Review Summary: Thrice dares to go where no band goes before: 4 uniquely sounding discs for the purpose of one grand concept, with the contrasting elements uniting upon its conclusion. Does the band get off to a good start? This reviewer dares to say they do.
So i searched and scrambled after work yesterday to get my copy of The Alchemy Index and it was sold out at 2 Best Buys and one Target. Luckily there was a Target next to one of the sold out Best Buys, so i found one of the final 2 copies left in the store. This album must be selling like ***ing hot cakes... i wouldn't be surprised if this debuted in the top 10 on the billboard charts. And i think its all thanks to the sheer mystery surrounding these albums... kids are interested in seeing how the same band can make 4 completely separate sounding albums and yet still have a unified theme.
after originally hearing the album on their myspace while drunk at 2 am last week, i can now coherently and accurately judge and digest the first half of the 4-part album thanks to the improved sound quality provided by the retail version.
Its amazing how this band was able to make two discs with two completely different sounds. I don't think i have ever heard an album where a band did not just devote its self to one sound, no matter the influence of various genres involved. Even when a band sounds like they are breaking genre barriers, they are just simply mixing and matching parts from other genres to make something seem unique, though also fitting for the band's previous background (I'm looking at you Mastodon and BTBAM). What Thrice does here is freaking brilliant in my view, because i don't see why bands should have to limit themselves to fit the genre they have been pigeonholed in... why not just make something for everyone? I'm thinking the band had this mindset when they finally decided to embark on making an album for all 4 elements of the world, so spoken by the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle.
With the first half of the album out of the way, we can now see how the contrasts involved in the concept make everything all the more grand and unique. I'm thinking Fire and Water are the most polar opposites of the 4 and because of this, we can hear the greatest contrast. I'm guessing that when Earth and Air come out, we won't be so shocked as to how different the albums sound, especially since Air is supposed to combine everything.
What i like about each track on both albums is that they all sound so different from one another regardless of the Fire and Water theme involved. Fire has an excellent mix of Isis and the Beatles on "Firebreather"; a return to "Illusion of Safety" franticness mixed with The Mars Volta on "The Messenger"; a strange chill metal mix of Chevelle and The Deftones on "Backdraft"; crazy Converge, old Cave In, Killswitch Engage and even Shai Hulud on "The Arsonist"; new Cave In on "Burn the Fleet"; and finally a symphony combining, In my humble opinion, cinematic flavors from the "Adagio for Strings" prevalent in the movie Platoon and the cool electronic, hot anger of the awesome "Terminator" score all mixed in the fury built up from the previous songs. Some people say the last track sounds so grandiose, its corny, but i think its awesome because i see those similarities and love how they fuse together.
What i don't like about the Fire album is how narrow the lyrics are. Unlike the thematic elements prevalent on Water, Dustin takes on a much too simple mindset regarding Fire, in how it mostly just destroys. Sure he might say it can lead to rebuilding society again and again (such as in "The Arsonist" and "Burn the Fleet"), but i think Fire can also mean a source of light and hope in the world (seriously, no song mentioning the Sun?), a symbol for the warmth brought on by family and home life, and a beacon to show strength in a nation or group. I think thats why Dustin's continuous formations of "Flame" and "Burn" seem to get tired and monotonous after awhile. Fire also needs to be longer, as the album seems to burnout so too speak pretty quickly. It could have used longer or more songs. Also, i can't get into "Backdraft" because it sounds waaaaaaaay too much like Chevelle and other nu-metal bands, and "Burn the Fleet" because it reminds me of the Tenacious D song "Wonder-boy" way too much (i think its the same song with different lyrics ha ha)-- sorry for ruining it for you if you liked it, cause i bet you won't stop thinking about it now.
Fire gets an 8/10 from me.
Water is even tougher to get into, but definitely the more rewarding of the two. Once again the band brings in a mix of many different sounds to each song (read this punknews.org review to get specifics since its pretty dead on http://www.punknews.org/review/6760) and nothing sounds too similar, though they all do resonate the same themes. What i like about Water is that there seems to be much more flow on the disc than compared to Fire, whether that was meant to be more intentional or not. I was originally worried about how the frequent inclusion of electronics on the water songs would be a bad idea since I've always thought electricity and water don't mix ever, but the band seems to pull it off pretty well. The minimalist mindset on each song is a huge plus, as the entire disc seems to just flow over you slowly and completely, making this one of the best atmospheric albums I've ever heard (rivaling the likes of Sigur Ros, Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky).
Each song brings its own element to Water that makes it seem much more complete than fire: "Digital Sea" does seem like the best choice for a single since it is the most laid back song on both discs, but also maintains a nice upbeat pace during the chorus, a contrast to the lyrics for they are rather morbid and discuss how the might of the sea can envelop anything; "Open Water" has perhaps the best imagery of the disc thanks to its relation of water to human interaction; "Lost Continent" seems to be the "Flags of Dawn" of the album and also takes on a very personal analysis of the idea of human perfection and utopia, something that reminded me alot of John Lennon for some reason; "Night Diver" which needs no words to describe the power, beauty, serenity and vast layers of the ocean, making it one of THE best Thrice songs ever and the apex of Water's atmospheric integrity (it also puts Isis to shame as it is better than anything on their last album); "The Whaler" is definitely the "Atlantic" of the disc thanks to its specific storyline that is almost exactly like "Atlantic"'s touching description of Dustin being away from his family in order to live out his dreams and desires of playing music... it also sounds very similar to the song "Music of the Spheres" on The Receiving End of Sirens' latest release, which i like despite how they are almost identical (especially at the end); and finally there is "Kings Upon the Main" which seems to re-enforce the themes brought on by this album and the novel "Moby Dick" in how the sea can not be tamed and is more powerful than the most powerful of men.
Water is perfect thematically and i can't bitch about the lyrics at all. I haven't read anything that all encompassing in a concept album since Converge's "Jane Doe". My only qualm about the disc is that no one song matches the greatness that is "Atlantic", which is probably the source and inspiration for the entire Water disc, and still manages to generate such a complete atmosphere all in one four minute song. As a whole though, the disc does matchup extremely well, and i reallllllllllly wished that the band released a version of Water in the future that had "Atlantic" on there riiiiiiiiight after "Digital Sea". Finally i think that the disc still had more possible room to expand upon as Water seems to be something that could be developed for 10 more songs. ... and sadly "Kings Upon the Main" seems to cut things off way too quickly (and pretty boringly i might add, for its the only song i don't like on the disc).
i give Water a 9.5 out of 10.
I don't think i can truly measure the true might of "The Alchemy Index" and these first two discs until we get "Earth" and "Air" next spring. I also think its a stupid idea to release them so far apart, as you can't completely digest the whole idea until you get each disc. They did this purposely because some simpleminded peeps can't fully comprehend things quick enough or get into concept albums easily, but for the quick thinking folk like myself and many other peeps on these here message boards, i think we're begging for the summation of the entire project.
so far, so good.