Written by Nicholas Cram
Everyone has their own “coming of age” album. That musical, gravitational assist maneuver that you took a chance on. It opened up new ideas, and new ways of seeing the world, and then you jettison towards your future with a new found understanding and eagerness. It makes you feel as comfortable as you can be, outside of your comfort zone. Refreshing as spring rain, still cold to the touch, but the promise of new life is EVERYWHERE.
On various social media sites, recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of my friends post about their top ten most influential albums as adolescents. Reflection about which ones I adored, I came down to the two that really pushed me to think outside of the box, and helped me through an emotionally challenging and tempestuous time. They are the collective concept albums “The Alchemy Index Vol: I – IV” by Thrice.
The concept is this: Each Volume represents Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. The sound of the music is based on the nature of these elements. So whilst Fire is heavy distortion powerhouse screaming, and infernally dissonant, Water is this deep sound with ethereal synthesizers and slow flowy melodies. Earth has a folky gritty sound,(Fact: on the track “Child of Dust” they shoveled dirt onto the microphone whilst singing, to create the muted effect of being buried) while Air has clean electric guitars and an innate breezy feel to the rhythm.
They were released two elements (volumes) at a time Fire & Water was released in October of 2007, and Earth & Air was released in April of 2008. The sounds are generally very different from the band’s older music; although the band had displayed trace amounts of their diversity in past albums, they remained pretty close to the post-hardcore, alt-rock genres. These two albums shake everything up, for they have reinvented themselves. The Alchemy Index truly flaunts the band’s versatility, and Dustin Kensrue’s ethereal vocal ability to sound like that of something out of both heaven and hell
Their use of new sound is not the only attractive quality to these albums. (Though the sound is exquisite.) Each Volume (or element) consists of six songs, and the last song on each volume, is a narrative sonnet sung from the perspective of that element. The last 2 lines of each of the four sonnets are sung in the exact same melody. The lyrical content is deep, and the variety of stories in each track woven by frontman Dustin Kensrue is just as vast as the palette of emotions the band used to create this brilliant work. There are songs of fury and power, songs of struggle, love, hope as well as songs of revolution, and unity. A taste of every emotion, and a generous offering of a different perspective on things, wrapped in depths of stories told, explosive choruses, grounded languorous piano melodies, and the sensation of floating on clouds during the band’s acapella harmonies.
In October the first two volumes, Fire & Water, will celebrate the 10th anniversary of their release. The Alchemy Index Vol. I – IV are two albums I will continue to listen to through many decades to come.