Thrice
Horizons/East



Release Date: 09/17/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: never change?

It’s clichéd to imagine bands’ ideas are the main thing to dry up as they get older; there’s all sorts of other ways age can make itself obvious, many of which are arguably more damning. Thrice’s latest album Horizons / East reflects this in full ambivalence, dropping a range of surprise style changes and eye-catching performances while reinforcing almost all the shortfalls long since pinpointed by sceptics of the group’s post-hiatus output.

It plays out as one of their most inspired but least inspiring records to date, but can at least be viewed as a positive step forward in the short term. Many have already proclaimed it an improvement on 2018’s Palms, testament to its comparative paucity of derivative corniness, but it’s also accurate to view it as a continuation of what that album was striving for. All fumbles aside, Palms was the most creative and diverse Thrice album since Beggars, and Horizons / East pushes the boat out further still, augmenting their post-hardcore/post-grunge fundamentals with nods to jazz, electronic, and alt rock, reminiscent of such artists as Radiohead (“Robot Soft Exorcism”), Jeff Buckley (“Dandelion Wine”) and Deftones (“Still Life”). These names have all been vaguely adjacent to their ballpark at various points, but they’ve never felt so comfortable within the same conversation. This reflects the breadth of Thrice’s innovations as much as the ease a conscientious listener will have in pigeonholing them.

Ultimately, the main issue here has very little to do with originality: diving into Buckley-esque vocal inflections ultimately coaxes out one of frontman Dustin Kensrue’s most compelling performances in years, and guitarist Teppei Teranishi’s makes good use of Jonny Greenwood’s finest arpeggios. Taking obvious cues from worthwhile sources sets Thrice in good stead, yet for all the risks they take over what they play, even the most disarming of their innovations find themselves trapped within an increasingly stale songwriting matrix. Horizons / East is as chorus-centric as any mainstream rock record you’ll hear this year, all too often hinting at electrifying new directions only to scale back and mire itself in tepid refrains and hooks that you’d hardly expect a songwriter as experienced as Kensrue to weight so prominently.

“Northern Lights” is a particular offender here: its verses veer headlong into jazz, boasting unexpectedly colourful chord choices and an idiosyncratic lick from Teranishi reportedly inspired by the Fibonacci sequence (a potential first for tolerable rock music), yet the excitement of these things is abruptly overturned by one of Kensrue’s least inspired chorus hooks to date at the same time as its intervals switch from jazz 4ths to rock 3rds and subjugating its earlier flair in service to tired old tropes. The transition is ‘smooth’, but it’s also toothless; the track’s intrigue dies young. “Robot Soft Exorcism” is a similar story, its chorus quaintly resolving the suspense of its intricate verse progression without living up to its stakes, while “Still Life” suffers from the opposite issue, impeccably realising the cloying atmosphere of its chorus but struggling to find anywhere to go thereafter, noodling its promise away in a disappointingly dreary bridge. All too often, Horizons / East sees fresh thoughts fall by the wayside of predictable pathways.

Perhaps appropriately, the album’s most resonant sections are the ones that directly recall Thrice’s finest qualities rather than teasing a departure. The group’s heart-on-sleeve rock glory may have lost much of its sheen in recent years, but at their best they’re still masterful at moments of ardent rapture. Such moments tend not to span entire songs, but where they come they land like thunder: see the urgency of “The Dreamer”’s verse progression (a dead ringer for the Fire EP), or “Scavengers”’ earthquake of a final chorus, or even “Buried in the Sun”’s infectious callback to Major/Minor’s bluesy grunge. None of these songs are destined for Thrice’s top shelf, but they’re welcome reminders of the calibre it takes to get there. Only one rises to the occasion: opener “The Color Of The Sky” is likely the best Thrice song since “Anthology”, a seamlessly paced shapeshifter that sees off a burning sunburst of a chorus with the aid of electronic loops and a momentous performance from drummer Riley Breckenridge. It’s an apt portent of the versatility to come, but unlike anything else here it combines new vocabulary and seasoned strengths into something that feels authoritatively Thrice no matter what angle you approach it from.

