The word that most closely comes to mind when talking about Thrice is consistency. The second word that I most closely associate with this legendary band on their 11th studio album, Horizons/East, is variety. They simply do not make the same record twice; a true marking of an artist that is uncomfortable with the comfort that comes with creating similar sounding material. On Horizons/East, Thrice are able to embrace the change that comes with pushing themselves to their artistic limits, and much like that famous Lindsay Lohan meme; the limit does not exist.
This picturesque record opens with the sprawling “The Color of the Sky,” as Dustin Kensrue sets the stage with, “My first and foremost memory / Is staring up in wonder at the wall / It circumscribed the city / They said beyond it nothing dwelt at all / But I came to wonder if the stories all were true / So one night I made my mind up / I resolved that I would find a passage through” before drummer Riley Breckenridge explodes into one of my favorite drum fills in recent memory. Kensrue’s closing lyrics of “I don’t know the way, but I know that I belong out here / On this journey that I never thought I’d make / Setting out across a new frontier / A new horizon with each eager step I take,” seems to encapsulate everything that I love about his top-notch storytelling on my favorite opening tracks in their discography since Vheissu’s “Image of the Invisible.”
”Scavengers” is a completely different type of song, as it establishes a great bass line groove from Eddie Breckenridge that perfectly complements Kensrue’s guitar tones and vocals, intercepted with the utter brilliance of Teppei Teranishi, who continues to bring out surprise after surprise with each subsequent release. “Buried in the Sun” follows with another unique, yet abrasive sounding looped part that allows for Kensrue’s near-shouted opening verse feel like it’s packed with plenty of purpose. As the song progresses, Thrice channels their inner-prog rock brethren, with a dash of Alternative Rock punch.
”Northern Lights” follows the sprawling collection of different sounding songs found in the front half with a piano-laced song that relies more on Kensrue’s storytelling and experience as a frontman to explore not the path that lies before them, but the less traveled journey into the unknown. The song feels as free-flowing as Thrice has ever allowed themselves to be, and remains an early standout in the set. The bridge of “We want it all / We demand the impossible / There’s a better way to build a world / Where every hand is held and holding up,” seems like the type of direction we could use in this country and the world, in general, to get things set on the right course.
My personal favorite on Horizons/East comes in next with the brilliantly titled “Summer Set Fire To The Rain,” that rocks about as hard as the heavier material that came on Vheissu with a bit of The Artist in the Ambulance thrown in for good measure. Kensrue’s perfectly pitched vocals on the second verse of, “The winter held spring in white gloves / And slowly it grew / But you just stood there / Waiting for the world to walk out / To walk out on you” are some of the best lyrics he’s constructed in his tenure with a band that is aging like a fine wine.
”Still Life” is one of the slowest songs in this set, and it didn’t hit me with the emotions I was expecting to feel, even after repeat spins of the album. It’s definitely one of those “slow-burning” tracks that may have needed to be fleshed out a little more in order to really explore the dark tones that it tries to light up. Overall, it’s one of the only songs I could truly live without in this collection. Luckily things get redeemed quickly and partially back on the right path with “The Dreamer.” The verses reminded me a bit of the “shouted poetry” of Rise Against’s “The Approaching Curve” (off of The Sufferer and The Witness), and yet it seems like a curious choice of a song to nearly lead in the second half of the record. This is another song that I didn’t connect with as much as I was hoping I would.
One of the singles recently released, “Robot Soft Exorcism” is another one of those Thrice songs that you hear for the first time and find yourself trying to remember where you’ve heard it before. The problem is, they have created so much of their own lane with their music that it’s almost impossible to escape from the monster that Thrice created. The song churns along with purpose, and Kensrue’s line of “I know you’re scared / But so are we / And if you dare / You’ll start to see,” lets the listener in on the poorly kept secret that Thrice have got our back, even when it seems like the world is against us.
”Dandelion Wine” is a great title for a song that feels jazzy, sprawling, and yet focused at the same time. Much like getting punch drunk off of the material found in Thrice’s discography, the song demands to be consumed with headphones on to fully bring in the rich textures that come from tuning out all of the outside distractions in our lives. The album closer, “Unitive/East” initially reminded of the spacey rock that felt like floating above the clouds on their Alchemy Index: Air record, and the piano playing from Teranishi is top notch for someone who is arguably more talented on the guitar. The song, much like a lot of the back half of the album, travels off into the abyss more often than it hits its target, yet it still leaves just enough satisfying of a taste in the listeners’ mouths to want to take another quick look at Horizons/East.
This record is far from perfect, but hopefully will end up being one of those albums that really grows on me as the weather turns shitty, and I have more time to fully engross myself into the shorter days/longer nights that are sure to come from the changing of seasons. This record, if nothing else, made me appreciate Thrice’s willingness to throw everything out there and see what sticks as an approach to writing for the purpose of expanding what their sound can be. With so much in the world being taken away from us, I can only hope that Thrice remains the steady hand of consistency as they gear up for getting back on the road and take our breath away, one show at a time.