Thrice
The Alchemy Index Vols. I & II


2.0
poor

Review

by camdizzle USER (3 Reviews)
December 3rd, 2007 | 65 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The songs on Volumes I & II of the Alchemy index are not bad by themselves, but the album itself as a concept lacks depth and an overall theme. Musically-it's good, but nothing special. Lyrically-it's pretty good. As a whole though, the album itself is

Thrice produced a lot of buzz within the hardcore community when they announced they would release 4 EPs that would each make up part of a complete concept album. The concept: each EP represents an element (Fire, Water, Earth, Air) to make up “The Alchemy Index.” A concept album is a pretty significant artistic venture for any band, and I think a lot of Thrice fans were excited for them to take such a big step. What music fan doesn’t like watching one of their favorite bands develop as artists and musicians? I, however, wasn’t really that impressed by the album, but I don’t really listen to much Thrice. So this here is a review from a different perspective.

I feel that there are two ways to approach an album review: you can review the album as a collection of songs, or you can review it as a complete work with each song contributing its own part to the album. While my approach is usually based of my reaction to the album, concept albums always fall under the first category while greatest hits records fall under the second. Since this is supposed to be a concept album, I plan to approach it the first way.

According to Roy Shuker’s Popular Music: The Key Concepts, a concept album is “an album that is ‘unified by a theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, narrative, or lyrical.’” A pretty famous example is The Mars Volta’s “Deloused in the Comatorium.” This album was supposed to represent the story of a friend who fell into a coma after over-dosing on morphine and the fictional adventures he experienced within his own mind. Like any good concept album, each song, each chord progression, and each line contributed to the development of the story and the emotions of the characters throughout. You generally have to play a concept album from start to finish in order to understand the whole significance of the theme, because even the order of the songs is an important part of its development. Shuffling the songs on “Deloused in the Comatorium” would be the musically equivalency of shuffling the chapters of a book.

That being said, Thrice’s “The Alchemy Index” is a pretty weak concept album in my opinion. First of all, the concept itself is not all that creative. They are certainly not the first to write an album or a song that is meant to portray water or fire in some way. The difference is, they decided to make a whole EP with 4 different elements rather than a song about fire or an album about water. Second of all, their portrayal of said elements isn’t even that creative. The fire album is marked by heavy, aggressive music with lyrics about fire, burning, and destruction. The water album is slower, smoother, and marked with lyrics about water, drowning, or drifting away (with the exception of Night Diving, the only instrumental song on the album). There isn’t a single track on the Fire EP that doesn’t contain the words “fire” or “flame” in the lyrics and there isn’t a single track on the Water EP that doesn’t contain the words “water” or “sea” in the lyrics. We get it. The Fire EP is about fire and the Water EP is about water. I would have preferred some more creative ways to approach an album about either of these two elements, but I was personally unimpressed.

Not only is the concept itself weak, but the songs aren’t really a cohesive unit, but a mere collection of songs about either water or fire. For the most part, you could shuffle the songs of each EP and probably get the same reaction you would if you listened to the album in its original order. Firebreather only marks the beginning of the album because of its position, not because it represents the beginning of the development of a theme. For this reason, fire and water aren’t themes for these EPs, they are motifs. An album based on a motif isn’t that profound; it’s not really even much of a concept album. A Christmas caroling CD, a collection of songs about Christmas, is not a concept album about Christmas. If they wanted fire to be a theme, maybe they could make the first song about smoke slowly creeping into a room, another about the beauty and mystery of fire itself, another about fire as a destructive force, and maybe another about a place after it hass been devastated by a fire. Such a structure would be a true concept album, developing from start to finish to develop a central theme, rather than a motif shared by each of the songs. That’s not to say that Thrice should have created a whole story about fire and its steps, but I feel that there are simply different ways to approach a song about water or fire, simply by examining a different quality of fire or water. Not only is fire aggressive and destructive as it is portrayed in most of the songs off the Fire EP; its also mysterious, seductive, beautiful, passionate. Same thing with water: there’s more to water than a melancholy “lost at sea” feel, which is what a lot of the songs came off to me as (to be fair though, “Kings Upon the Main” and “The Flame Deluge” begin to explore these two elements from different angles).

