There are concept albums and then there is Thrice's latest offering. Breaking down into what is basically four EP's 'The Alchemy Index Volume I and II' kicks off proceedings by showcasing the Californian angst-metal band's schizophrenic nature in all its snarling glory. As the first instalment of an ambitious two part album, 'The Alchemy Index Volume I and II' takes inspiration form two of the four natural elements, water and fire with the remaining elements getting their time in the spotlight next spring. Ambitious yes. Original most definitely for whilst the concept album may be a pretentious gamble that band's will embark on in their careers to add a little spark to proceedings, this approach is something quite new. Partner this with the fact that this is Thrice's debut release on their new label and suddenly the Californian band seem to be gambling with high stakes that could propel them to astronomical heights or else banish them to no man's land.
Energetically charged with anger and rage erupting from every beat and every blood curdling scream, Volume I can belong to only one element, fire. Capturing Thrice doing what they do best the fire proportion of the album is a noisy and passionate blast of cutting melodies, gigantically thrashing riffs and thumping drums that are tied vigorously around Dustin Kensrue's agonized howls. As 'Firebreather' eerily marks its entrance Thrice are quick to inject the first bout of raging heat to the album as the track builds to anthem status, raging and roaring with venom and passion to add the first spark. And things don't fail to slow down as Thrice keep the heat on full blast with 'The Messenger' erupting in a hail of full throated roars that snarl and growl alongside Teppei Teranishi's whirling guitars. From this we get the epicically engaging 'Burn The Fleet' brimming with sing out loud choruses akin to Funeral For A Friend before making way for the full force attack of 'The Flame Deluge'. Engulfed in fury and exploding with enthusiasm these are six songs that will leave you checking for scorch marks.
Taking things to the other extreme, the water side of the album finds the band in a more sedate frame of mind, embracing their almost electric roots with songs more in line with Coldplay or Depeche Mode than any metal act as introspective lyrics swim with melodically honed guitars and the gentle lull of drum beats. Sedate and serene 'Volume II' does exactly what it should; create the feeling of water to quench the flames left burning from 'Volume I'. With the beauty of the dark melodies sweeping throughout 'The Whaler' to the almost pretensioness of 'Digital Sea' in all its indie-electronica finery, 'Volume II' displays a whole different side to Thrice, allowing Kensrue's vocals to soar with emotion and letting everyone see what a talented songwriter he is.
As a concept album 'The Alchemy Index Volume I and II' leaves many bands crushed in its wake. Gutsy and with energy and passion in full supply this is an album that will have you raging aggressively one minute before tenderly calming you back down to earth the next and whilst the water side may not be as engaging as the fire inspired tracks they make up for it all simply for their beauty and grace. Brave, bold, brash and beautiful, this is as musically close to the elements as you ever likely to get and with two down let's hope the last two can live up to expectations.