Get ready for a gritty electrified soundscape like no other. This isn’t your dad’s rock band. This is the future. Nothing But Thieves is an up and coming rock band that has released their sophomore album as of September of this year. The five British members released their first self-titled album in October of 2015. The sixteen-song album (yes, sixteen songs) consisted of the English rock radio chart topper Itch, as well as fan favorite songs like Wake-Up Call, If I Get High, and my personal favorite Trip Switch. The band was picked up by artists such as Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance as well as the band Awolnation. Finally, after a relatively short wait, the band has now released their highly anticipated second album “Broken Machine”. While this album is another long one (eleven songs not including three bonus songs and two acoustic version songs on the deluxe version), these select songs will give you a good idea of the band’s range and capabilities.
The first track, titled I Was Just a Kid, starts with an ominous building of indistinct instruments and noises behind a foreboding drum solo. Then suddenly, there’s an explosion of sputtering and thick guitar playing with tight, fast paced drumming to fill you to the brim with excitement and leave you with a feeling of urgency. The song sends you on a roller coaster of emotions, but it’s a ride I didn’t mind going on. The verses give you a sense of stability, the pre-choruses give you a sense of hope, and the choruses throw all of that out the window. Making you feel lost in a sea of absolute chaos and distress. The emotion conveyed in lead singer Connor Mason's voice will leave you sympathizing for his search for answers when he screams “how’d it get like this?” The final lines of the song create a beautiful melding of both the chorus and pre-chorus all in one. Giving you the fast-paced excitement of the chorus and the heartfelt melody of the pre-chorus. It ends with a final repetition of the pre-chorus and a fading out of the drums and guitar and leaving a twinkling synth riff. Giving you the auditory equivalent of seeing a rainbow after a hurricane.
Towards the end of the album the track Hell, Yeah shows what this band can do stripped down to the bone. It conveys an atmosphere of distaste and apathy. The melancholy chord progression leaves a bitter taste in your mouth in the best possible way. The lyrics showcase a dark corner of Mason’s mind that is almost literally his own personal hell. He uses these lyrics to explain the sorrow he has come to terms with and the familiarity of this feeling in the line “it’s just like home.” The beat is steady throughout the song and has nothing more than an acoustic guitar. This simple collection of instruments paired with such a somber tone lends itself to a Nirvana MTV unplugged vibe that is unexpected but welcomed. However, the real beauty in this song is in the subtleties. Through the quiet harmonies, singing the melody an octave higher, and a little bit of extra reverb this song manages to have a complete shift of sound and mood from one chorus to the next. Overall, this song showcases a direct contrast between the simple arrangement of rhythm/melody and the complex tones and mood shifts that help this song convey this idea of trying your hardest to find joy in sadness.
Along with high intensity rock riffs and stripped down acoustic songs, Nothing But Thieves manages to perfectly hit that sweet spot in between the two extremes in the track Particles. This song has so many aspects to it that make it a truly beautiful rock ballad. It also discusses some very important points about addiction and the toll it takes on a person. The song starts out softly but immediately with a simple bass and drumline. From there it quickly builds into the chorus that somehow manages to come in strongly, quickly, delicately. Like a grenade made of silk, but instead of shrapnel it expels pure emotion that’s so raw it makes sashimi look like a well-done steak. Mason’s voice lets the listener truly feel his lament and conveys his feelings genuinely. And just as the chorus hits its peak, the band drops out into silence with only Mason left singing. Giving the listener a feeling of isolation, a feeling that is surely all too familiar for people struggling with addiction. This pattern returns in the second chorus. However, the peak comes during the bridge that comes directly after the chorus. Here Mason is pleading with a doctor to do whatever he can to cure him of this affliction at any cost. And again, the return to the peak of emotion only to give the feeling of isolation once more. Like climbing to the top of Everest only to fall into a black hole that leads to an empty room without doors or windows. This song is unlike anything else on their album and one that is a must listen. And if you want a real tear-jerker, listen to the piano version.
I truly cannot say enough about how excellent this album is. All the songs feel like they were worked on tirelessly and every detail was meticulously crafted. The experimental sounds and crazy melodies that somehow work perfectly together give me hope for the future of rock. While obviously no band is perfect and I’m sure they can improve, I fail to see how. As long as your favorite genres of music aren’t strictly crunkcore or gothabilly I promise you will find a song on this album you love. This band has a lot to offer and is only going to get bigger and better. So, hop on now before you miss the train and have to get on the bandwagon. And if you’re perpetually stuck in the 90s and still buying albums on CD’s instead of using a music streaming site, spring for the deluxe version, you won’t regret it.
By: Jack Wilsie