Review Summary: At the end of the day [i]The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II[/i] is a contender for best concept album, if not album, of the year. But if you ask me, Thrice have already won.
The whole concept album idea tends to gets old, real quick. It's not that it's impossible to create a story; it's the fact that many bands can't actually make the album's feel, sound, and creativity click with the story. The chances of finding a record that does said thing, is becoming more minimal by each release. You look to Coheed And Cambria, which are among the few that are succesful with concept albums, to make the album that is cohesive and conceptual. Enter Thrice; a band that seems like a new wave Radiohead. They have gone through some slow, but strong, changes in their career. From The Illusion Of Safety
, changes are quite apparent. The Illusion Of Safety
is claimed to be a post-hardcore classic, contending with Glassjaw's Worship And Tribute
, with The Artist In The Ambulance
being a slow transition to the experimental Vheissu
. You might be asking how would Thrice be brought into this whole conversation of concept albums; well, it's going as far to say that they are contending for another spot again, five years later.
Now nearing the end of the year, you have Thrice's The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II
and Coheed And Cambria's Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow
becoming some of the biggest concept albums coming out. The gripes I have with Coheed And Cambria is not the lack of creativity, or they're sound; it's just that it never really seems like a concept album beyond the lyrics. Maybe my opinions and how I back them up are weak, but besides the lyrics, it just doesn't feel like I am listening to an album that has a focus that of a concept album. Listening to Thrice's The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II
, I can actually feel everything each disc focuses on come alive.
The opener to the Fire disc, Firebreather
, is a gritty, pounding song that perfectly fits what was said to be the Fire disc. It's rhythmic section compliments Kensrues lyrics perfectly; "Tell me are you free; in word, or thought, or deed". Firebreather
, being a standout track of the Fire disc, ends in a similar, but welcome fashion likened to Red Sky from Vheissu
. The boundaries Thrices have had are surely expanded, and Fire seems to be the perfect example of this. The Messenger
is one of the most heaviest songs Thrice has created to this date. From it's textures that repeat in the background to Kensrue's frantic yelling to the band's relentless technicailty that reminds me that of Converge being more contemporary. Upon hearing Backdraft
the listener is dragged into a weird 5/4 beat, with an eery acoustic part help keep the drive of the song strong. The chorus is probably one of the most impressive on the Fire disc lyrically and vocally; "Oh, swing the door right open, show me your jaded eyes; I will turn them red, drunk with vivid flame". In terms of brutality The Arsonist
is as close as you'll get. It's downtuned riffage with some of the best yelling from Kensrue on the whole Fire disc makes for a great combination. Burn The Fleet
seems best represented as the most positive peice while retaining it's driving force; the bridge's leadwork, drum fills, and one of the best choruses on the disc. Ending the Fire disc, quite well if I may include, is The Flame Deluge
. Beginning with what seems to be a distorted piano lead slowly leading to Kensrue & Company hitting us with an epic, and almost scary, end to the album. Before it ends, though, comes in a calmer Kensrue singing a nice little melody along a piano line; a perfect ending that will be revisited.
The Water disc exstinguishes Fire quite quickly, and in more ways than one. By the end of Water, most might come to realize that this is the better, though not by much, and more experimental album of the two. A calm, but cold, sound is now being heard through your speakers and/or headphones; it's Water. Water's Digital Sea
is a perfect opener just like Firebreather
was for the Fire disc. Everything from the vocals to the drums leads you to believe you have just dived into a large, dark sea. The feel of is kept through most of the album. Open Water
is probably a standout for both albums combined. The chorus is completely flawless. Kensrue's vocal arrangement makes you feel as if you have stumbled upon an underwater city of sorts; Atlantis, maybe. It's surely one of Thrice's best songs. It creates such a beautiful and emotional feel that should never be overlooked. By the time Lost Continent
comes in you are ready for more of what Open Water
had to offer; have no worries. It's another beautiful song that completely puts out a lot of Fire's moments. The simplicity of each instruments doesn't dissapoint, because it's better off being a simple song that is full of emotion. Vheissu
had it's Isis moment, and so does the Water disc. It's all in good manor though. Night Diving
is a six minute epic, which is more easier to digest than Isis, full of either heavy or watered down tones, a solid drum beat, and some delayed guitar leads following lightly behind. The bridge is quiet; a heartbeat is faintly heard, and it feels as if you are floating to a lighted around under water. Underwater creatures swimming around you, and a chorus of unknown underwater inhabitants. By the end you feel as if you have emerged to the surface in the night, alone and deserted. It's a song that completely soaks you in everything Water should be. The Whaler
is probably the only other fast paced song. The chorus is solemn and pretty, with a familiar sense of Radiohead. It ends with a lovely a'capella sung by Kensrue & Company, with a wonderful texture. Ending the Water disc is Kings Upon The Main
. It has a industrial-like sound composed of piano and drums. It gives a feel of work in an underwater city. It's epic, and almost sad. You begin to exit the disc with the instruments building up, but still industrialized. The end of the song is like the end of The Flame Deluge
; keeping the same effect, and being just as breathe-taking.
The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II
is a concept album at it's best. When it's all over you feel as if you have been lit on fire, in anger and ferocity, then thrown into the cold abyss that is the Water disc. Each disc makes it easy for you to imagine yourself in it's concept; be it the intensity of Fire, or the calmness that is Water. It does what most concepts don't; drags you in, and makes you feel like you are apart of it. Thrice have struck gold, topped their past albums, and is up their with The Illusion Of Safety
. They've become the ones that will pick up where Radiohead have left off. They will continue to expand and conquer genres until they are through. The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II
is a millstone in Thrices career, and a fine example of what a concept album should be. At the end of the day The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II
is a contender for best concept album, if not album, of the year. But if you ask me, Thrice have already won.