Our prayers were answered yesterday, people.

Last night, Toronto-based R&B mystery man The Weeknd unleashed his brand new mixtape Thursday.  You can follow the link below to snag the free download.

Things have changed drastically for The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) since the release of his first tape House Of Balloons earlier this year. For one thing, there was absolutely no pressure. But since then, House of Balloons has been the most positively-reviewed album of the year thus far. Tesfaye now releases his follow-up to an audience hungry for another dose of a dark, haunted and debauched majesty that we now come to expect (i.e. demand) from The Weeknd.

And our hero does not disappoint.

Thursday doesn’t sound like a House of Balloons retread. The musical landscapes are a bit more challenging, drowned in murky, ominous synths, heavily distorted electric guitars and crackling, stuttering percussion.  This time around, Tesfaye’s vocals are mixed deeper into the tracks, and feel like an element of a sonic tapestry rather than the obvious focal point of each song.

Although one of the standout qualities of House of Balloons was its command of mood, Thursday takes things even further; these compositions were clearly constructed in such a way as to place more emphasis on atmosphere than hooks. In other words, Thursday can be a difficult listen. But it’s a rewarding one.

Initial highlights include the genuinely hard-rocking “Life Of The Party” and the slow-burning “The Zone,” which features a welcome cameo from friend and mentor Drake. “Rolling Stone” is probably the riskiest moment here, consisting of no more than lightly-plucked acoustic guitar, nearly inaudible percussive crackling, and one of Tesfaye’s finest vocal performances. “ The Birds pt. 1+ 2” is a sprawling, gorgeous mid-album song suite reminicent of The-Dream’s “Love vs. Money.” And album closer “Heaven or Las Vegas” is the true stunner here, shuffling along to a new wave groove before hard-edged electric guitar creeps into the mix, nearly swallowing the track whole.

My initial impression of Thursday is that it doesn’t quite best House of Balloons. But that doesn’t matter. Thursday is not a cash grab or some collection of b-sides, and it never feels forced. The Weeknd’s second album is a fully-formed album, thoroughly conceived and well-executed. And considering the fact that it’s being released less than a year after its predecessor, and it’s really good, I’d say Thursday is a more-than-worthy follow-up.

And did I mention that a third one is coming out this fall?

That’s the biggest triumph of all, isn’t it?

Download The Weeknd’s Thursday HERE