So, let no-one say they haven’t been given something to hope for here. It’s encouraging to see Thrice so keen to play with different palettes at this point in their career, and they clearly have enough of their old touch left to make those critical moments count. However, if Horizons / East really represents a new dawn for the band, one can only hope that its rays penetrate a little further across its recently confirmed sequel. Surely they have more left in them by now than transient promises of former excellence?




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user ratings (265)
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
GarthAlgar (4.5)
Thrice strike back with vigorous ferocity delivering their best album in a decade...

whitecastle142 (4)
Diverse yet consistent, Horizons/East marks a confident return to form for the Californian rockers....



Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2021


41683 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

yeah it's ok

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Sowing
Moderator
September 20th 2021


39291 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I pretty much agree unfortunately. Need to give this a few more spins to solidify that stance because I've been really distracted by some other releases, but the 2 tries I gave this afforded me zero of the excitement that everyone else seems to have. Nice review.

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nightbringer
September 20th 2021


2258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mmm, yeah, this is pretty good but something is still stopping me be exuberant about it.

StickFeit
September 20th 2021


1882 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It starts off very promising with the first two tracks

Aerisavion
September 20th 2021


3123 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm a hesitant 3.5 but need more spins.

Digging: Ocean Alley - Chiaroscuro

wayfaringstranger
September 20th 2021


255 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

unfortunate that this will be the main review shown to people, Garth's is much more accurate

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
September 20th 2021


9113 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

unfortunate indeed

Digging: Lil Ugly Mane - VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN

spanndrew58
September 20th 2021


160 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was horrified that they were just going to be a radio rock band after Palms. Give me them trying and not hitting every mark over that any day.

MyMentality
September 20th 2021


158 Comments


Conflicted on this one. Feels a little stagnant on my first listen but I do have a soft spot for these. There's some really good instrumentation at least.

Project
September 20th 2021


5193 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i like this a bit more than you Johnny, but this is a very good take, and probably the site's most positive 3.2 review



' even the most disarming of their innovations find themselves trapped within an increasingly stale songwriting matrix." is a perfect summation of post-hiatus (and arguably post-Alchemy Index) Thrice's issue

Digging: The World Is a Beautiful Place... - Illusory Walls

onionbubs
September 20th 2021


13865 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

like right in the middle of a 3.5 and a 4 cant tell if i wanna round up or round down but very cool that i like a new thrice album at all since i really hate this radio rock thrice bs theyve been feeding us on the past few records

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YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
September 20th 2021


14765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good Review but did you watch Good Burger yet

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2021


45795 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

I like that I've seen "best Thrice song since Anthology" thrown out about 3-4 different songs here. makes you ponder if the album is in fact, good,

Digging: Lil Ugly Mane - VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN

Sowing
Moderator
September 20th 2021


39291 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I have not wondered that myself yet but am looking forward to it someday

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
September 20th 2021


14765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Summer Set Fire to the Rain is easily my favorite here

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2021


41683 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

weird, that one is easily my least favourite and I had to cut a shoutout out from the rev to keep things skinny. intro riff is eh and the shouts ain't it boi

will watch foul corporation movie soon !

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
September 20th 2021


14765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

we gotta start slipping johnny some energy drinks when he's not looking

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2021


5526 Comments


After two listens there are about 2-3 songs that were great for me. A bit bummed tbh, also, there's too much mid-tempo stuff overall.

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kingjulian
September 20th 2021


1753 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah this is a great review. Honestly I was fairly excited about this on the first few listens (the one-two punch of Colors in the Sky and Scavengers REALLY helps) but I'm finding myself having very little interest in returning to it. Too many moments that kind of go nowhere. Might bump down to a 3 but we'll see.

kingjulian
September 20th 2021


1753 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah this is a great review. Honestly I was fairly excited about this on the first few listens (the one-two punch of Colors in the Sky and Scavengers REALLY helps) but I'm finding myself having very little interest in returning to it. Too many moments that kind of go nowhere. Might bump down to a 3 but we'll see.



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