Thrice
The Alchemy Index Vols. I & II


4.5
superb

Review

by Tyler Fisher EMERITUS
October 20th, 2007 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A concept album that actually focuses on the betterment of the band as musicians and artists.

From the years 490 to 430 BC, Empedocles walked the earth as one of the smartest men alive and stands today as one of the most important philosophers of all time. Where Pythagoras experimented with right triangles and tuning stringed instruments by fifths, and Democritus proposed a basic template for what today scientists call the atom, Empedocles thought further. Centuries before anyone else, he realized that light travels at a finite speed, invented the concepts of rhetoric, and created a dramatic image of himself inspiring fables and myths based solely on his death. Despite predicting many ideas that turned out true, his most famous contribution to philosophical society is a false theory- the elements of fire, water, earth, and wind. Delivered in epic poem, he presented his formal postulation with On Nature. While not all of the poem survived through time, enough remains to gather some of his most profound ideas. The bulk of his theory stated that all matter is composed of his four elements, a false hypothesis; he extended his argument to more metaphorical applications of his theory. For these endless possibilities, the four elements, now known as the “classical elements,” artists continue to have their own say on the intriguing subject--the latest, Thrice’s Alchemy Index.

Years after Empedocles’ death, Plato and Aristotle created a fifth element, known as either Aether, Idea, or Quintessence. While it physically represents everything outside of the terrestrial atmosphere, it held a much more metaphorical meaning as all that exists outside the material world. Thought, math, and music all fall under the category of Aether. Before looking at The Alchemy Index in-depth, it is important to realize that as Aether surrounds the planet, the overall concept surrounds these two (eventually four) EPs, and they complement each other as much as they contrast each other. The aggression of Fire clashes with the calm tranquility of Water, yet they both follow similar flow and structure. In terms of general atmosphere, both EPs climax at the final song where Dustin Kensrue composes traditional English sonnets for lyrics. “The Flame Deluge,” easily the most brutal, cathartic song of Thrice’s career, connects the two EPs simply with its title, where deluge means flood. Musically, it falls from its incredible climax into a hazy, effect-laden atmosphere that brings in aspects that take prominence in the Water EP. These subtle tie-ins from section to section draw the entire project together, lessening the inevitable abrupt change from fire to water.

Still, Thrice backs up the massive concept with micromanagement inside of their songs, as they obviously spent as much time refining the smaller details as they did drawing out the overall idea. The Fire EP (Volume I) fittingly opens the entire project as the first section of the first release, being the most typical Thrice style. Regardless, Thrice recognized this project as an attempt to push all of their influences to new limits, and even the post-hardcore/metal sound receives some surgical work, albeit minor. “The Messenger” mixes their core sound with electronic drums for the shortest song on the release, while “Backdraft” grows the most organically, evolving from drones, a drum beat, and a dissonant acoustic guitar melody to a huge chorus that remains catchy yet off-kilter and mathy at the same time. Fire continues along the lines of Vheissu’s “Hold Fast Hope” and “Like Moths to Flame”- very riff oriented with wacky time signatures - yet despite the heaviness, the material maintains a semblance of melody and musicality. “Burn the Fleet” brings some much-needed variety with a less complex and more tuneful style. Although its progression from verse to chorus is predictable, it fits perfectly and sounds completely different from the rest of the Fire section. The anthemic vocals “Burn the fleet/We’ll be heroes or ghosts/But we’ll never be turned around” cause one of the most memorable moments of the EP. From the aggressive “Firebreather” to the crushing “The Flame Deluge”, Fire transitions Thrice’s listeners from the old material to the new by keeping their core sound and giving previews for the sounds upon which Water expands.

Volume II (Water) completely inverts the formula of Volume I as electronica takes, making guitar secondary, and it reaps incredible rewards for the band. Songs like “Atlantic” timidly walked in this direction, but Water traverses into the land of Radiohead’s Kid A bravely and confidently. Creating the perfect aquatic atmosphere, the EP experiments with more electronic drums, full-song instrumentals, and vocal effects. “Digital Sea” starts off as probably the safest song on the record, a typical electronica song with a catchy chorus. As Dustin sings, “I’m drowning in a digital sea”, the volume rises and engulfs his vocals dramatically, making the mix of lyrical and musical concept come together. This musical style fully develops in “The Whaler”, which contains a more complex and intricate beat pattern and melody. It creates arguably the best section on the album when the song releases all the tension built up by exploding (imploding?) into beautiful vocal harmonies. The bass voice descends while every other voice stays on its first note, ranging from a male falsetto to a regular tenor range. On “Lost Continent” and “Night Diving”, the guitars make a reappearance in secondary roles. The former puts the guitars in a post rock setting, with screaming high notes and quick picking, while the latter uses guitar as climatic effect for the main melody of the song. The only instrumental on the entire EP, “Night Diving” brings the variety to the Water EP. The entire volume’s atmospheric qualities predict great things to come from the next release, proving that Thrice can do more than just post-hardcore.

