Here we have the much anticipated second installment of Thrice’s conceptual ‘The Alchemy Index’ recorded in the band’s own studio and engineered by guitarist Teppei Teranashi. “Although we wrote and recorded all four discs in the same time period, there was definitely a different approach to each one”, says singer Dustin Kensrue.
Starting with gently plucked guitar and softly spoken vocal ‘Broken Lungs’ brings to mind Funeral For A Friend’s recent sequence of downbeat releases. Yet it’s the hushed, wispy background noise of ‘A Song For Milly Michaelson’ that identifies these opening songs most effectively as the “Air” half of the album. There’s plenty of evidence that some sections have been pre-selected for inclusion with a finely-balanced dynamic structure obviously bent to include such intricate instrumentation. The drums remain fairly anonymous, happy to sit behind the star act of clean-cut guitars and soaring vocals.
“The Air disc is almost like a conglomeration of all four EP’s - it seems to be a bit more all over the place.” points out Teranishi. He turns his attention to the “Earth” disc explaining, “We knew that we wanted it very stripped down, with few electrified instruments or full drums. We recorded all of it in an empty wood room”. ‘Moving Mountains’ kicks off the “Earth” half and starts with echoed footsteps across this wooden floor as a raw banjo picks out a country jingle. Immediately a twangy generic vocal begins to jimmy out a rhythm but it‘s not upbeat enough to kick off a hoe-down. ‘Digging My Own Grave’ transports us to a saloon with jangling piano and a heartfelt song of love. ‘Child Of Dust’ brings proceedings to a close and is a sonnet composed by Kensrue, set to music, yet organised in the traditional English structure and rhythmic fashion. Humanity’s failings may be a fine subject matter to sing about, but I‘m sorry, in my disappointment I‘d dropped off to sleep by this point.
What is lacking here is one of Thrice’s trademark buccaneering, punchier tracks to inject some urgency, life and even bile. I understand why there isn’t one but it doesn’t make it okay to leave one out. The closest we get is the chorus of ‘Come All You Weary’ which is more of a hang-dog lament than a chance to bully-off. I’m sorry but this just doesn’t cut the mustard and serves notice of a move towards a band made weaker for being allowed to rattle off ambitious new ideas out in independent waters.