White-knuckled brooding, it turns out, is a many-splendored thing, as the Twilight Sad fortuitously discovers on its triumphantly depressive third album. The gloomy Glasgownoise-rockers’ 2007 debut, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, introduced a cathartic, tempestuous band in the tradition of other downcast Scottish racket-makers like Mogwai or Arab Strap. 2009 sophomore outing Forget the Night Ahead, meanwhile, did away with the arena-ready choruses and dialed up the churning My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth guitar tempests, intensifying the guilt-wracked emotional purge but doing away with easy entry points. From there, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to predict a career of diminishing returns. Or else implosion.
The latter, in a sense, is what happens on No One Can Ever Know, and it’s a brutally gripping thing to behold. Working with famed U.K. producer-remixer Andy Weatherall, who’s credited as having “anti-produced” the album, lead moaner James Graham and the lads delve deeper into the recesses of their own unfathomable personal darkness, and emerge with a compelling new sound salvaged from the scrap metal of a previous recession’s industrial blight. Mechanical beats and icy synths spar with stormy guitar and Graham’s ever-richer Scottish burr in a jagged, lonesome space that updates the band’s forebears in foreboding. See the Radiohead-haunted guitar of advance single “Sick,” the Depeche Mode bass line of “Another Bed,” or the hammering Krautrock throb of “Dead City.” Setting it all apart are Graham’s obliquely harrowing vocals, which end the album almost a cappella, the scent of blood in the air.