It's becoming rather apparent that Thursday have just about outgrown the new-school post-hardcore scene that they were partially responsible for helping to birth in the early 2000s. They've always been a step smarter than the hundreds of bands that appeared in Full Collapse's wake, learning over time to rely much less on the scream/sing dynamic of early releases, realizing that subtle time shifts or powerfully layered buildups can trigger just as strong an emotional release as being simply brash and loud. And considering they were teetering on a breakup before this album was yet a notion, fans should feel even luckier at the arrival of their expansive fourth full-length, A City by the Light Divided. The same dismal and dark atmosphere that pervaded War All the Time is back, but this time with a sliver of faint hope appearing amidst the incessant urban sprawl of outward despair. Death, love, desolation, growth, and hope are the touchstones for personal lyrical content, as a literate Geoff Rickly reflects on the band's existence and his own. Religious questions materialize in the divine catharsis of "Sugar in the Sacrament," while a high-school friendship that ended with his friend getting killed by a train emerges as a sustaining theme -- superficially in the driving "Counting 5-4-3-2-1" and more figuratively in the soaring ambience of "Running from the Rain." Songs emerge like sonic landscapes of emotion, with many starting out as quiet, pensive ruminations that ultimately escalate into surging levels of impassioned outcries that Rickly's voice has always been vulnerably perfect for. He continues to move effortlessly from breathy whispers to full-on aching declarations as a steady backdrop curtain of guitars explodes with every gasp. The band sounds as cohesive as ever, and the now permanent addition of keyboardist Andrew Everding feels like he was always a member of the group, smartly adding synth sections that strikingly support the band's rhythm section without overpowering at their mere presence. Thursday simply sound like a superior version of themselves, with traces of their younger identity only appearing sporadically on this album, like on the lovely discordant death-oriented track "At This Velocity." Thursday deserve credit for understanding that a band's maturation is not just synonymous with complete reinvention. From their days of putting on basement shows, they've remained true to themselves while allowing room for necessary stretching and expansion. A City by the Light Divided is not a disc of instant gratification -- but then again, most of the ones worth listening to aren't, either.
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AllMusic Review by Corey Apar