Thrice – Horizons/East (Album Review)
Thrice – Horizons/East
Released: September 17, 2021
Dustin Kensrue | vocals/guitars
Tippei Teranishi | guitars/keyboards
Eddie Breckenridge | bass/keyboards
Riley Breckenridge | drums
In J.R.R Tolkien’s novel The Lord Of The Rings – The Return Of The King there is a quote from the elven Queen Galadriel which reads as: “He has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted … and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat”. Those last three words from this prose are the pivotal part of this introduction: “The long defeat”; while the readers of this fine publication begin their journey down a path of utter confusion at how any of this is relevant, but also secretly consider a triathlon of The Lord Of The Rings film series – this writer urges you to read on.
‘The Long Defeat’ is quizzically the fifth song on experimental post hardcore rock quartet Thrice’s ninth studio album To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, the LP which returned them to the world from hiatus. Intriguingly the song includes the lyrics: “But together we’ll fight the long defeat” – coincidence? Astonishingly no; vocalist, guitarist and lyricist Dustin Kensrue has in numerous interviews professed that the iconic book series has influenced his songwriting and even inspired his approach to life. Now, five years on, the four-piece having released the compelling Palms record in 2018 and then, the modern world (especially in performance art), changed due to a virus. So are the Californian rock alchemists still fighting their, or even this “long defeat”?
A haunting synth line landing somewhere between a Deftones’ Frank Delgado and MuteMath’s Paul Meany keyboard composition unveils the opening track ‘The Color Of The Sky’ to the listeners for the opening of Thrice’s 11th studio album Horizons/East with an eerily calming effect. Dustin Kensrue begins with a soft yet rugged croon like latter day Frank Sinatra blended with Bing Crosby, very modernised understandably, which boasts the vital lyric at the end of the introduction: “I resolve that I would find a passage through”.
With that one statement, Thrice have clearly stated their intention to continue their fight – be wary though, this isn’t ‘The Artist In The Ambulance’ fighting for life, it is more the fight when ‘The Sky Is Falling’.
The namesake of the two “sky” song titles aforementioned is actually an accurate description of where ‘The Color Of The Sky’ fits – on The Alchemy Index Vol III Air. However, before there is any prediction of where Thrice are headed on Horizons/East – the assumption is already incorrect; again, read on.
Lead single ‘Scavengers’ is a song that Chuck Ragan and the beloved Hot Water Music forgot to include when recording Exister in 2012; actually, it is more like Thrice contributed it to their long time touring and punk friends’ return album as a co-write but then HWM lost their master version and then said to Thrice: “You did it better, keep it”. Starting to see versatility already? Hold on, we are only initiating the destruction of The Illusion Of Safety.
‘Buried The Sun’ is complex, even for Thrice. Aggressive in a somewhat abstruse delivery yet political and powerful, but very left field even for these adventurers. Somehow the outfit put the RAGE in GARAGE – not that the music is completely “garage”; if anything there are hints of Rage Against The Machine here, not in a rap-rock sense, but in spirit (even production). This is beyond what Vheissu accomplished which this scribe thought was an impossibility; how to surmise it though? Zeal & Ardor are phenomenal with their musical coalescence, ‘Buried The Sun’ is nearing that stratosphere.
‘Northern Lights’ is the beautiful combination of everything Minus The Bear cultivated with their explorations except more tense than timbre, tremendously. ‘Summer Set Fire To The Rain’ is sensationally the sequel or older brother to ‘The Image Of The Invisible’ and ‘Still Life’ takes life from parts I, III and IV of The Alchemy Index – recognisable yet reckless, remarkably.
If La Dispute and Thrice were able to ‘come together’ to perform a postscript version of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ the result may just well be ‘The Dreamer’ – undoubtedly still “pushing the barrier planting seed” even after 23 years with the same line-up. ‘Robot Soft Exorcism’ is the four gentlemen (not) simply saying their most idyllic thank you to Radiohead’s career musically. ‘Dandelion Wine’ presents itself more as a Dustin Kensrue solo track than a Thrice composition. It is evocative in how it captures heavy and soft continuously and in a staggered fashion; there is to a degree another nod to Deftones with its delivery, although it is easily translated into even a Frodus track in moments.
Ready for the final chapter of oddity? Research the name Brad Mehldau; as Thrice very well might have as a guide to their closing curtain ‘Unitive East’ with erraticism. A piano jazz malformation of magnificence. It is possibly the Mork to Radiohead’s Mindy.
On the aforementioned return album from Thrice, when they rejoined forces from their absence in 2016 and first ‘Long Defeat’, there is a song entitled ‘The Window’ – in this writer’s humble opinion, it is what these four gentlemen from Irvine are constantly pursuing with their art, looking through ‘The Window’ and it is possibly (hopefully) endless. The Horizons/East through this looking glass might not be everyone’s utopia but it is near impossible to be unmoved at being witness to it.
Thrice – Horizons/East tracklisting:
1. The Color Of The Sky
3. Buried In The Sun
4. Northern Lights
5. Summer Set Fire To The Rain
6. Still Life
7. The Dreamer
8. Robot Soft Exorcism
9. Dandelion Wine
Horizons/East is out Friday, Sept 17 via Epitaph Records. Stream here
Review by Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill
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