When shadowy Swedes Then Comes Silence released their second album, 'II' in late 2013 we noted how the band seemed to have grown since their debut, despite it following in quick succession and having a line-up change. Improving or updating your music can be essential to keep building as a band, so it's a delight to find that for their third LP, 'NCYTOPHILIAN', they've taken another step forward as opposed to resting on their laurels.
The very name of the album is a word used to describe someone with a preference for darkness or nighttime, and it's a perfect indication of the goth-tinged post-punk on offer. A good opening never does any harm, and the menacing guitars of 'Strangers' provide just that, propelled onward by a solid, insistent beat that recalls The Cult or Sisters Of Mercy; you can almost sense the dry ice and backcombed hair. Driving beats are a fixture of much of 'NYCTOPHILIAN', giving a nod to krautrock, while the overall style and production are more in tune with a pumped up Echo & The Bunnymen or a beefier version of The Cure. The first few songs are all single contenders, as we surge through 'She Loves The Night', 'A Living Soul Should Know' and the rumbling 'Spinning Faster'. It's a bit of an onslaught.
A change of tempo comes on 'Feed The Beast' which is not unlike something The Horrors may have done a few years ago, and is followed by the eerie and bleak 'Demon's Nest' where the band's experimental side is allowed some breathing space. 'Animals' switches back to that constant barrage of drums, while the guitars creak and groan and buzz, and this is followed by 'Death Rides' (the track titles kind of give the game away, as you may have noticed) which gallops along as if it were the four horsemen of the apocalypse coming to chase the sun back below the horizon. It appears to do the trick, as 'Wendy' is a desolate, barren soundscape with an icy chill running through it, and 'It's Everywhere And In My Head' stays slow as a sharp guitar line pierces through the whispered vocal and a Spacemen 3-like drone emerges from it all; atmosphere isn't something that Then Comes Silence struggle with. It could have been the dying embers of an record that starts upbeat and gradually gets suffocated by its own darkness, but one last triumphant burst of distortion and energy comes with 'All Strange', a highlight and a fitting way to depart.
It was Henry Ford who supposedly said "any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black". That may have been a tongue in cheek remark, but after listening to this band growing into the confident, assured and powerful machine that they have, it's surprising just how many different shades of black can be found if you know where to look. Then Comes Silence make avoiding sunlight seem positively appealing.