Review Summary: Thrice frontman chooses a different target to serenade.
The career an artist pursues when they take a break from music can offer a unique insight into the man behind the band. Some dive into something extreme or unpredictable, like Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth who worked as a paramedic for years before rejoining the band in 2007, or legendary Queen Guitarist Brian May who completed his astrophysics thesis 37 years after he first started it. Following Thrice’s hiatus in 2012 Dustin Kensrue did something altogether less surprising, and became a pastor at his local church. The religious undertones in Kensrue’s lyrics progressed in tandem with Thrice’s career, and they slowly began to cross the line from subtle to scriptural, perhaps most obviously in Vheissu’s
‘For Miles,’ which borrows; “and there’s no greater love, than that one shed his blood for his friends” almost directly from John. 2012’s The Water and the Blood
was the culmination of Dustin’s piety, and it was a worship album which was uncompromising in its devotion. While it was a highly predictable, perfectly natural step for the now former pastor to take, it still left fans yearning for a true follow up to his folk and blues influenced debut Please Come Home
. Eight years and dozens of scrapped songs later, is Carry the Fire
the follow up we’ve been waiting for?
In a manner of speaking, yes. Whilst Carry the Fire
is undoubtedly more similar to his debut than to The Water and the Blood
or his Christmas album, it is still a departure from the Americana inspired Please Come Home
. Kensrue has wisely dropped the divisive twang which he forced on his vocal chords and the instrumentation has been toned down too, but he does still borrow plenty from both blues and folk. The result is a sound which is both familiar and pleasing. In adopting a straight forward approach, the music sounds perfectly at ease with itself, just take “Of Crows and Crowns” and “There’s Something Dark.” The low key pairing wouldn’t have sounded remotely out of place on either Beggars
or The Alchemy Index’s Earth
disk, and Kensrue’s recognizable brooding tone carries both songs from start to finish.
Carry the Fire
feels, above all else, like an open love letter to his long term partner. He’s touched upon the difficulties that come with love and long term relationships before, but where he castigated people for being unable to handle love’s tribulations on “The Weight,” here he chooses to celebrate love and its longevity instead. Kensrue gives himself a deserved pat on the back for not taking flight when his relationship was stormy with no end in sight, and he presents himself as the poster boy for the cliché that nothing worth having comes easy. Opener “Ruby” and “Juggernaut” both see Kensrue proclaim his love from the rooftops, but the sincerity of his delivery ensures that the message received is neither cringe worthy nor trite. They bounce along powered by jovial major chords and infectious choruses, and the vocal hooks deliver direct proclamations straight from the heart; “You’re all that I need, for now and forever” and “Girl I’m a juggernaut, and I’ll never stop loving you.” If you find pleasure in dissecting an artist’s lyrics then you’re going to find little to satiate your thirst, but if you’re content to roll along with the upbeat rhythms instead, then Carry the Fire
will reward you.
Third track ‘Gallows’ claims the title of best in show with its bombastic riff and pounding drums, sounding every inch a song which was born around the time of Major/Minor
. With a Thrice reunion all but confirmed sometime in 2015, it’s encouraging to see Dustin Kensrue in such fine fettle. While his split from Mars Hill Church could have left him embittered it’s left him empowered instead; his approach to music hasn’t changed and nor have the positive messages within - he’s just chosen a new target for his affections.