Thrice - The Alchemy Index Vols. III & IV: Air & Earth
Record Label: Vagrant Records
Release Date: April 15, 2008
The second and final installment of Thrice’s ambitious element EP concept, The Alchemy Index Vols. III & IV: Air & Earth, is about to be your new favorite CD.
In this first half of their elemental series, Vols. I & II: Fire & Water, released last October, Thrice simultaneously captured the seething ferocity of fire and the rolling serenity of water, and they showcased a musical diversity that had been hinted at in their 2005 release, Vheissu. While those EPs met much critical and popular acclaim, they lacked either the coherency (the jump from Fire to Water is a bit jarring), freshness, or that indescribable element (no pun intended) that is necessary to make a great whole.
On Air & Earth, Thrice find the piece they were lacking in the first installment. The first EP, Air, soars magnificently through its six tracks, truly giving the listener the sensation of flight. The opening track, “Broken Lungs,” fades in with a clean guitar riff run through a reverse delay and front man Dustin Kensrue’s pensive lyrics, “Woke up to a brand new skyline...,” which immediately set the ethereal tone. The track ends with heavy percussion and Kensrue yelling, “Scream from the roofs / We want justice / We want the truth,” and it somehow flows seamlessly into the next, more up-beat track, “The Sky is Falling.” On “A Song for Milly Michaelson,” the pace slows down with a wind effect whistling through a simple riff on an acoustic guitar and Kensrue’s softly-sung, “Well you know I hardly speak / When I do, it’s just for you / I haven’t said a word in weeks / ’Cause they’ve been keepin’ me from you.” Track six, “Silver Wings,” is an up-tempo, bass-filled, synthesized song (that sounds like it could fit in on a Postal Service album) serves as a fitting conclusion to the Air EP, and the harmony that kicks in around the 1:30 mark is nothing short of beautiful.
While the mood is at times similar to that featured in Water, Air is distinctively different in its focus. Where Water brought listeners into the ocean, Air sends them into the far reaches of the atmosphere. Rather than feeling alone and adrift at sea, listeners notice a measure of grandiosity in Air that rekindles images of Aladdin and Jasmine flying through the clouds on their famous magic carpet ride.
As soon as the opening guitar riff for “Moving Mountains” kicks in, listeners are brought back down to Earth. The second EP redirects the album into the range of raw blues and folk. Even the lyrical stylings have changed drastically, and images of the Old West ensue when Kensrue first sings, “I speak in many tongues to many men / Argue with angels and I always win / But I don’t know the first thing about love.”
Where Air features synthesized effects, Earth features hand snaps, piano, harmonica, and crackly production reminiscent of an old vinyl record. Kensrue jumps into his throaty, western-styled (although never with an accent or drawl) vocals flawlessly, which listeners may already be accustomed to from his solo acoustic project. “Digging My Own Grave” kicks in with a heavy piano-line and the hiss of a record player, which perfectly complements Kensrue’s woeful words, “But oh, don’t I know / I’m just digging my own grave / Someone else please save myself from me.” “Come All You Weary,” the only track to feature a full drum kit or an electric instrument, is the standout song on the album, with a beautiful harmony during the chorus and an electric guitar riff that sounds like it could have been right at home in Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home.
After the first half of The Alchemy Index was released, critics heralded Thrice’s amazing growth from previous efforts. The growth exhibited in both Air & Earth far surpasses anything seen in their previous releases. After several memorable albums, and almost ten years since their modest beginnings, Thrice have crafted a true masterpiece and have reached an all new pinnacle with The Alchemy Index Vols. III & IV: Air & Earth.
I agree. The Alchemy Index as a whole is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Thrice are a very unique band that never fail to disappoint or evolve. Each of their albums are drastically different, yet consistent. A quality not held by many other bands in "the scene" today.
Its a great album and a great review. Although i feel one of the stronger tracks "Deadalus" should have been mentioned. Its a song they have had forever and finally placed it perfectly on the Air record. The old song "The Melting Point of wax" from "The Artist and the Ambulance" is the same story just from the sons point of view instead of the fathers.