The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water Review

artist: Thrice date: 06/10/2008 category: compact discs
Thrice: The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water
Release Date: Oct 16, 2007
Label: Vagrant
Genres: Post-Hardcore, Punk Revival, Screamo
Number Of Tracks: 12
Thrice's experimentation pays off with a truly unique introduction to their opus.
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 7.9
 Overall Impression: 8.1
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reviews (7) 55 comments vote for this album:
overall: 10
The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water Reviewed by: UG Team, on october 22, 2007
7 of 7 people found this review helpful

Sound: In September of 2006, Thrice announced to their fans that they had an idea for a new album, to follow up 2005's 'Vheissu' (which in this reviewer's opinion is one of the best albums ever made). It massively interested and excited Thrice fans across the world. Since 'The Artist In The Ambulance', Thrice have become a far more experimental band, as 'Vheissu' used far more varied instrumentation and brought in a whole new collection of influences to add to their hardcore and pop-punk centre. The concept was to write and record four EPs representing the four elements of nature, Earth, Fire, Water and Air. Each EP has a distinctive sound and lyrical theme. Despite all four discs being finished at around the same time, The Alchemy Index is being released in two parts. This release features the Fire and Water discs, and the Earth and Air discs will be released in April 2008. The texture shared on Fire's six tracks is one reminiscent of the band's older sounds, using massive riffing and combining it with gliding and layered melodies to create a hard-hitting but very memorable sound. This theme is applied to perfection in the opening salvo 'Firebreather', which is also arguably the most accessible song of the disc. What follows is where the experiment truly begins to show itself. Using an electronic beat to introduce a driving dissonant song is not something you see every day, but that is the nature of Thrice. Making the discs with next to no outside influence (the experiment was recorded in their own studios, and guitarist Teppei Teranishi engineered and mixed it), this music is made the way Thrice wants it, and there are a lot of unpredictable turns on Fire which may not suit the listener, however listen with an open mind and you will appreciate the band's artistic mettle. It's a powerhouse that isn't designed to, and thus doesn't, follow up the beauty of 'Vheissu', but songs like 'Backdraft' certainly put a big dent in Thrice material before that. After the sonically scalding (no pun intended) journey of Fire, what better way to cure it than Water? Many say that Fire includes the most familiar Thrice sound but honestly I make the link between Water and 'Vheissu' with ease. This one has a comforting, soft texture that you can immerse yourself in immediately. Funnily enough, the similarity between the music's texture and the feeling of immersing yourself in a body of water is very similar. Using mostly electronic (or muffled) percussion, every instrument is doused with effects that must have taken massive fine tuning to perfect. Every individual sound compliments it's surroundings and the vocal melodies in particular are truly beautiful on this disc. Despite the euphoric qualities of the vocals (the vocal ending to 'The Whaler' is one of the most incredible sections of music I've heard from Thrice), I feel the most interesting track on the Water disc is the instrumental track 'Night Diving'. At six minutes it is the longest song in the two volumes, and instrumentally it follows the story of a man who dived deep into the sea at night, who sees all kinds of amazing things on his journey. With that in mind the three movements of the track are very involving. I think that the juxtaposition of Fire and Water is very effective as the subtleties of Water are only brought to more attention after the very unsettling vibe of Fire. When you listen to 'The Flame Deluge' (which could easily be a Cult Of Luna or Isis song), then it's immediately followed by something as relaxing, but still involving as 'Digital Sea', there's a certain effect that these volumes have on you, and I love it. // 10

Lyrics: Dustin Kensrue's lyrics have been absolutely stellar for a long time. He's a very talented vocalist and his poetic and meaningful lyrics enhance the experience of listening to him that much more. Having also designed the artwork, the true meanings behind his words are more apparent, even though the linking themes of fire and water do help to an extent. Thankfully he has avoided creating my biggest fear for this project: corniness. The lyrics aren't just about the physical identity of the elements and I'm very glad because six songs of It's pretty wet would completely fail to live up to his masterful words on 'Vheissu'. Fire's lyrics mostly relate to rebellion in historical and religious contexts, and a need to break free from whatever constraints your superiors or opponents impose on you. In this way it makes the Fire disc even more connected to older Thrice material, as I begin to think of songs like 'Paper Tigers' and 'Between The End And Where We Lie' whilst I read. Water's lyrics are far more cryptic and the meanings are not as clear as on the Fire disc. This made me realise exactly how well crafted these discs are, as the 'in your face' value of the Fire disc is reflected in the lyrics, and the deeper thought provocation of Water is found in both the music and the lyrics. However, I think the most poetic and artistically stimulating lyrics are to be found in Water. One line in particular which caught my attention was Was there a time we looked around; and do we really even want to know what's going down? from 'Lost Continent', which the more I look at it seems to be a political comment pointing out the continuous mentality of the human race. As an extra point of interest for lyricists, the closing songs for Fire and Water ('The Flame Deluge' and 'Kings Of The Main' respectively) are actually sonnets written by Kensrue. If I'm honest I don't understand them at all, but I'm sure seasoned lyricists will. It's likely that I will continue to find new meanings well after this review is published but if you do buy the first instalment of The Alchemy Index I stress you read them yourself. // 10

