“The Alchemy Index: Volumes I & II,” the latest two-disc album from post-hardcore rockers Thrice was released this past week. The album is the first half of two installments and every song on the discs feature classical elements.
p. This release focuses on fire and water. The second and final installment, with tracks inspired by earth and air, will be released next April. The concept is an ambitious one — releasing four discs of (hopefully) uniquely styled music in such a short period of time is a mammoth task.
p. If you’re unfamiliar with Thrice’s music, this album serves as a perfect sample. The band’s genre is difficult to pin down, given the dichotomous nature of the band’s music. To get an impression of it’s style, imagine a fusion of Thursday and Coldplay. While earlier albums consist of loud, head-banging punk-rock with nods to Aristotle, C.S. Lewis and other philosophers, Thrice’s last major release, “Vheissu,” was a significant change. Dropping the guitar distortion several notches and introducing traditional stringed instruments and a melancholy piano, the group showcased a more mellow side without altering the spirit of its music. The change was an important step forward, proving the band’s lasting power.
p. The first disc, “Fire,” is a call back to Thrice’s roots. Loaded with heavy guitar and plenty of lead-singer Dustin Kensrue’s iconic “scream-singing,” the songs are passionate and raw, as could be expected from an album inspired by fire.
p. The first track, “Firebreather,” is both fierce and energetic, but the lyrics are choppy and feel unsatisfying. Fortunately, the tune is addictive, and the ending chorus is fantastic.
p. “Burn the Fleet” is possibly the most traditional Thrice song on the album. It could seemlessly fit into any of the band’s pre-“Vheissu” recordings. It sounds positively tragic. The two guitars play different melodies, creating a very unique effect.
p. “The Flame Deluge” is definitely the kind of song that paints a picture. It could easily slide into the soundtrack of a war film, creating images of epic proportions. Kensrue’s singing is background to the melody here, making his lyrics nearly indiscernible. The effect is surprisingly enjoyable, and it proves to be an interesting and well-executed idea.
p. The second disc, “Water,” has more in common with Thrice’s last album, “Vheissu.” It features fewer guitars, more varied instrumentation and a rocking, wave-like feeling throughout each number. The vocals, in sharp contrast to “Fire,” are smooth, haunting and delicately harmonic.
p. The disc opens with “Digital Sea,” an electronic, beat-driven lament. The vocal distortion, present throughout the “Water” disc but most noticeable here, almost induces a trance.
p. Possibly the most interesting track on the album, “Night Diving,” is a six-minute instrumental piece with a slow and driving beat that crescendos into a powerful frenzy. Notably, the first instrumental piece is the band’s first. Near the end, the music gives the impression of surfacing from under water. The song fades into “The Whaler,” which carries the catchiest tune.
p. “Kings Upon the Main” is the final track and follows the formula of “Water” well. That’s the problem — it’s so formulaic, it’s bland. The vocals grasp at the eeriness that pervades the album, but they fall short. Kensrue’s singing on this track made me wonder if he received a lobotomy during recording. I think it’s the worst track on the album. It has no spirit, no fire — pun intended.
p. The unmentioned tracks were not bad, but just bland (not quite so much as “Kings Upon the Main,” however). On some tracks in “Fire,” the guitar became overwhelming and tended to drown out the tune. Likewise, in “Water,” the monotony of some of the songs made it hard for me to differentiate between them, which is never a good thing.
p. Overall though, the album is strong. More than half the songs are of great quality, and the rest aren’t bad — they just fail to meet the standard established by the others.
p. The rest of the Planeteers and myself can only hope “Earth” and “Air” have the same spirited heart Thrice put into “Fire” and “Water.”
p. Damn. And I almost made it through this entire review without a “Captain Planet” reference, too.