Review Summary: Relevant and powerful, Thrice makes a comeback in the best way possible.
Thrice is back with a vengeance in To Be Everywhere is to Be Nowhere
. Known for their role in the early post-hardcore hay day, Thrice rode a wave of momentum through their early careers. They headlined Warped Tour’s, released consistent albums, and had a strong discography. 2012 marked what was seen as the end for Thrice. 2012 saw a massive decline in the genre’s popularity, and like other groups their age, decided to step away. When fans were least expecting it, Thrice swoops in with ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Black Honey,’ which went on to be the groups comeback anthem. Thrice wasn’t looking to pick up where the left off, rather, choosing to reboot instead. Thrice is seasoned and mature in To Be Everywhere…
These aren’t a bunch of 20-somethings making music about breakups, leaving their hometowns, and general nostalgia: they’re relevant, contemplative, and strong.
“Everywhere is nowhere,” says Seneca the Younger, “when a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.” Seneca was a stoic philosopher who specialized in the contemplation of ethics. His death would come after being accused as a part of an assassination attempt on Nero, whom he tutored, and was later condemned to take his own life. The works of Seneca would influence To Be Everywhere
, which is also a morality tale. War, society, and religion are explored through the entirety of the album. ‘Whistleblower’ deals with the Edward Snowden controversy where ‘Black Honey’ and ‘Death from Above’ deal with the justifications of war. Dustin Kensrue elaborated, “I've usually tried to stay out of being explicitly political in the sense of being partisan, at least in my art. I really hate the party system and think it's a huge part of a lot of the problems we have,” and continued, “I try not to go to the party lines but to just talk about actual social issues that have political ramifications."
As a result, Thrice opts for a heavier sound for this outing. Heavily influenced by grunge (namely Nirvana and Soundgarden), Thrice pushes for a grungier tone similar to Major/Minor
. The guitars have more substance to them than in previous albums. They go from having a slight driven tone to a messier distorted tone similar to the grunge sound they aspire. The songs are set up simplistically to further demonstrate the style they derive. Most focus on a simple melody and basic rhythm before exploding into a messy collection of instruments. The production on To Be Everywhere…
is done excellently. The guitars are crunchy, the drums are clean, and the bass is grooving. Ted Jensen, known for his work on American Idiot
and Hotel California
, served as the lead mastering engineer. The transition from each song is seamless and clean. The track list is strong and the flow between each song is well done.
Although To Be Everywhere
is heavier than their previous material, it doesn’t alienate long term fans. ‘Stay with Me’ is among the lighter portions of the album. It’s characterized by its melodic and emotional chorus and airy tone throughout. The intro is very enticing and instantly captures the attention of listeners. The picked intro will remind fans of their early days as they tell the tale of a couple saving each other as the world dies around them. The songs scenery is excellently executed with lines, “After the fever left, together we'd scavenge through the city and her scars,” and “We'd share a can of something and the bottle of bourbon I had hid away,” welcoming us to the corroding atmosphere. The bridge really kicks the song in focus. “Oh, it seems like every night, I lie in bed and worry that the world would start to heal/Now I'm terrified that if it did you'd start to ask if what we have is real,” lays the perspective of the protagonist wishing the world *remained* damaged out of fear that his lover would desire something better.
‘The Window,’ which arrives a lot earlier in the album, is more cynical. The song deals with the way fear limits our mentality and taunts us from afar. Using the concept of light peeking through a boarded window, Thrice exclaims, “I found a note scratched in the wall/In a pained and earnest scrawl/The hand, I recognized, was somehow mine/I read each line with dread/"There's no wind and there's no light/There's no song you hear at night/There's nowhere to hide, be terrified/It's all inside your head" ‘The Window’ is a driving rocker that is completed with a smooth breakdown during the close. The riff is very tense and slides around the song.
‘Death from Above’ is a hard song to listen to. Inspired by the events of drone operators, ‘Death from Above’ tells the story of those who kill from a distance. The songs inspiration spurs from Brandon Bryant, who went public on his moral questioning about his role in the military after witnessing a child run into a building before his missile landed. “One day they sent, one day they sent me to the chaplain when I said I can't go on/All he said, all he said was just to shut my mouth and do the "will of God," carries the morality involved in warfare. The soldier, emotionally damaged, is trying to figure out how to persevere through such emotional and spiritual torment, yet the chaplain only sees one side of the story. “I drop death out of the sky/ Tell me why,” Dustin belts in a raspy scream.
‘Black Honey’ was a miracle worker for the group. The mysterious single served as Thrice’s official comeback and skyrocket the group to mainstream popularity in a matter of weeks. ‘Black Honey’ is a metaphor in regards to the United States attempt at destabilizing the Middle East following the death of Saddam Hussein. The term “black honey” refers to oil as the United States “swats bees” in hopes to achieve it. “I keep swinging my hand through a swarm of bees/I can't understand why they're stinging me/But I'll do what I want/I'll do what I please/I'll do it again till I've got what I need,” was developed after vocalist Dustin Krensrue, “…the song spawned from an image that popped into my head: someone continually swatting at a swarm of bees to get their honey, but somehow not understanding why they would sting back in return.”
There are a couple missteps in To Be Everywhere is to Be Nowhere
. Songs have a tendency to be a bit vague. ‘Wake Up’ never defines exactly what force he’s discussing. Some say political, others say spiritual. It’s not a very satisfying number in the grand scope of the album due to its pretentious reliance on imagery. ‘Whistleblower’ falls into the same category by being cliché. The lyrics are overly apparent and simplistic to a fault. The chorus, “I'll tell the real story/I'm the bird that sings/I'm the whistleblower/Wake up and take warning/Congressmen and kings/I'm the whistleblower/Waiting in the wings,” leaves a lot to be desired. It’s so feigned in comparison to the rest of the album. ‘Whistleblower’ is supposed to be telling the story from Snowden’s point of view, but fails to capture any urgency or trial the figure faces. Instead, it drains any nuance by focusing on a forced edge similar to ‘Riot’ by Three Days Grace.
To Be Everywhere is to Be Nowhere
is a great album. Thrice came back stronger and look at life through a mature lens while inspiring listeners to do the same. The passion and creativity show through the album and everyone sounds great. I can’t help but say this album reminds me a lot of A Thousand Suns
. I’d recommend To Be Everywhere
to hard rock and post-hardcore fans. Those who long for more substance in their music might also enjoy the record if they don’t mind the politically charged lyrics. Older fans of Thrice might be alienated by the sound. Thrice is dramatic and slower during this album and some might be turned off by it. If they weren’t fans of grunge before, I doubt this album would change their mind. Although the lyrics are limiting, I still enjoy To Be Everywhere
. It’s a strong comeback and has aged well. It’s relevant, powerful, and is easily one of 2016’s best albums.
Death from Above