Thrice - The Alchemy Index Volumes III & IV: Air & Earth
Experimental Rock/Acoustic Rock
Disc 1: 6 songs (24:14) Disc 2: 6 songs (20:54)
Release year: 2008
Reviewed by James

After the decent first half of Thrice's Alchemy Index, the band have hit back with the third and fourth volumes, Air and Earth, and it's here things go from good to great. Where as the first half was a little hamstringed by a less than consistent opening volume, this one starts out great and keep going from there.

Air is perhaps the dark horse of The Alchemy Index, having no real identity of it's own, compared to the aggression of Fire, the experiments of Water and the acoustics of Earth. Here we range from the anthemic hard rock of Broken Lungs to The Sky Is Falling, which sounds like a slightly more experimental version of something we'd see on Fire, with it's handclaps and keyboards, to the acoustics of As The Crow Flies. Despite sounding like a collection of songs that wouldn't quite fit on to the other three discs, Air ultimately prevails due to the songs being strong throughout. Daedalus is my personal favorite on this disc, it's opening quiet-loud dynamics building to an emotional climax. Dustin Kensrue's vocals have certainly matured since the early days, and he sounds like a completely different person compared to the standard post-hardcore frontman who sang on The Illusion Of Safety. The only clunker here is closer Silver Wings, which is entirely too short to turn into anything of note, and sounds just like something deemed not good enough to go on Water. Still, compared to the way Fire got the last release off to a wobbly start, this is a masterpiece.

The band have saved the best for last with the final disc, Earth. It's a collection of acoustic songs, closer in spirit to Dustin Kensrue's solo album. It's been produced entirely differently to the other three discs, with a more atmospheric sound picking up far more of the room's natural ambience. It's certainly nice to hear something more initmate, and it's a definite breath of fresh air after the denser more layered fare we've encountered earlier along the way. Of course, intimacy and atmosphere would all be for naught if the songs weren't any good, but the band have rustled up some belters to play us out. The country-tinged Moving Mountains might well be my favorite track on the entire Alchemy Index, and indeed one of my top 5 songs of the year so far. Digging My Own Grave is quite an unusual piece, sounding like it's being played in a smoky nightclub with it's accordion, fingerclicks, and is that a honky-tonk in there somewhere? There's even a nod to the band's influences here, with a cover of post-hardcore pioneers Frodus' The Earth Isn't Humming. I can't comment on the original, but here it fits in perfectly, so much so that I was unaware it was a cover at first. Unfortunately the EP suffers from the same problem as Air, in that it closes with a very short song that never goes anywhere, only this time there's a minute of annoying bumping and scratching to finish it off. Still, you're getting five top-flight acoustic tracks here.

As with all double albums, there's a little bit of filler to wade through, but as a whole The Alchemy Index gives you 18 songs worth listening to, a feat that not many double albums manage. Although these volumes are the highlights, the first two are definitely worth picking up to complete the set. Oh, and a portion of the profits go to charity too, so there really is no reason for you not to go out and buy this.

Killing Songs :
Air: Broken Lungs, Daedalus, Earth: Moving Mountains, The Earth Isn't Humming
James quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Thrice that we have reviewed:
Thrice - The Alchemy Index Vol. I + II: Fire & Water reviewed by James and quoted 77 / 100
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