Sound — 8
With each new release Thrice manage evolve their sound in unique ways attempting to please no one but themselves. With their previous release the 4 disc epic "The Alchemy Index" they found a way to split the many facets of their sound they started developing with "Vheissu" into 4 very stylistically different EPs. After branching out into so many directions you would think they would go for topping themselves by making the most progressive and experimental album they have done so far. I was picturing "Vheissu" kicked up several notches. Thrice took an unexpected left turn with Beggars. This is by no means a bad thing. Whereas "The Alchemy Index" songs were built from the ground up piece by piece often with the help of a laptop and often strayed away from the traditional "rock band" sound, "Beggars" is clearly a product of pure chemistry from a band that has played together for many years just getting together and jamming out. As a result "Beggars" is far more raw and straight forward but there are definitely little tidbits of the tricks they learned putting together "Vheissu" and "The Alchemy Index". One noticeable difference is that the roaring rhythm section of Ed and Riley Breckenridge is no longer as understated as they were on many of The Alchemy Index songs. They are loud and aggressive on this album but more in a groove oriented sort of way than a heavy sort of way. Dustin and Teppei's guitars seem a bit understated in terms of technical prowess albeit loud and gritty sounding in many areas. They seem to have gone for a more soulful feel. Teppei's keyboard work is prominently featured in a few tracks but overall many of the unique sounds and instruments used in the past are absent. This really contributes to the rock band feel of this album. Key words when describing the sound and feel of this album would be "groove" and "soul".
Lyrics — 9
Dustin Kensrue never fails to deliver with his vocals and lyrics. Vocally he seems to have taken a lot from the style he has developed from his solo efforts and the Earth Disc. A big change from past Thrice records is the absence of screaming. There is plenty of his well pitched yelling and even more of his soulful croons and softer singing. Lyrically "Beggars" is also a departure from previous albums. Rather the many literary references and somewhat cryptic religiously tinged lyrics he has done in the past he opts for more of a storytelling perspective. He sings from the perspectives of dying man realizing he wasted his life (At The Last), a wandering homeless man (In Exile), a man on deathrow (Wood and Wire), to criticisms of humanity's foolishness and evil (All the World is Mad, Circles, Beggars). Kensrue is definitely good at finding some sort of theme to link the songs together for each Thrice album. "Beggars" may not have the usual intellectual head games but the lyrics are great nonetheless.
Overall Impression — 8
Beggars may not have the huge grandiose sound Thrice has had on their latest albums but it still stands strong amongst the rest of their discography. Obviously anyone hoping for a return to the Illusion of Safety and Artist in the Ambulance days is going to be disappointed but I think many agree that with music and great bands evolution is better than stagnation. Thrice may have gone in an unexpected direction but they did it well and with amazing musicianship and humbleness. In the end Thrice have left themselves in a good spot after releasing this record. They can continue to do whatever they want in future efforts and it won't be so shocking or unexpected. Just hope they continue to use the good judgment they have used thus far.