With all that being said about the nature of the album itself, the songs by themselves are not that bad. They certainly aren’t the best songs I’ve ever heard, but the songs are decent for what they are. Like any CD (even concept albums) there are good songs and bad songs. Generally, if you like heavy, aggressive songs, you’ll probably like songs from the Fire EP. If you like quieter, smoother, melancholy songs you’ll probably like songs from the Water EP. I would enjoy listening to any of these songs spread out, I just got sick of six songs in a row with a similar sound revolved around the same motif.

Musically, the album is pretty solid. There wasn’t anything that really stood out to me, but I can’t say I didn’t like it. What I felt it lacked though, was originality. To be honest, I can’t compare it to older Thrice stuff because I’m not too familiar with it. I can say though, that it wasn’t anything I haven’t heard before. I would compare the sounds of the fire album with work from Mastodon and These Arms Are Snakes: heavy and aggressive, and mostly dark with some optimistic tones coming out every once and a while (think the end of fire breather). I would compare the sounds of the water album with parts of Isis’s Oceanic, and slightly like Radiohead’s Kid A. The Radiohead connection became a little clearer to me after a few listens, and I still don’t think the water album is quite there. The experimentation with muffled instruments, distorted drums, and various electronic effects is interesting, and I’m sure a big venture for Thrice, but it wasn’t anything too radical compared to Kid A. In one sentence: the music is pretty good, but certainly nothing that hasn’t been done.

I think the strongest aspect of the album is the individual lyrics for each song. I’ll admit I was pretty harsh about the lyrics as a contribution to the overall concept, but I don’t mean to undermine the value of each individual song. Not every song is a lyrical masterpiece, but some of the songs have lyrics that could be good poetry without the music. Obvious examples are the last two tracks, which are written in sonnet form. “The Flame Deluge” writes from the actual perspective of fire, used by war-hungry men for destruction despite its original purpose. “Kings on the Main” writes from the perspective of the sea, warning those who wish to explore of its power, but still offering the possibility of grace.

To summarize: weak concept, ok music, and pretty decent lyrics. If I were to rate this album based on an average rating of each individual song (musically and lyrically), I would probably give it a 3; good, but nothing too impressive. However, as this is an album review, my rating is based on the album as a complete work. I gave the album as a whole a 2, but I don’t exactly agree with what the rating system considers a ‘2.’ “Poor” is too strong of a word to define this album. I didn’t think the album was that bad, I just thought it was below average. Unfortunately, the next level down from “average” on this system is “poor,” so that’s just the way things work out. I know a lot of you will disagree with this review, but understand this is a minority opinion of the album.

Keep in mind- Thrice still has two more EPs left to complete the entire “Alchemy Index,” which is supposed to be the overall theme. It’s very possible that the 4 “elements” combined will create an overlying theme that will be more profound than the actual EPs themselves. I’m interested to see how all four sonnets will tie together. As single EPs though, I wasn’t really that impressed.

Overall: C-

Recommended Tracks: Firebreather, Burn the Fleet, Open Water, Lost Continent

Recommended Tracks: Firebreather, Burn the Fleet, Open Water, Lost Continent


user ratings (1896)
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...

    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...

  • Tyler Fisher EMERITUS (4.5)
    A concept album that actually focuses on the betterment of the band as musicians and artis...

    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 
Zoo
December 3rd 2007


3759 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

May the Lord have mercy on your soul.

BallsToTheWall
December 3rd 2007


44805 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Tribestos, im sick of your shit. oh wait, your not Tribe. Well, still, I completely disagree with your rating but a well written review. Good to see a counterpoint from all the praise and to see another voice his own opinion instead of whats trendy.This Message Edited On 12.03.07

Jerrydavidson
December 3rd 2007


102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah, they are going to hit hard. I thought it was great, but I guess I need to hear vol. 3 and 4 before I make a final rating

Confessed2005
December 3rd 2007


3314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't agree with what you've said but you're review was pretty solid. You seemed to focus a bit too much on why it isn't a concept album however.

