Have you ever finished watching a particularly moving film or completed a strikingly emotional book, only to sit in your plush-leather seat — dumbfounded? There is that split second of realization that nothing you ever accomplish in your life will come close to the intellectual and emotional genius you just experienced. I have had such a feeling on only a few rare occasions; however, after each listen of Thrice’s Vheissu, this numbness pummels the skin around my chest.
It is perfect.
Reflect on that word for a moment, perfect, because it is not something I write often. Yes, I get excited about CDs, and yes within the next few years you will probably see me become aroused by music time and time again; however, I will never use the word “perfect” to describe another CD again. As of this moment, and due to this album, it’s retired.
Before we journey further, let us get the basics out of the way:
Is it good? Yes.
Should you buy it? Yes.
If that is all you wanted to know, stop reading.
It is no secret that I do not write many reviews. I am quite simply not that good of a writer to discuss musical shadows on pieces I do not fully love. Yet, on the rare occasion I am absolutely floored by an album, I feel that I have a duty to put to paper how an artist’s work has changed me. This is such an album.
Open your mind.
Morse code through the atmosphere is how the anathematic album begins its systematic takeover of your life. Like a wolf haunted by the smell of blood, we are tossed into the album’s opener “Image of the Invisible” with that un-shakable feeling of hunger and lust. Addicting gang-vocal chants lead the listener through not only this song, but also act as if to foreshadow an undeniable rallying call motif. Do not get too comfortable because we move quickly from the fast-paced opening track to an almost slower melodic trance.
Within “Between the End and Where We Lie,” we find stimulating noises stalking through the background of the track. The ambiance almost draws your attention away from the vocals; but only for a second, before they come crashing back to the forefront of your consciousness. Beautifully constructed; it is within the small details of the song the listener should pay attention. Lyrically, Dustin has taken his already superb writing to a completely new level. It is mind-bending how listening to another’s words can actually make you feel smarter.
As the song fades, an ethereal voice sings as if bouncing off granite walls. The listener is immediately drawn into the somber mood. If while listening to the previous track you thought the band had lost their harder edge, it is within “The Earth Will Shake” you realize how very wrong you were. Pushing forward with a rhythmic intensity we are dragged though one of the biggest songs in recent memory. If you allow yourself, you can slip into an almost daze like state; the sun raining on your back, the sweat stinging your eyes, the salty taste in the corner of your mouth as you echo the chant down to the soil at your feet.
The picture painted through the music is pristine.
Moving seamlessly from the gruff screams of the previous track to poignant melody the listener becomes engulfed as “Atlantic” takes off with a plethora of sounds. It is as if the song itself has created an atmosphere around its listener. Acoustic guitars and calming drums acting as the guide by which your body is pulled to ever so tightly. The song leads perfectly into “For Miles” which opens with a dancing piano piece. While their peers continue the march of “par for course,” Thrice evolved. They have pushed the envelope for not only themselves, but for all of music under this scene’s umbrella. Epic. The chorus on this song has no other description for which it fits. It is as if the collusion of time and space has this chorus already predestined for greatness. The most amazing part is that this word … epic begins to take on a completely new meaning as the album progresses. I have only called two other albums in my entire life “epic,” because I think the word stands itself, and the article it describes, up on too high a pedestal. Yet, I am not in the slightest squeamish of using it to describe the complexity that enthralls the listener with each new listen.
I know there are detractors that are turned off with how I choose to review CDs. I understand how my hyperbolic tone sometimes stretches the imagination with the reaches I take. To these people I must confess: I only write what I would be screaming to my friends at every chance if I did not have this glorified soapbox from which to shout. Music is my passion. I am not good enough of a writer to explain the vast nuances of the music; I can only write what I know. Moreover, when we are discussing this album, I only know it is unlike anything I was prepared for.
“Hold Fast Hope,” bursts with a fury I cannot put into words. Dustin’s vocals scratch at the back of your eardrums, the bass line reverberate your teeth, and the lyrics border on gospel. What appears to be an ode to the Biblical tale of Jonah appears through the shifting bitter screams and soothing melody, that only Thrice can create:
deep beneath the black dawn, leagues from lightning’s flash
ribs will raise cathedrals for the morning mass
steel yourself in sackcloth roll your heart in ash
scrape your skin with steel wool and hold fast hope
Each song brings forth the art of music. Each constructed to spin an atmosphere acting as a rallying call. “Music Box” churns out a steady rhythm; “Like Moth to Flame” contemplates its own tempo with each beat. The songs beginning in a completely different area then where they end. This sort of song writing leaves the listener unable to guess where each song will take them; and this journey is what makes the music so infectious. “Of Dust and Nations” ghostly opener paints a mood upon the canvas of the willing mind. Each track acting as a separate piece of art within a gallery; the common theme apparent in all, yet each taking on a life and breath of their own. Vocals move into the most melodic we have ever heard from the band and wither into a lengthy dreamy instrumental as the song fades.
“Stand and Feel Your Worth” should be the anthem by which the world unites behind. The bass and drums are magnificent. Dustin’s vocals border on screams yet pull back just before climaxing; all of the notes are carried just long enough to linger as after-thoughts.
we are wrought with breath and dirt, washed in second sight
woven through the earth, wreathed in rings of light
we will wield a second birth, whet our wits and knives
wrap our knees in earth, wrap ourselves in light
The production makes it sound as though the band is playing in a red sahara mirage, surrounded by sand where you can almost feel the needles tapping your cheeks. The apex comes with the gruff screams of pure passion that close out the track.
Ending the album with “Red Sky” is as if the best was held for last. Epic. There I go using that word again. Fucking epic. It’s bordering on being the best song of the year. It’s so good, that I feel I’m doing a disservice by even allowing myself to attach my own words to it. Everything I have ever written isn’t worthy of being associated in any way with how absolutely breathtaking this song is. It could close out Lord of the Rings, or The Godfather, – that’s how epic this track is. I’m not saying anything else besides buy this album just for this song. You’ll get your money’s worth in just this four minutes and twenty seconds.
I have to tell you this was the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. It’s as though I was asked to describe an illusory color, or light itself. I don’t know how to put words on greatness. It’s an album like this, that’s so big, so monstrous, and so gigantic – that it makes my words and my descriptions or feelings so dwarfed by comparison. For me, it’s like Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity or Brand New’s Deja Entendu – if anyone ever says they don’t like at least some part of it … I lose all interest in ever talking to them again. All the clichés are worn out. I fail to conceive what to type next. All of my words mean absolutely nothing unless you make this album your own. Take it in as though it were oxygen. Breathe each line, each note, and each small ambient sound. Now as my lack of vocabulary and my self-consciousness has become too much for me, I can only close this review with the most simple of words: this is music, this is your anthem.