Review Summary: Thrice dissect themselves and explore the core ideas of their music, with solid results overall.
Bias. One of the unavoidable hassles of life. We try to obscure it, hide it under an air of professionalism, but when we least expect it, it comes bubbling to the surface. Accusations of bias can cripple newspapers, destroy political candidates, and ruin even the best reviewer. Thrice
are one of those bands that are hard to come up with an unbiased opinion on. They are firmly a love-hate band, with the majority leaning towards the former. There’s something undeniably likable about their passionate approach to post-hardcore, and it’s these traits that make them incredibly hard to review fairly.
Coming into a Thrice review, I have little to go upon besides the massive amount of hype the group has received since announcing they would release a four part album based upon the elements. The only Thrice CD I’ve ever heard was Vheissu, which I found to be a very pleasant listen. Besides this, it was up in the air exactly what to expect from Thrice with The Alchemy Index.
Putting Fire and Water together in one double album is certainly an interesting choice, as they play off each other like polar opposites. That much should be obvious before you even hear the record, but it’s that brilliant sense of interplay that makes the CD work so well. Fire’s closing track, The Flame Deluge
, is, to be blunt, monstrous, with Dustin Kensrue delivering a savage vocal performance against what may be the CD’s best melody. By the time the song draws to a close, you feel exhausted in the best way, which perfectly sets the mood for Digital Sea
to relax you into the Water disc. It’s an interesting strategy, and one that works perfectly.
Fire gets off to a strong start with Firebreather
, another Fire highlight. The song’s dissonant ambient intro suddenly explodes into life, leaving none in its wake. The shear sense of intensity is only met by the smart use of melody to compliment the powerful riffing. The outro is a powerful gang-vocal extraordinaire, providing one of the CD’s truly uplifting moments. Unfortunately, it goes on just a bit too long for its own good, dragging on an otherwise excellent track. The Messenger
avoids these flaws, by crafting a quick two-minute explosion of sound even more intense than the opener, and almost as memorable.
Of course, the pitfalls are unavoidable when dealing with a purely aggressive disc. Thrice trip not once, but twice here, first with Backdraft
, a decent song with a mildly powerful chorus, and then The Arsonist
, the disc’s second longest song after Firebreather. The problem with both these songs is they both are remarkably unmemorable. Backdraft
fails to make use of Kensrue’s excellent vocals, mostly settling with bland whispers until the chorus, which might have been decent, in a different song. It feels incredibly out of place here, and detracts from the quality of the song. The Arsonist
is actually somewhat decent compared to Backdraft, but it still feels mildly generic except for (once again) the uplifting chorus and an intense buildup near song’s end. Burn The Fleet
salvages (no pun intended) the failure of the previous two songs a large atmospheric riff and excellent vocals, providing another of Fire’s great uplifting moments, and showing that aggression can still be beautiful.
While Fire is more of a sheer gut-force disc, Water is the disc that pulls at your heartstrings. The band purposely subdues themselves to let the emotions be free to roam, and the results are spectacular. The use of electronics, which was hinted at with Vheissu, is brought in to the limelight here to flourish. Digital Sea
is perhaps the best example of the band’s electronic influences, with the entire song being led only by the layers of ambience and Kensrue’s voice. Surprisingly, it works out wonderfully. However, as good as the song is, they only get better.
While Digital Sea was set to a moderate tempo, the rest of the disc slows down immensely, without losing steam. Open Water
is even more minimalistic, and just as poignant. The chorus has seemingly channeling Chris Martin and Thom Yorke all at once. Because there’s little else to grasp on to for the song (or the entire disc) his voice becomes the anchor that keeps every tune stable. The vocal highlight is clearly The Whaler
, which takes brilliant use of doubled vocals against misty keys. It’s actually at this point I must commend the incredible work of guitarist/keyboardist Teppei Teranishi on the Water disc. His simple yet effective keyboard and synth work here perfectly captures the fluid feel Water represents, and his arrangements seal the whole deal in a wonderful coating.
is one of the album’s only true faults. Yes, it’s a lovely little piano/acoustic piece. Yes, Kensrue continues to sound great. So what’s wrong? Again, the main flaw is there’s nothing remotely memorable about the piece. Everything sounds pretty, but by the time it’s over, it’s hard to pick a moment you truly loved. Not to mention if you did remember anything, Night Diving
immediately makes you forget everything else but the song at hand. To put it simply, this is the highlight of both discs. This six-minute instrumental is incredible in that it manages to be both incredibly ethereal, and then instantly switch to hard-hitting and powerful. The only “full band” song on Water, Night Diving performs an amazing feat: it stays interesting for its entire six minute duration, and does this without any help from Kensrue’s vocals.
Though Kings Of The Main
ends the album on a slightly dull note, the full package succeeds in what it tries to accomplish: creating a record based on the dichotomy of two opposite forces, yet still feeling like a cohesive effort. As an album itself, The Alchemy Index Volume I
is a great listen. However, only when Volume II is released next April will we fully know the impact of the record, and whether it will be looked upon by fans as a classic in the Thrice discography, or just a good disc in and of its own.
Night Diving, The Flame Deluge, Burn The Fleet, Firebreather, The Whaler