Vøid, guitarist Ramez Bathish, bassistJonno Cachia, drummer Jared Mawdsley—delivers tyranny and explosive emotion on these hefty eight songs, their spirits as darkened and forlorn as the cloak figure wandering the shadows on the album’s cover art.

The title track opens the record, spilling filthy black metal into your lap, cries rupturing the peace. Sounds boil as vicious vocals lace against your flesh, melodic fury driving hard to the end. “Tyrant” tears into the flesh and charges hard, the vocals chipping away at bone. The aura is blistering and full of energy, and then things go hypnotic and strange, making your head spin and body chill, and then an explosion strikes as the gas pedal is jammed. The leads heat up as the melodies rush with chiming noises echoing and dissolving. “Veils” pounds away as the vocals tear into your ribs and the speed strikes with hammering velocity. Guitars jolt and leave bruising as a mystical force sets in, the fires rage anew, and the furious pace leaves you in the dust. “Hollow” enters amid dark riffs and a blasting force, fast playing punishing and flattening until a brief respite brings temporary calm before the ferocity increases again. Shrieks dice as echoes pull back the terror, numbing the mind before some final fireworks batter your nervous system.

“Nihil” bleeds open into a hazy, hypnotic feel, the vocals crushing while all the other elements disorient. Later, the playing mauls and holds you over the barrel, your brainwaves begin to short circuit, and that lets your senses melt out and into “Abyss” that enters to jangly guitars and the skies lighting up brightly. The guitars chug as the vocals choke on cinders, and then mysterious winds gather and spread, feeling ghostly and weird even as the vocals begin to take it to you again. The final moments attack you like a buzzsaw, preparing you for “Epoch” that punches its way in and swims in the melodies. Scathing howls leave marks as drums crush bones, and the guitars explode and lather, feeling a little bluesy along the way. The vibe gets chunkier and more violent, charging relentlessly into stormy winds that pull you under. Closer “Dust” basks in stormy atmosphere as the guitars heat up, and the playing rumbles. Again, the melodies take over and cause your heart to surge, and the elements get menacing and threatening, the growls wailing on your exposed wounds. The playing envelopes as the pressure increases its chokehold, the final embers disappearing into eerie mystery.

Thrall manage to deliver black metal that is immersed in darkness and also swelling in infectious vibes that make your blood rush harder. “Schisms” is more than a solid effort, it’s a step forward for this Aussie unit that keeps finding new ways to energize and confound listeners who likely will need multiple visits with these eight songs to turn over and find what’s under every rock. This is a record that can scorch and enthrall, leaving wounds that hurt but ultimately leave the body stronger.  

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