A Change of Pace
Aging does funny things to a person. Not just the inevitable wrinkles, poorer eyesight, general forgetfulness and the general slackening of skin against bone, but it changes you a bit. You learn from mistakes (in some cases), accept things are the way they are and become a whole lot less radical than you were in your much younger days.
During the height of Screamo, the release of Thrice’s The Artist In The Ambulance was a revelation. Angry, driven and tightly wound, it was part political rage, part personal struggle but was an exciting and vital listen. Although follow up, Veihssu was slightly less impressive as the immense dissatisfaction and drive which seemed key to their earlier efforts was missing, it still had a few shining moments of genius about it. But now we come to The Alchemy Index. Originally meant to be a series of four EPs covering the four elements (the first two instalments, 'Fire and Water' were released together last year), we find that all the palpable anger and rage has somehow dissipated and instead we have a much more low key and experimental offering. It appears that age has changed the Thrice boys.
This album in particular is the sound of a band who have grown considerably. The temptation to say that they have ‘done a Radiohead’ on us would be far too easy, although it seems like quite an abrupt sea change for them both musically and lyrically, much the way Radiohead did with Kid A.
The ‘Air’ section of the album is ethereal in its sound. Melancholic and a little downbeat, it relies heavily upon that stripped down sound that is synonymous with chill out music: all light guitars and touches of electronic pips and such. Although, it does incorporate a full ‘rock’ sound in terms of instrumentation, it stays restrained and ultimately very lo-fi.
The ‘Earth’ section is even more curious in terms of sound. Again, much more stripped down than previous efforts and recorded in a wood floored room, which has given it an incredibly personal feel to it: you feel like you are with them. Perhaps one of the most interesting tracks is ‘Digging My Own Grave’ which sounds almost Damian Rice with a jazz piano and dotted with finger snaps and a soulful refrains.
Although there is a temptation to knock this album if you were to compare to previous efforts, especially if you have been a fan of their other albums, but it is still an interesting enough experiment. How this new material will work live amongst their older body of work is anyone’s guess, but by itself, this album is not without its merits.