Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
I think I can safely admit to having dropped the ball when it came to crafting a timely review of the latest full-length album from Ohio’s THAL (The Heathens Are Loose).
Entitled ‘The Harvesting‘, it was released at the end of 2019, by Overlook Hotel Records and is the third long-player from the Columbus-based duo. That is correct, it’s not a typo… the enormous heaviness, immense density, and intense melodics contained here result from the actions of two men. The pair at the very heart of this darkness is THAL founder, guitarist / vocalist Vince Green and drummer / percussionist Kevin Hartnell. The two collaborate together in another project, wytCHord, and after Green’s solo outing on THAL‘s 2016 album debut, ‘Glitter‘, Hartnell joined prior to recording a follow-up album, 2018’s ‘Reach For The Dragon’s Eye‘ (review).
As a fan from nearly the very start of THAL, I can attest to it being an audio-beast with a uniqueness all its own. No one sounds like THAL, and THAL really sounds like no one else. These are qualities I daresay 90% of all bands would sell their souls to make their own “charactacoustics”. If you knew of this recording act before this review, you should be familiar with the arsenal of weapons at their disposal. They include but are not limited to, fuzz-massive riffs, heaving rhythmic emissions, beats that bludgeon, and more openly presented animus than any band has a right to harbor.
Once you’ve engaged the “play” button, they will all intrusively manifest as needed, but before that does happen… “Scythe” is a brief, tranquil melodic, yet stark intro piece. About the time it makes real headway with you, when you feel that ominous foreboding in your craw growing — struck down! “The Harvesting” is here, heralded with a simmering molasses of guitar riffs backed by rhythmic friction and rendered with a chug.
Green‘s vocals coast in, aloft on the rolling passages and, though there are upticks within it, the song remains mid-tempo and thick to the end. Speaking about an end of sorts, the next track, “Shroud“, envelops you like its namesake, the cloth a corpse is wrapped in for burial. This quickly became one of my favorites from early on, and it possesses THAL‘s signature identifiers: the riff, the rhythm… and the grit that gets everything going!
The duo is on the move by this point, though the next track up is one continuing a tradition established on the pair of previous albums. The song is the collaboration “Tonguerazor“, and like prior duets of heavy dooming, it features a co-vocalist, Margherita Bandini (Diesanera). A subtle start soon gives way to a slow-burning, churning magma of ominous ebb and flow audio. Of all the things that fall into the THAL wheelhouse for their utilizing, certain passages here are accentuated with synthesizers, and they are glorious.
In some recent conversation with Vince, I’m pretty sure I mentioned to him how ‘The Harvesting‘ was resonating with me. See, different periods or eras of some bands are easily recognized by the style of music they were creating at the time. For instance, let’s take Corrosion Of Conformity as an example, where their first three releases – ‘Eye For An Eye‘, ‘Animosity’, and the ‘Technocracy‘ EP, are all hardcore / crossover crust punk type music. From there, C.O.C. visited southern doom metal (‘Blind‘), southern rock (‘America’s Volume Dealer‘), and more. Get the picture?
The reason I mention this is, for me, THAL is currently exploring this in their own music, albeit unintentionally perhaps. Or maybe it’s just me, but there is the psych-doom / alt. metal of ‘Glitter‘, and the metallic sludge of ‘Reach For The Dragon’s Eye‘. However, with this latest outing, I derive ‘The Harvesting‘ emitting a very classic rock vibe throughout its contents. Speaking of which, the guys are upping the ante with each new track and I have been especially smitten with “Savage“.
With a meticulous, measured intro passage rolling it out, “Savage” quickly becomes one of those road anthems like “Highway Star“, “Trashed“, or “Heading Out To The Highway“. Nitrous-fueled and supercharged, the song’s music is a throbbing chug of mile-wide riffs while the drums impact everything into place. The melodic twists and turns are intermittent and brief, but their brevity serves a purpose in providing a fleeting but nice dynamic.
Speaking of dynamic, of the fantastically phenomenal sort, we arrive at what is unquestionably my personal favorite of these tracks. “Primeval“, as a word, relates to the first of something, an early stage if you will, but this caliber of composition does not just get discovered by novices. Not by fluke, not by happenstance, nor by any dumb luck either, there’s just no way. This is masterful song-crafting, a such that comes only by grand design and determination, from the strength of ear and force of creativity. It also helps to have a tandem truck-sized amount of talent, something I can attest to Vince and Kevin possessing with portions to spare.
With prevalent grooves, the perfection of tones, the precision of percussion, and enough hooks to fill a tackle box, this is as catchy a song THAL has ever delivered. For all of that and more, our guys go in an altogether opposite direction as they one-eighty into the harrowing heavyweight of “Lifeline“. A squelch of feedback brings this number down on us via a riff the equivalent of a ton of bricks. It’s this song’s true imperium, even as simplistic as it seems, all encased within layers of fuzz and packed to a point of super-density.
Something else that is dense with consistency, is the way in which each new track here goes for the throat. No pulling punches, no sugarcoating a damn thing, no tap dancing around any minute of this album, these songs are unmistakably THAL, through and through. Now, “Tombs” is where we find ourselves journeying, internally… inward… as a quickened tempo takes us in, dead set straight to the innermost. With a tight wind underneath, taut and devoid of any slack, every millisecond of “Tombs” counts. Purposeful and on point, the same can be said for the vocals of Green, and the lyrical tales and themes contained therein.
Truth is, I’ve always enjoyed the lyrical narratives of Vince’s, for they are written in such a way that his points are made, but with enough leeway to allow the listener their own interpretations. That said, or stated, the album-closing “Amphetamine” is a hell of a high point, a blistering instrumental that takes you on a fast ride. Crazy as this may sound, certain nuances of this number bring the ZZ Top classic, “Got Me Under Pressure” to mind… and I don’t mind. You could probably stick this in anywhere on their ‘Eliminator‘ album and it wouldn’t upset the apple cart in any way, I imagine.
If you can and are able to, imagine a remarkably solid, enthralling studio album that, ultimately, is so underrated that it is criminal. That’s what we have here with ‘The Harvesting‘, along with any and all of the THAL releases. On a recent interview I did with The Ale House podcast, that particular show focused on bands that we, each of us present, felt were terribly underrated or overlooked. THAL topped my list and did so because it is absolutely true, so true it seems there is no damned justice sometimes.
Once again, Vince and Kevin serve up an outright ass-kicking album, one that is absent of a single dull moment or a sour note. ‘The Harvesting‘ is ripe and will never rot, so I suggest you get a taste of it here in this review or head over to the THAL Bandcamp for further streaming and purchase options [HERE].