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Alchemy Index volume 1&2, Fire and Water Album Review

“Firebreather” sets the pace for Volume 1 of Thrice’s “Alchemy Index with a tense synthesizer moving into hard-hitting drums and guitar line. The simple rhythm does not detract from the slightly malicious tone set by the singer coming in as the drums fade out asking, “Tell me are you free?”

“Burn the Fleet” takes a slightly different approach to representing fire. The songwriter paints a picture of a monumental life decision from which there is no turning back by singing about an army landing on the shore of a foreign land and burning their ships. Despite the obvious potential feeling of anxiety that comes with “Burn the Fleet,” the relaxed intensity of the vocals and matching layered instrumentation gives the feeling of un-regretting, fearless resolve and anticipation for what lies ahead.

While each song represents fire in some way, few of them have you feel it like “The Flame Deluge. The background crackling sound and the screaming vocals gives the feeling of being in the middle of the flames, with all the intensity of an inferno. The lyrics back this up as the vocalist speaks to his destructive power, using the analogy of a bomb. The sonnet ends with his sorrowful resignation, “It’s lonely when there’s no one left to fight.”

Musically and lyrically, “Firebreather” is an enjoyable and thought provoking album. Thematically however, it can be somewhat limited. “Firebreather” fails to give the impression that it can be warm and wholesome, and can bring warmth and light.

If you can’t get past the screaming of “Firebreather” to appreciate the depth of lyrics and the feel of the harshest element, maybe the softer texture of it’s counterpart Volume 2, “Water,” will be more your cup of tea. “Digital Sea” and “Open Water” both explore analogies related to water. The heavy synthesizers in each convey the feeling of being in or near water.

“Lost Continent” speaks to the truth about human nature and the lie of the ‘good ol’ days.’ You can feel the sorrow and hopelessness dripping from his voice and the melancholy timbre of the keyboard.

The only instrumental on either album, “Night Diving,” feels at times like the calming expanse of the deep ocean at night, at other times like the danger of what may be lurking and the excitement of adventure into the unknown.

These first two installments into the “Alchemy Index” showcase Thrice’s diversity and skill in writing both lyrics and instrumentation. Even ignoring the fact that it is a concept album, the music and lyrics are intriguing and enjoyable. I would give it a 9.5/10. Bottom line, buy it, listen, and enjoy.

Review by Paul Osborne, originally for Music 262. Reprinted with permission.

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