AmericnZero02
December 3rd 2007


3360 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Good review. You could have focused a bit more on the instrumentation, but I liked the review regardless. I liked your point that said that all of the tracks were played on shuffle you would get the same reaction. Also the point that said you're basically hearing the same six songs in a row. Both really hurt the album.

Digging: Copeland - Ixora

camdizzle
December 3rd 2007


58 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

You seemed to focus a bit too much on why it isn't a concept album however.


Maybe, but a concept album is a pretty bold artistic statement. A lot goes into making a good one, and this album was lacking a lot of those elements. If Thrice is going to call their release a concept album, I'm going to review it as a concept album.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
December 3rd 2007


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Okay seriously, if you watched the 10 youtube videos that led up to this release, you would probably understand their view of this concept album. They said that Fire was basically a collection of all their heavy ideas, water a collection of basically chill and flowing-type songs, etc.

Anyway, their interpretation of a concept is clearly different than yours, which basically led you to make brash remarks towards this album.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
December 3rd 2007


3781 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, but it doesn't seem to justify a 'poor' rating.

Intransit
December 3rd 2007


2797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[quote=review]What music fan doesn’t like watching one of their favorite bands develop as artists and musicians?[/quote]
like 95% of old school Against Me! fans.

plane
Staff Reviewer
December 3rd 2007


6100 Comments


I wanted to like this review, but if you're going to bash a band for failing at their concept, at least act as if you know what you're talking about. And your points are pretty wtf, especially:

There isn’t a single track on the Fire EP that doesn’t contain the words “fire” or “flame,” and there isn’t a single track on the Water EP that doesn’t contain the words “water” or “sea.” We get it. The Fire EP is about fire and the Water EP is about water.

Uh.

Confessed2005
December 3rd 2007


3314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Aww Ryan, your avatar is so cute.



camdizzle
December 3rd 2007


58 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0


Okay seriously, if you watched the 10 youtube videos that led up to this release, you would probably understand their view of this concept album. They said that Fire was basically a collection of all their heavy ideas, water a collection of basically chill and flowing-type songs, etc.



Anyway, their interpretation of a concept is clearly different than yours, which basically led you to make brash remarks towards this album.


Did you read my review? You basically repeated a lot of what is already in there. I said originally that most Thrice fans were pretty stoked on this release. I also said that I was not a huge Thrice fan and that my review would be that of an outsider. I also said that my reaction to the album was that it was a collection similar sounding songs with the same motif. A motif is not a theme. Thus, based on the definition of a concept album, this is not one. And finally you're right, their understanding of a concept is different than mine, but I am still entitled to an opinion. I understand my opinion is different than a lot of people, which is why I submitted my review.


Good review, but it doesn't seem to justify a 'poor' rating.

True, but there isn't a "below average" option, which is what I would have given it. The album isn't poor by any means, but its the next step down from average based on this rating scale.

like 95% of old school Against Me! fans.


I said develop, not stagnate.



camdizzle
December 3rd 2007


58 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I wanted to like this review, but if you're going to bash a band for failing at their concept, at least act as if you know what you're talking about.


Please educate me so I can have a better understanding of the album. Like I said, this is a review from the perspective of someone that isn't familiar with Thrice. What good is a review that assumes you know everything about the band for a person that knows nothing about Thrice?

And your points are pretty wtf


That example you pulled was used to support my statement that their portrayal of said elements is not creative. I was looking for a more abstract way to represent fire or water. Instead, I felt it was repetitive and unoriginal. I don't profess to speak for everyone, this was only my opinion of the album.This Message Edited On 12.03.07

plane
Staff Reviewer
December 3rd 2007


6100 Comments


. I also said that I was not a huge Thrice fan and that my review would be that of an outsider. I also said that my reaction to the album was that it was a collection similar sounding songs with the same motif. A motif is not a theme.

