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5.0 out of 5 stars Californian post-hardcore crew veer even further from their roots, 13 Mar. 2008
This review is from: The Alchemy Index: Volumes 1 and 2 Fire and Water (Audio CD)
When Thrice first announced plans to release a 4-disc concept album based around the 4 natural elements (Wind, Fire, Earth and Air), the reception was decidedly divided. The bands message board was filled with fans arguing over the ambitious direction they were heading in, some even accusing Thrice of being overly pretentious. Whilst some were intrigued by the experimentation, others were voicing their concern about their heroes moving even further from their punk/metal fuelled days of `The Illusion Safety'.

But that record was a long time ago and Thrice have since evolved into something much more mature and prosperous. 2005s `Vheissu' started the experimental ball rolling with some truly wonderful vocal melodies that were complimented with some soaring guitar and keyboard work, the latter of which wasn't present on their earlier material. The first two instalments of `The Alchemy Index' (Fire and Water) have taken the heavy and the melodic parts of `Vheissu' and veered even further into them respective musical directions.

First track on the Fire disc, `Firebreather', kicks off with an off-kilter time signature reminiscent of prog masters Isis' early drone material, but Dustin Kensrue's vocals make it uniquely Thrice sounding. `The Messenger' is the one track that most sounds like something off of `Illusion Of Safety' with its thrashy drums and intense breakdown, however third track `Backdraft' puts this style to rest rather quickly with its spacey verses and atmospheric chorus. This first of 4 volumes ends quite dramatically with the ridiculously heavy `The Flame Deluge'; a car wreck of layered open chorded guitars and roaring vocals, which paves the way intriguingly for the Water disc.

This is where Thrice would really be put to the test as they tread previously unexplored waters (no pun intended). Riley's signature pounding drum sound is replaced by electronic beats and Dustin's vocals soothe quite beautifully over some epic guitar and piano parts. Instrumental track `Night Diving' erupts massively with its Cult Of Luna-esque guitar work, whilst `Open Water' sways across the speakers seemingly effortlessly with its endearing chorus and catchy vocal hooks.

The concept may reek of artistic pretentiousness, but when it is pulled off as beautifully as this, who are we to point fingers? The remaining two volumes, Earth and Air, will surface in early 2008 and if it's anything like what we have experienced here, it will complete a 4-disc set of truly mesmerising proportions.
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