The double disc album can be a pitfall for many bands. The girth of a release sometimes outweighs the overall vision and flow of the effort. Such is not the case with this 4-disc opus (ok, it’s technically a two release 24 song opus that could fit on two discs, but who’s counting?). I never thought I’d say it, but with the release of the second half of The Alchemy Index, Thrice has succeeded in creating a relevant multi-disc album that not only stands as a testament to the success of the format but also maintains a fairly even level of quality throughout. Though it is not without its slip-ups, the release stands as an excellent departure and display of tremendous growth from a band once pigeon holed as “screamo”.
Expanding upon the dramatic echoes of the Water EP, the Air portion of The Alchemy Index contains some of the most powerful songs Thrice has written to date. Dustin Kensrue’s voice is the star of this disc. It’s incredible to look back on the bands early work and see just how far his voice has come, not just in terms of technical ability, but the vast leaps it has made in sincerity. The light tones are a gentle transition from the days of The Illusion Of Safety, yet contain all the passion of the screams found on the Fire EP. The believability of Kensrue’s voice on tracks like “The Sky Is Falling” leave Chicken Little crapping himself to find a new shtick. There is certainly no lack of references to the title element, but Thrice finds ways to expand upon the topic and, interestingly enough, creating a disc that musically embodies something that itself has very little physical representation. The set takes all elements (no pun intended) of Thrice and mashes them together. From the crashing heavy sections (“Broken Lungs”) to the beautiful barely there subtlety of Kensrue’s vocals (“Silver Wings”, “A Song For Milly Michaelson”), the disc is a fitting high point for the band and is a step closer to achieving the potential we know they are capable of.
Unfortunately the Earth disc shares little in common with the evocative Air EP. Instead of being the rising denouement to the Air EP’s climax that I was hoping for, it shares more in common with one of the five endings to the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy; excellent and important to the overall vision, but some parts could probably have been left for the director’s cut. Not that there aren’t moments of sheer brilliance found here (“Come All You Weary”, “The Lion And The Wolf”, “Moving Mountains”), there just isn’t anything that sticks as much as the other sections of The Alchemy Index. While the disc shows an interesting facet of the band and is a good listen while it is happening, Earth just doesn’t have the staying power of the other elemental EPs. The band experiments with a stripped down instrumentation to keep with the theme of the record and is successful for the most part, but some tracks (“The Earth Isn’t Humming”) suffer from the lack of variation. There are no really bad parts to the disc; it is just that the lack of moving parts is magnified by the quality of its elemental counterparts.
Thrice has created something on a grander scale than even they could probably predicted in their early days. The Alchemy Index Volumes III and IV concludes the epic effort, and more importantly, delivers on what the band promised when they first announced plans for the album. This is a perfect example of how such a massive undertaking can be done with style, grace and unmatched quality. While there are sections that are not as good as the others and some songs that seem to end before they have time to reach their peak, there is really something for everyone here. From the symbiosis of Fire and Water to the lightness of Air and Earth, The Alchemy Index represents an all-encompassing achievement for Thrice. The only problem is, when you have done something this large, how do you surpass it?