Thrice - The Alchemy Index Vols. III & IV: Air & Earth
Record Label: Vagrant Records
Release Date: April 15, 2008
I hail Thrice because they balance their creativity in a homemade sling of weaved twine. They read books, they think freely; it’s almost as if the band doesn’t understand the ideas of limits. Maybe that’s because in Thrice’s world, limits just don’t exist.
As a musician, a writer, and a thinker, I find The Alchemy Index Vols. III & IV: Air & Earth at the center of cleverness; of an angler fish baiting its prey at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. As an extension of the two previous volumes, it’s expected and wonderful.
“Broken Lungs” is softly pushed through the corridor as a light sea breeze. The guitar tone is uber-clean, and the song floats with an appropriately airy poise, complete with high hums in the background, doing the best job of any in representing the feel of air itself. “The Sky is Falling” recedes as the wind. The dynamics seem a little off, and glittered with the décor of hammer-ons and handclaps, the song seems out of sync and awkward in context. But a seemingly tired and heavy-hearted Kensrue offers a lament in “A Song for Milly Michaelson,” with a simple acoustic guitar and distant sounding piano keys with a deep resonating thumping, reminding me of a dark and rainy day, driving in my car, with my windshield wipers streaking across the blue in front of me; a vision Thrice accomplish with brilliance.
On Air, every song is unique, form-fitted with a cognitive understanding of the song's relation to the subject. “Daedalus” is a post-rockish gesture toward God is an Astronaut and the akin, offering a dynamically heavier chorus. “As the Crow Flies” hums deeply in an organic ambiance as if sung in a cathedral with voice and acoustic guitar; a breath-taking lament. “Silver Wings” closes, a brief electronic sonnet offering a heavenly vocal break in a denouement, completing a truly relieving drift through Air.
Earth is netted with organics; stripped down to the bone. “Moving Mountains” flows in the same vein as Kensrue’s solo work, with folk leanings and finger picked guitar, Kensrue musing in reverie, “I don’t know the first thing about love.” “Digging My Own Grave” replaces the acoustic guitar with piano keys, mellow with Sicilian seasonings of accordion and bits of sarcasm leak through Kensrue’s voice.
Earth, however, bears the heaviness missed on Air; “The Earth isn’t Humming” is held together by an untiring bass drum rhythm, utilizing down-tuned guitars with thick layering, molding a song that would easily fit on Vheissu as a full-sound effort. But “The Lion and the Wolf” returns the grace to the table through a lovely piano ballad, withholding Kensrue’s gliding voice until the distant men’s choir is finished. “Come All You Weary” marks a return to Kensrue’s folk franchise with a sing-songy swagger and marked implementation of full-sounding drums, accented with a Wurlitzer.
It wouldn’t be fair not to comment on the close of The Alchemy Index. “Child of Dust” shows a boldness in tone—largely vocal driven and harmonic, with a beautiful hosting of guest vocalists, very much like a hymn sung in a church deep in the woods on a wintry Christmas Eve, fading with rattlings and metallic clings into a deft, ominous hum slowly drifting to nothing.
In my bias, I may have failed to mention any shortcomings. However, the grandeur of the album supersedes the melancholy. As a whole, Thrice have created a masterpiece: four discs complimenting the four elements. A trite idea to most, Thrice have embraced with fervor and zeal, having accomplished what might seem to most an impossible task and again have offered oxygen to a scene gasping for air and solid ground to those who have placed their feet firmly into the embrace of mediocrity.
I think the Air printing on the disc is faint as an idea of a color to Air, since Fire is in red text, Water is in blue text, and Earth is in brown text. My Earth disc is also printed as Vol. V. Weird...