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The Alchemy Index, Vols. III & IV

Air & Earth

(Vagrant; US: 15 Apr 2008; UK: 14 Apr 2008)

Thrice once again reveals its deep spiritual side

Dustin Kensrue of Thrice is not shy about his Christian faith; he just cannot keep it from seeping into his songs. But at the same time, he never attempts to shove these beliefs down your throat. Alchemy Index, Vol. 3 & 4: Air and Earth will likely make you think twice about the human condition, the way Kensrue obviously did while writing it. This package is divided into two discs. The first is titled Vol. III Air, the second is named Vol. IV Earth. The first disc is more guitar-centric, whereas the second part relies more on keyboards. But no matter the style, all of these songs hold together well.

Kensrue’s spiritual perspective is most pointedly expressed during “Digging My Own Grave”, which appears on the second CD. Performed with jazzy piano, and an equally jazzy vocal, Kensrue takes the point of view of one in deep denial. He sings, “Just another cigarette”, before singing, “You know cancer can’t catch me”. But then he admits, “But oh, don’t I know / I’m just digging my own grave”. Finally he pleads, perhaps, to his God, “Someone else please save myself from me”. He’s not pointing any fingers at anyone. Instead, he’s admitting what we all feel: we are sometimes our own worst enemies. Furthermore, sometimes willpower alone isn’t enough to get us over. We need someone else’s help.

“Moving Mountains” applies this same confessional tone. But instead of detailing sins of commission, Kensrue describes his own sins of omission. Its lyric paraphrases 1 Corinthians 13, which decries the uselessness of any human act that lacks love. “I speak in many tongues to many men”, Kensrue begins, “Argue with angels and I always win / But I don’t know the first thing about love”. Its stark, acoustic arrangement brings out the seriousness of Kensrue’s self-examination.

Kensrue is not nearly as hopeless as these two examples make him seem, however. Near the end of the second CD comes “Come All You Weary”, which might even work as an altar call song during a Billy Graham Crusade. “Come all you weary with your heavy loads”, Kensrue holds out to those feeling like losers in life’s fight. “Lay down your burdens find rest for your souls”. Later in the track, Kensrue begins to sound closer to a faith healer. Especially when he sings, “Come all you weary, you crippled you lame / I’ll help you along you can lay down your canes”.

Although Thrice has been labeled an emo band, this widely varying recorded work proves the band easily transcends such limiting categorization. For example, “A Song for Milly Michaelson” is sung in a world weary voice that brings to mind the sort of gut-level honesty David Bazan expresses via Pedro The Lion. “The Sky Is Falling” is also a highly propulsive pop-rock track, one that isn’t dragged down by the over-emotionalism oftentimes found in emo.  Lastly, “Silver Wings” is a light, atmospheric track that finds Thrice stretching its sonic wings much further than many of its peers.

Kensrue has dedicated himself to remaining sincere with his music. He reminds us of this honesty during “The Sky Is Falling”. Its lyric appears to detail the aftermath of the horrific events on 9/11. It would be so easy to take a simplistic black and white view of the world, especially after the wrong that had been done. But Kensrue resists. “I’m gonna be strong enough / (to) not let my fear decide my fate”, he states. “Surrounded by jingoists; I don’t want any part of this”. Such words also fit with the many-times clichéd emo scene. Too many lyricists are little more than jingoists. There’s pressure to conform to the culture and thus become more marketable. Not so for Kensrue, however. He’s learning well how to speak from his heart and mind.


Dan MacIntosh is a freelance writer from Bellflower, California,

Tagged as: thrice
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