Thrice - The Alchemy Index Vol. I + II: Fire & Water
Post Hardcore/Experimental Rock
Disc 1: 6 songs (22:09) Disc 2: 6 songs (27:05)
Release year: 0
Reviewed by James

Thrice have been constantly evolving and progressing ever since their debut Identity Crisis. Still, when the band announced their next release would be a four-disc concept dealing with each of the four classical elements, alarm bells were set ringing. Had the band pushed themselves too far? Would the whole ambitious venture fall flat, and wind up looking more than a bit silly?

Well, upon release, The Alchemy Index turned out to be far less daunting than we'd expected. The band kept each part relatively concise, the physical separation occuring because of each release's disaparate style, rather than any space constraints. The fact that each element has it's own distinctive style also works to the albums fever, as the band move swiftly on to something new. Fire is more of what we've heard from the band previously, while Water is odd, electronic-influenced rock with a little hint of Radiohead about it. For those wondering what Air and Earth sound like, fear not, as I'll be reviewing the second part of The Alchemy Index soon.

Despite being the closest to classic Thrice, Fire is the weakest part of The Alchemy Index. Sure, it's loud and anthemic just like Vheissu, but something feels a bit “off” here. The songs just aren't as strong overall as previous works, and even though it runs just over 20 minutes it still manages to get tiresome before the conclusion. Only Firebreather and Burn The Fleet really endures here, with Dustin Kensrue turning in a powerful, commanding vocal performance. These are two outstanding rock songs that have “single material” written all over them. Those two aside, the band make a far too polite fist of things, much Fire not being offensively bad, but instead being far too dry and charmless. It certainly is telling that Thrice decided to experiment further afield on the rest of the album, as perhaps their well of high-quality, melodic hard rock is running dry.

Anyways, we move swiftly onto Water, and it's here that things start to pick up. Guitars are pushed to the background in favour of electronic beats and pianos, and you know what? It suits them. As soon as Digital Sea kicks in, it's clear we're in far more interesting territory, the band doing something new, while still sounding like Thrice. Kensrue exchanges his bark for almost a whisper, fitting for this more low-key collection of songs. Maybe old-time fans will be dismayed, but the dreamlike swirl of Water is a much needed breath of fresh air. Lost Continent is a particular standout, starting out with just a piano and Kensrue's plaintive vocals before building into a post-rock worthy crescendo in the chorus. Indeed, the whole of Water is just so much better than Fire that it almost seems unfair to put the two back to back.

It may not please old fans, the old-sounding stuff is a little uninspired, while the rest is far removed, but the first half of The Alchemy Index is still a strong release. And guess what? It gets even better on the second half. To be continued...

Killing Songs :
Fire: Firebreather, Burn The Fleet. Water: Lost Continent, Night Diving
James quoted 77 / 100
Other albums by Thrice that we have reviewed:
Thrice - The Alchemy Index Volumes III & IV: Air & Earth reviewed by James and quoted 86 / 100
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