You can't say the first sentence without completely voiding the following ones. You are an outsider; you don't understand where the band came from on the concept. Stepping on their throats about the concept when you don't understand even what the concept is doesn't make the points against the album in your review valid. You can dislike the album all you want, whatever, but you still think that the concepts, or "motifs," are "fire" and "water." That's disregarding the band's intentions and bringing to the head the fact that you didn't research this at all. That only strengthens your point that you're an outsider. You can review the album in any manner with whatever opinion you want, but your argument is flimsy and shouldn't be brought up when you go about it the way you did.

edit: My point was, not every song title includes "fire," "flame," "water" or "sea." It was just a dumb point to make.This Message Edited On 12.03.07

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
December 3rd 2007


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

MAYBE IF YOU WASN'T SO IGNANT ABOUT THRICE, YOU'D FUCKING COMPREHEND THIS ALBUM. STAY ON THE OUTSIDE.

btw, that's in capslock for effect, I really don't care about you or this review for the mere fact of your ignorance.This Message Edited On 12.03.07

Intransit
December 3rd 2007


2797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I said develop, not stagnate.

Man you just really wallow in the cesspool of your ignorance don't you?

And I love how this kid is defending himself as if this was a good review. Part of a review being well written is how sound the arguments are, and these are some of the flimsiest I've seen this side of the comments in my chiodos review. This Message Edited On 12.03.07

chimera908
December 3rd 2007


713 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So what if this wasn't Operation Mindcrime or Scenes From A Memory the point of this album was to make good music and you even say that this was good if looked at as a collection of songs. Thrice represents the motifs of fire and water quite well and the fact thats it's being represented as some huge concept album was as much a product of the media as it was Thrice's own intentions. When you review an album people want to know how the music was not how well it holds up to some concept. Hell Thrice even does a good job of doing what they want in representing fire and water so you're review isn't very justified.

iarescientists
December 3rd 2007


5863 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, you take the meaning of a concept album too literally.

Any album that has some underlying theme throughout is a concept album. Just because this album isn't some pretentious story about the journey through the dreams of a coma doesn't mean it's not a concept album. It's just a different kind of concept album

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
December 3rd 2007


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Aww Ryan, your avatar is so cute.

type "aventure time" in youtube, but thx.

camdizzle
December 3rd 2007


58 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

You can't say the first sentence without completely voiding the following ones. You are an outsider; you don't understand where the band came from on the concept. Stepping on their throats about the concept when you don't understand even what the concept is doesn't make the points against the album in your review valid.

I don't see your point. Not everyone who picks up this album will have read up on everything the band has put out. My review comes from the standpoint of someone who checked out the album and didn't like it. I could argue that a Thrice fans opinion is not valid because its biased in favor of Thrice. My opinion and my interpretation was different. There's nothing wrong about it.
You can dislike the album all you want, whatever, but you still think that the concepts, or "motifs," are "fire" and "water." That's disregarding the band's intentions and bringing to the head the fact that you didn't research this at all. That only strengthens your point that you're an outsider. You can review the album in any manner with whatever opinion you want, but your argument is flimsy and shouldn't be brought up when you go about it the way you did.

This album was sent to a radio station with a label from the promoter that said "each disc has six tracks representing one of the four elements." That was the information I was given. Either Thrice needs to hire another promoter or they need to find a better way to advertise the theme of their album. And I'm still waiting for you to educate me on the true, deeper meaning of the album.

My point was, not every song title includes "fire," "flame," "water" or "sea." It was just a dumb point to make.

You're right, that was a typo. I meant to say that every song's lyrics, but I can't figure out how to edit the review.


Edit: I fixed it
And I love how this kid is defending himself as if this was a good review. Part of a review being well written is how sound the arguments are, and these are some of the flimsiest I've seen this side of the comments in my chiodos review.

I'm defending myself for the sake of discussion. You could get a bunch of Thrice fans in a room and talk about how much you all loved the album, but what fun is that? Sorry you can't handle a dissenting opinion. What makes my arguments flimsy?
This Message Edited On 12.03.07



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