The shift up is immediately obvious, as megawatt opener Hold / Release swells and subsides like a churning tempest. Vocalist Josh Mckeown sharpens the edge with a pointedly progressive examination of the cost of toxic masculinity to men themselves, smashing the macho idea that it’s better to crack under pressure than share the burden. The searing hardcore of Stay Down, meanwhile, is probably the closest this album comes to the bludgeon of old, an ode to perseverance and self-belief. And then there's the grandstanding midnight love song A Bird And Its Feathers, which builds through a menacing six-and-a-half minutes from breathy introspection to a cacophonous conclusion that blends wailing brass and squalling feedback to thrilling effect, capturing the raw unexpectedness of passion and catharsis.
Crucially, even as the soundscape twists and distends, you're held by a sense of compelling consistency. Islay is a beguilingly moody blend of dark-ambient and strummed acoustic. The epic False Thirst layers-up pulsating synths, thumped keys, clean vocals and suffocating riffs like prime Deftones, while Brink and A Love That Tethers deliver chest-tightening blasts of post-hardcore. Towering closer Both Ends Of The Rope manages to be their most progressive composition to date, while also delivering the album’s gut-punch emotional pay-off.