The Alchemy Index Vols. I & II



by Acre USER (33 Reviews)
October 21st, 2007 | 18 replies

Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

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.

Lost Continent 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.

Listen To: Night Diving, The Flame Deluge, Burn The Fleet, Firebreather, The Whaler

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user ratings (2156)
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    A concept album that actually focuses on the betterment of the band as musicians and artis...

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    BlindWriting (2.5)
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    SpinLightTwo (5)
    At the end of the day [i]The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II[/i] is a contender for best con...

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

    BryanintheGale (4)
    A little bit of the old, and a little bit of the new. And then a little more of the new....

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

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Comments:Add a Comment 
October 21st 2007


call me crazy but Yea so I have a feeling theres going to be a looooooooot more of these reviews coming. its pretty good though-probably one of the better.This Message Edited On 10.21.07

October 21st 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

Blah blah blah, crappy review, unnecessary, whatever.

The only reason I reviewed this was because I feel the album deserves another point of view. It's not a great review, but I felt it was necessary. Editing as we speak.

EDIT: Holy Crap, Fort23, how'd you beat me? Man, I'm off my game.This Message Edited On 10.21.07

Brain Dead
October 21st 2007


great review man, i'm thinking about getting this.

October 21st 2007


Album Rating: 3.0

Good review.

October 21st 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

A good 3.5 review was needed. Voted

October 21st 2007


This is a great review and I agree with it on a lot of counts, but just one issue:

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.

Fire’s closing track, The Flame Deluge, is monstrous and brutal in a way Thrice have never attempted before

How would you know that? I agree with the review and like that you offset that you're still new to Thrice with how you approached the album, but some of the claims you make (how Thrice fans will find it a classic, possibly, etc.) doesn't fit well with what you originally stated. That doesn't mean you can't review it or have a legitimate response to it, but either specify just how new to Thrice you are (if you've now finally heard the other albums) or take out the contradictory statements. I'll pos anyway, but people like Dfel might come in and pick that apart.

October 21st 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

This album is called Volumes 1 and 2. The release in April is 3 and 4

October 21st 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

planewreq, I agree that perhaps those comments might have been slightly judgemental of me, considering I am new to Thrice's discography. I'm fine with what I said about the fans considering it a classic, because it isn't me personally judging it. But I agree that the Flame Deluge comment should be edited.

Thanks for pointing it out.

October 21st 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

I liked the review, if only because it wasn't scored a 5. I didn't think Fire was all that great and Water,although it had a few good spots, was kinda forgettable to me....I miss the old Thrice.This Message Edited On 10.21.07

October 21st 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Reminds me of tribe. Hopefully not as retarded.

October 21st 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

/sorry for the double post guys. Hope I didn't ruin your day with this atrocity.This Message Edited On 10.21.07

October 22nd 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

this is the alchemy review i agree with the most

October 22nd 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

I agree with everything you've said here, except I love every second of "Lost Continent"

October 22nd 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah Lost Continent rules.

This is really a 5 for me to be honest.

October 22nd 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

I love Lost Continent as well. It's one of my favourites on the disc.

October 23rd 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

I still have to listen to this, can't wait now. I've been getting into The Illusion of Saftey lately, I'm a little behind yeah.

November 23rd 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

I'm with PTSS on that one. I think Lost Continent is a really weak track, along with Kings Upon the Main. The rest of water is good though, definitely better than fire.

November 23rd 2007


Album Rating: 5.0

I love this record so much. It has yet to get old and I've been listening to it pretty much non-stop since it came out.

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