Thine – Inside the City of Ghosts

Thursday, 26th June 2014

As the respective rosters of some of metal’s larger labels swell, there are a few exceptions, namely England’s Peaceville. Guided since its 1989 inception by Paul “Hammy” Halmshaw, the label has amassed a roster that at various points (and the present day), has included the likes of Anathema, Paradise Lost, At the Gates, My Dying Bride, Katatonia, Autopsy, Darkthrone, among others. It’s an ultra-exclusive club; Peaceville just doesn’t sign bands for the sake of signing them. This explains why when the label puts out an album, one instantly stands at attention, which is exactly what happened for unheralded dark rockers Thine and their new Dead City Blueprint effort.

The band (who hails from West Yorkshire) was last heard from in 2002 via In Therapy, an album that was compelling for its usage of dark, alluring elements that were wrapped in air-tight song structures, a total shot away from the traditional doom that surrounds them. Since then, Thine found themselves wrapped in this thing called “real life,” carefully plodding their eventual return…albeit 12 years after the fact.

“The main lesson here is that time waits for no man, or woman,” laughs guitarist Paul Groundwell. “Scary how fast it travels and seemingly just accelerates as the years roll by. I used to get anxious about this, that it seemed nothing was happening in regard to a new album a couple of years after In Therapy came out, but eventually I resigned myself to the fact that when the time and circumstances are right, then it will happen. We did start to record in 2004, but only managed a couple of days of drum recording before issues with the studio meant we couldn’t continue, so we went back to the drawing board. Continued playing live until around 2006, then rehearsals seemed to become more infrequent, perhaps down to work commitments. We did stay in touch though, and made a few demos, plus I had been writing songs and developing the style all along and sharing them with the others, so no shortage of material that’s for sure. There were other matters getting in the way too I suppose, life in general, a bit of disillusionment, but still the creativity behind the scenes was always flowing – we were just hibernating from the outside world, is all.”

Twelve years away from the scene will open one’s eyes to a lot of things, many of which Thine were not oblivious to during their time away. Of these happenings, the thrash retro boon of 2006 and retro death metal onslaught a few years later stood out the most. “Not sure what scene there is,” says Groundwell. “There are always trends coming and going though. Was female fronted atmospheric goth bands around our last album – nothing beats earlier The Gathering for me –  then thrash a few years ago, now more classic heavy metal, and  the retro-rock revival. There are good acts, but when it gets oversaturated so quickly as a knee-jerk reaction by labels, they’ll quickly sink their own ships from overloading them. But when something ‘retro’ is mimicking a past movement it can only really be temporary, or at least more short-lived, anyway.”

“I’ve always seen retro movements as people in positions of influence simply re-casting memories from their youth so it’s not surprising when we see genres swooping back round again,” adds vocalist Alan Gaunt. “Although with the rise of the internet and technology, things are easier to emulate, reproduce (ie digital over physical or cheaper faster production of items) and many more people have access to so much more information and each other. I’d say the metal scene hasn’t changed much by way of attitude towards it’s passion, just that there’s more out there for us to discover including more detailed, intimate profiles of bands.”

Written over a particularly dark period in Groundwell’s life in 2012, Dead City Blueprint upholds (in the band’s word) the banner of “uplifting melancholy.” It’s a fair assessment, made all the more sensible when paired with the album’s theme of dark city landscapes, where perception is the only reality. Still, the album is a proverbial grower, one that perhaps we underscored upon its reviewing. In truth, Dead City Blueprint is an album one shouldn’t sleep on.

“The Dead City has been brewing for many years, a title that came around In Therapy times actually,” says Gaunt. “In my mind there’s a foggy vision of a Dead City and I am one of its many pilgrims on the search for a very real existence, but this is all in the mind, tricks our storytelling brains use to collate more complex information of the world you experience. It’s why (I believe) we have religious texts to provide for the less fortunate of imaginations? So in terms of storyline… no… it was never intended in that way, things like this just tend to pan out like it could be. However, it is always up to the listener to decide for themselves, they are the ones indulging in artists work for enjoyment and each has their own way of experience so if it creates a landscape in someone’s mind then great, as long as they are enjoying that experience.”

With plans on re-establishing themselves in the European metal scene, Thine figures to jump on scattered dates throughout the remainder of 2014, with the long-term goal of becoming a touring mainstay. For now, the onus is on promoting Dead City Blueprint, getting re-acclimated, and looking toward the future, which probably won’t include such a prolonged absence from recording activity.

“Nah, we’re up to speed now, so the studio is already booked for November 2nd 2021…but seriously, there should be some touring, plus we’ll be making a video, and also maybe an EP as well, because even though 10 songs are on the album, we actually went in with 14, and they just need a bit more polish before seeing the light of day,” finishes Groundwell. “Maybe rehearsing new material later this year. Lots written, just need to see if I get bored of them in the coming months or not as they develop, but the best song is always the next song.”

Gaunt has a much more varied reaction:

“Eh! No! Four years between albums one and two, 12 years between two and three so I’m afraid to say it looks like 16 years at our rate of decay. Worry not though, by the time we get to album #5, we’ll all be dead so it won’t matter by then.”

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