Little Smoke

Things started to change for This Will Destroy You when bassist Donovan Jones joined up three years ago. His fellow Dallasite, drummer Alex Bhore, signed on a year and a half later, at which point the instrumental post-rockers founded in 2005 by San Marcos-based guitarists Chris King and Jeremy Galindo were already extremely busy.

With little time for pleasantries, the two new members were immediately thrust out on the road for several European tours and a load of trips through the United States, including ten days opening for the Deftones. But until recently, almost none of their time was spent working on new music.

"The four of us have never written any music together until this record, so essentially, it's a very different band," Bhore says. "Chris and Jeremy, they're totally different musicians now than they were when they started the band."

The evidence, according to those two, can be heard on the band's brand-new LP, Tunnel Blanket (Suicide Squeeze). Though he's excited about the new release, Bhore predicts disappointment for some fans who might expect something closer to debut EP Young Mountains, which recalled post-rock heavyweights Explosions in the Sky in a wash of quiet moments, dramatic builds and cathartic, hopeful releases.

"I think people [are] hoping for old-school This Will Destroy You," he says. "It's probably going to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing for a lot of people."

Since writing their new material, the band has incorporated a hyper-low-end element to their music — a change that, according to Jones, occurred because of his love for hip-hop.

But even while This Will Destroy You has been shedding past influences and covering new musical territory, the cinematic nature of their music remains, and has played a key role in their new direction. They recently helped score the film Where Soldiers Come From, and hope to do more sound-tracking in the future.

By the track list alone, Tunnel Blanket could easily be categorized as doomgaze or even black metal. The first three minutes of the opening track, "Little Smoke," are occupied only by an ambient guitar. It's clear that the band is in no hurry to get started, but there's something looming in those opening minutes — like the part of a movie sound track that suggests a certain evil lurks just around the corner.

And in this case, it does. When the gritty but massive slow-droning guitar comes in like a jet engine at minute three, it almost drowns out the drums, making them sound like they're coming from a distant room. The rest of Tunnel Blanket continues along this same thread, each song taking the listener deeper into a state of sonic madness as producer John Congleton steers the music in the grittiest direction possible. The drums on "Communal Blood," for instance, sound like trash cans coming from the inside of a cave, while a reverberated guitar picks away at a terrifying progression.

Much of the record blends together, but "Killed the Lord, Left for the New World" stands out nicely, thanks to a hopeful melody played over a typewriter-like marching cadence. It comes off as a light in the middle of the tunnel, because soon afterward, the soul-crushing ways resume on "Black Dunes."

It's clear that on Tunnel Blanket, This Will Destroy You shows definite signs of evolution. It's a musical study in darkness, taking the listener deep into the bowels of some lost cavern, and the band's most cinematic work to date. Each song takes on a mood, scene or picture of its own.

Obviously, it's not for everybody. But even the band knows that.

"Our music requires patience sometimes," Bhore confesses. "So, if people don't have it, they're not going to love it."

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Hopkins, Daniel