By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
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On a recent afternoon, the two Dallas-based members of instrumental post-rock act This Will Destroy You, bassist Donovan Jones and drummer Alex Bhore, stand in the middle of a bamboo forest. As a warm breeze moves through the canopy above, they savor the moment with a joint before heading back inside the house located not too far away
They're not anywhere tropical, though—unless you count the neighborhood just south of Lowest Greenville Avenue as exotic. Jones has only recently moved to this East Dallas neighborhood from far South Dallas, where Bhore still lives.
It's thanks to these two that This Will Destroy You can now officially be considered a Dallas band. Long before these members joined, This Will Destroy You was from San Marcos, a college town in the Texas Hill Country south of Austin. Founding members guitarist Chris King and guitarist Jeremy Galindo formed the band in 2005.
Early on, the band's music closely resembled that of post-rock heavyweights Explosions In The Sky. This Will Destroy You's first EP, Young Mountain, pretty much sounded like an Explosions rip-off—the quiet moments, the dramatic builds and the explosive, hopeful releases. It was enough to get the band some attention—but the band quickly grew tired of the comparisons to the band that so clearly inspired their early work.
Things started to change for the band when Jones joined three years ago. Bhore signed on a year and a half later. At that point in the band's career, they were already extremely busy, and there was little time for pleasantries as the two new members were immediately thrust out on the road, where they stayed for several European tours and a load of trips through the U.S., including a 10-day stint opening for the Deftones. But almost none of their time, until recently, 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 band experienced quite the sea change since Jones and Bhore joined, and the evidence, according to those two, can be heard on the band's forthcoming LP, Tunnel Blanket, which will see its release in the U.S. on May 10.
Though he's excited about the new release, Bhore predicts disappointment for some fans.
"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."
That much has proven true over the last few years, as the band has played some of the new material live. One such infamous incident took place in Denton during the band's performance at 2010 NX35 Music Conferette, when their oppressively loud set, full of crass banter, cleared out half of the room. Since that time, though, the band has tightened up their live show. They've all but lost the onstage antics and have even introduced some new elements to their music.
"I like playing in this band because of all the sub-bass shit," Jones says. "We're on some different shit. I don't hear shit like this in music."
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 the band has been shedding past influences and covering new musical territory, they have managed to hang onto the cinematic nature of their music, which has played a key role in forging their new direction. They recently helped score the film Where Soldiers Come From, something they are hopeful about doing more of in the future.
"We'd love to do more of that as time allows," Bhore says.
But they say they won't work with just anyone. Due to a long-standing rule of not lending their music to religious or political organizations, they are very careful whom they allow to use their music.
"Those certain institutions have their thing going and that's fine," Jones says. "But I don't think we want to be a part of it. Everybody needs something, but they don't need to use our music."
Judging by the band's new musical direction, though, few religious or political groups would find much use for the music on Tunnel Blanket, which can easily be categorized as doomgaze or even black metal if you're just reading the album titles.
The first three minutes of the album's 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 soundtrack 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. Producer John Congleton's work on this record offers an interesting artistic touch as well—taking it 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.
Given this distinct direction, much of the record blends together. It's hard for the listener to recognize one song from the next. But "Killed The Lord, Left For The New World" stands out nicely, thanks to a hopeful melody played over a marching cadence that sounds a lot like a typewriter. It comes off as a light in the middle of the tunnel, because soon after the song ends, Tunnel Blanket returns to its soul-crushing ways on "Black Dunes." Another of the album's more interesting tracks is "Osario," an ambient electronic song that sounds like a mellow codeine trip.
It's clear that on Tunnel Blanket, This Will Destroy You have definitely shown signs of evolution. Mostly, those come in the form of descent—the disc sounds like a musical study in darkness, taking the listener deep into the bowels of some lost cavern. It's their most cinematic record to date, with each song taking 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."
Still, the band is quite happy with the finished disc. The two Dallas-based members of This Will Destroy You, at least, express a clear sense of accomplishment when they talk about Tunnel Blanket. If nothing else, they say, they're further along than they thought they would be when they joined the band.
"I didn't have a whole lot of expectations," Jones says. "I was just excited to be able to travel and finally go overseas and play cool music. It just got better for some reason."