With the first release of the Alchemy Index, Thrice personifies and transforms the classical elements into a work of art, proving the true capabilities of music and technology. Moreover, the band pushed themselves to their limits, using the project as not only an artistic release but also a catalyst through which they bettered themselves as musicians. The album raises the bar even higher for their releases while leaving endless possibilities for the rest of their career. For now, they seem as dedicated to the elements as Empedocles himself.

To the elements it came from
Everything will return.
Our bodies to earth,
Our blood to water,
Heat to fire,
Breath to air.




Recent reviews by this author
Das Racist RelaxLil Wayne Tha Carter IV
The Weeknd ThursdayJay-Z and Kanye West Watch the Throne
Shabazz Palaces Black UpFleet Foxes Helplessness Blues
user ratings (1877)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Bryan H. (4)
    A little bit of the old, and a little bit of the new. And then a little more of the new....

    BlindWriting (2.5)
    Thrice's ambitious 2007 release, though often interesting, is too musically and conceptual...

    camdizzle (2)
    The songs on Volumes I & II of the Alchemy index are not bad by themselves, but the album ...

    SoCalPunk21 (4.5)
    Thrice continue their experimental expansion and craft an impressive first entry in a powe...

  • Jeremy Price (3.5)
    Thrice dissect themselves and explore the core ideas of their music, with solid results ov...

    Mixhail (4.5)
    Thrice dares to go where no band goes before: 4 uniquely sounding discs for the purpose of...

    Devon Longerbeam (5)
    At the end of the day [i]The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II[/i] is a contender for best con...

    Nick Greer EMERITUS (4.5)
    Thrice releases Kid A and the Infinite Sadness....


Comments:Add a Comment 
FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
October 21st 2007


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Unnecessary etc.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 21st 2007


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

God your intro is pretentious.

Tyler
Emeritus
October 21st 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The capacity of human intelligence seems to limit the capabilities to expand upon any possible creative aptitudes. Indeed, if one cannot even notice the facets that the ingenuities around him are comprised of, how can he be expected to fashion a beast of his own? This inveterate sense of constraint is a great blow to the veracity of mankind’s abilities. It restrains us and holds our minds to the ground below, averting any possibility of rising above ourselves to something greater; something not fathomed by the conventional mind. This concept of seeking to go beyond one’s self, known as “transcendence”, is essentially a gateway to unlocking pieces of ourselves that can lead to some of the most elaborate and significant creations of our world. For many, this quest to transcend and form creations that were once considered unthinkable and overwhelming consumes life. Certainly it is rare to find such people, but when they are found, creative barriers are destroyed.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 21st 2007


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Okay maybe it isn't that pretentious but I mean Thrice > Opeth anyways.

Yyy
October 21st 2007


289 Comments


u should probably make it less obvious that u read through some wiki article

Confessed2005
October 21st 2007


3314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Okay review but it probably wasn't needed. But I'm not going to disagree with you on the rating.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
October 21st 2007


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The only thing I took from the wiki article was the quote at the end and his birth/death dates. I was reading through some other, more reputable article for the rest.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 21st 2007


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well I enjoyed the review.

clairvoyant
October 21st 2007


765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

good review

spades777
October 21st 2007


17 Comments


the more pretentious a band gets, the more the reviews do too. a history lesson in a thrice review?

it's all good though, haha.

Cesar
October 23rd 2007


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Someone gave this a 1... *calls angry mob*

clairvoyant
October 23rd 2007


765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

you need to fix one thing in your review i just noticed, you constantly call the song "night diving", "night DRiving" instead

Jom
Staff Reviewer
October 23rd 2007


2676 Comments


It's 'Night Diving' in the tracklist for the album. I haven't picked this up yet, so I don't know which one is correct, but I can fix it if need be.
It's a great review, by the way, but I do apologize that your review is going to be under the shadow of Nick's 13-page-of-comments-and-still-going-strong review for quite awhile.

Tyler
Emeritus
October 23rd 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's Diving.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
October 23rd 2007


2676 Comments


I figured... 'Diving' has more aqueous/water connotations than 'Driving,' but it wouldn't hurt to check =)
Thanks.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
October 23rd 2007


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My mistake. Thanks.

steadyeddie
October 25th 2007


159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Real nice job on the review, I enjoyed all the background info you gave personally - you can see the extra effort put into it and it does make a difference. I read every word man, and agree with you on most points. I'm so stoked for the next release (april 08 or something like that?)

LightningJ
October 25th 2007


120 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Really nice review. I liked how you did some research into history and you tied it into the review. Also, 'tis a very good album, so a good review is only befitting.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy