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Thrice CD falls short of album's tall orders

Nov. 16, 2005

by STEPHEN CORTEZ, contributor

Thrice is a band whose evolution from album to album has always been flawless. Its debut Identity Crisis was dotted with metal riffs. The Illusion of Safety was characterized by short, frenetically paced tracks. The Artist in the Ambulance showed some maturity without losing the hardcore background.

Vheissu is something totally different. With this album, Thrice delves into different genres and incorporates electronic elements to add atmosphere to the songs.

"If we didn't explore different styles and various influences, it would become stagnant," drummer Riley Breckenridge said in a recent interview with decoymusic.com.

There are still hardcore elements present on Vheissu, including the full-throttle guitar, pummeling drums and heartfelt screams. However, these fade into the background as the album heads in a much more emotional direction.

The opening track, "Image of the Invisible," can only be described as an anthem with its memorable verses and group chants on the chorus. The track is extremely catchy, yet lacks any direction and is undeniably predictable.

Tracks like "Between the End and Where We Lie" and "Atlantic" incorporate a good deal of atmospheric electronics, extensive intros and actual singing, rather than screaming, by frontman Dustin Kensrue.

The songs drag a little and the attention to the orchestration of the atmosphere draws comparisons to bands like Radiohead. Lyrically the album is brilliant, but there are moments where it is obvious that Kensrue just doesn't have the vocal abilities that such songs require.

"Hold Fast Hope" is just what fans of Thrice's hardcore days should do as this track displays as much raw aggression as any in its catalog. "The Earth Will Shake" is the real standout on the album.

The track is a haunting chain gang ballad that includes vocals from the chain gang itself, as well as some excellent lyrics and guitar work, beautifully transitioning to and from some thrashing verses.

There will certainly be a large majority of people who will proclaim what a terrific breakthrough album Vheissu is, and I'm not saying they're wrong.

It's not easy to craft such an album with so much thought and emotion, and Thrice should be commended for the strides it has made musically. But I think the band is a bit confused in the direction it's looking for.

After about one listen the album is -- for lack of a better adjective -- boring. As Breckenridge himself stated, "I guess I kind of felt that the record was going to be decisive; people were either going to like it or dislike it. There's no middle ground."

Give Vheissu a shot and see for yourself, as this style may appeal to your taste, but it found its way out of my CD player quickly. Grade: C.