Awesome major-label debut from melodic hardcore kings

Hardcore is cool, its official. At this very moment, baggy trousered youths across the country are disposing of their Linkin Park t-shirts ("I mean, what was I thinking?"), to be suitably replaced with something a bit more 'this year' - Finch perhaps. Or maybe it will be a Thrice logo emblazoning their impressionable chests. But don't be fooled into thinking that Thrice are a flash-in-the-pan story, whose t-shirt you will be throwing in the bin next year. This is not a debut release that happens to accord nicely with whatever is popular at the moment (which in the case of a lot of bands is something less than a coincidence) - they are one of the reasons that hardcore is popular at the moment.

Thrice inhabit a potentially awkward middle ground between Thursday and Poison The Well, where the music may be too heavy for some fans, and not heavy enough for others. They deftly overcome this by seamlessly integrating harmonious melody with pummelling barrages of sonic assault, without either feeling overpowering or out of place.

The Artist In The Ambulance (a title inspired by a book called The Burn Collector by Al Burian) is the third release of a band who have been steadily progressing since they formed in 1998, and who are only now beginning to see the success that a band of their quality deserves. This success has seen the band join friends Thursday at Island records, a relationship which resulted in the release of a split 7", which, to quote myself "absolutely rocks". Thrice were previously signed to SubCity, a label which attracted them due to its policy of donating a proportion of all record sales to charity, something which Thrice have been keen to continue, with donations from this album going to the Syrentha J. Savio Endowment.

The album opens with "Cold Cash And Colder Hearts", its driving beats and menacing harmonics providing an explosive start, whilst setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the album by ending with a restrained strings section. The band state that "dark things are more interesting", and vocalist Dustin Kensrue concedes that "I find it harder to write when content", so the fact that there is a lingering sinister feeling throughout the album is hardly surprising. This is epitomised in "Paper Tigers", which is what I imagine graveyards would sound like if they had their own inherent sound - the chorus even sounds a bit like Michael Jackson's 'Thriller', albeit with a bit more guitar work and a lot more screaming... The duality that Thrice exhibit is most clearly demonstrated between the shimmering "Stare At The Sun" and "Silhouette", which has a chorus that is liable to strip paint at twenty paces.

I felt that Thrice's debut full-length "Identity Crisis" was simply mediocre, as it lacked imagination and was slightly repetitive, whereas follow up "The Illusion Of Safety" received critical acclaim and won the band a good underground reputation, as well as a hardcore fan base. The Artist And The Ambulance continues this positive trend, and should provide ample sustenance to propel the band firmly into the mainstream.

False alarm, the artist in the ambulance is in perfect health. And long may it continue.