Thieves and Assassins - Patterned Lives (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Thieves and Assassins

Patterned Lives (2011)


You can probably count on one hand the number of shows Thieves and Assassins have played in the last two years. While the melodic hardcore band has been one of the best to sprout from the Long Island scene over the last decade, they haven't exactly been the most active act in the second half of their running. And even when they do something, it's as modest as possible, with little fanfare, but it was still a surprise when they announced on Sept. 17 that they'd put up their brand new album, Patterned Lives, up for a name-your-price download on bandcamp.

While some of the band's standby influences remain strong (Bad Religion, Silent Majority, Avail), Patterned Lives often sounds like a different beast than 2007's Martyr Brigade. "Imagery" begins with the familiar beat of fast and riffy, melodic hardcore punk, but at its midpoint suddenly paints with slower, more morose guitar textures and frontman Dustin MacDougal sounding solemn and contemplative as he sings--emphasis on singing--the bridge below a surface of distortion.

That track sets the tone for Patterned Lives. Sure, much of it finds the band merely improving on their elder tendencies, from the Gurewitz-ian shredding during the optimistic "This Land" (which closes with a fuzzy clip of Woody Guthrie's famous song of nearly the same name) to the opening slam of "Characters" highly resembling CIV's "Do Something," and the fun, minute-long spit-take "Key Holes." But there are plenty of more ambitious and unpredictable moments: the slow, moody twinkle that initiates "Narcoticism;" the steady, mid-tempo pulse of "Minds of Men;" and the beginning of nearly five-minute closer "Transcend," which easily could have been lifted from one of Sunny Day Real Estate's first two albums.

It should be mentioned that this is the best vocal performance MacDougal has shown so far through the band's few releases. Even with T&A's relative inactivity, he's developed into a more confident and versatile singer with equal doses of aggression and measured melody. In fact, at times he sort of resembles Jason Shevchuk circa This Is Satire or so (particularly "Narcoticism" and "Trascend")

There's a large range on Patterned Lives between times that are thoroughly engaging and those that are merely good background punk, and as a result, it sits on an even plane with Martyr Brigade. Still, there's some unexpected growth on an already barely expected album; not that there's been a whole lot of competition, but it's a double surprise that makes it a dark horse "melodic hardcore album of the year" contender.

Patterned Lives