Overall Impression: As an experiment, I was not expecting The Alchemy Index to beat Vheissu, and in all honesty it doesn't. However, this does not mean it cannot thoroughly entertain and involve me on many levels in the same way that that album did. You can enjoy tracks like 'The Messenger' and 'Burn The Fleet' on face value alone, and you can contemplate what Thrice's visions were for tracks like 'The Arsonist' or 'Open Water'. Each track has a quality which can be enjoyed by anyone that listens to it with an open mind, and for Thrice fans (or at least those who maintained interest after The Artist In The Ambulance) there are many levels to this work which can be appreciated and enjoyed to the max with as little or as much thought as you wish. This is a masterpiece and I hope you can all submerge yourselves with fire and water as they and I now have. // 10

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overall: 10
The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water Reviewed by: unregistered, on october 22, 2007
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: Thrice are a constantly evolving band that have expanded their sound with each album and the first two volumes of the Alchemy Index is yet another sonic leap forward. The Alchemy Index is by far their most ambitious work to date, utilizing the concept of the four classic natural elements, Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind, in not only lyrical content but also in their sound. Fire, the first volume, is heavy and huge. Thrice use a lot of distorted baritone guitars, and fast drum beats on the majority of Fire. There is not a huge amount of screaming on Fire, but the screaming that is there sounds in no way forced or out of place. All the songs do a great job to represent fire sonically, especially the songs "The Messenger" and "The Arsonist", which don't let up for a second. Water, the second volume, is based around a lot of electronic sounds, clean guitars, and keyboards. The vocals are sung beautifully throughout and compliment the instrumentation well. The sound of Water is very "aquatic" and every song fits well with the Water concept. "Night Diving" is a six minute instrumental, which is very unusual for most bands of Thrice's calibur and it may even be Thrice's first if I can recall. It is the only song to feature heavy guitar work but flows in with the rest of Water. There isn't a lot of technical arrangements on this album but the experimentation that is here more than makes up for that and truely makes every song sound unique. // 10

Lyrics: Dustin Kensrue showcases some of the best lyrical work I've seen in most bands. His lyrical skill has increased just as Thrice's music has. Being restricted to keeping with the concept of each element Dustin still amazes with his words. Fire, for the most part, is pretty angry. Dustin writes a lot about revolution and rising above. In "Firebreather" he sings, "Tell me are you free in word or thought or deed", and in "The Arsonist" he sings, "I love this city I've set and numbered it's days, I love this city enough that I'll set it ablaze." Water is somewhat depressing and deals a lot in loss. The way Dustin sings is very heartfelt without sounding weak or thin. In the song "The Whaler", Dustin sings about a fisherman who is missed by his wife and daughter. "Lost Continent" is about the fall of Atlantis and ends with the words "The waters rising now; and we will surely drown, if we don't turn around." My favorite lyrical work in the Alchemy Index is the two sonnets at the end of each volume. Each sonnet is written from the perspective of it's respective element. "The Flame Deluge" is about how fire is abused by warmongers ("Ever since you found your taste for war, you've forced me onto those whose lives you'd take"). "Kings Upon the Main" speaks about the strength and skill of men is no match for the sea ("There'll never be and there has never been a ship or fleet secure against the storm"). // 10

Overall Impression: The Alchemy Index Volumes I and II showcase the best of Thrice's musicals talent. Many Thrice fans stuck in the past may find this very obscure but the others who have grown up with them will find this truely amazing. This is a gem for any progressive music fan. My favorite songs from the Alchemy Index are "Backdraft", "The Whaler", and "Kings Upon the Mast". There is absolutely no filler on this album and every song has something special about it. If this were lost or stolen I would by 2 or 3 more to ensure that this album would be with me forever. The Alchemy Index is my NEW album of the year (previous one being Between the Buried and Me's "Colors".) I can't wait for the other two volumes, Earth and Air, in the spring. Keep making increbible music, Thrice! // 10

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overall: 9.3
The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water Reviewed by: Sirnogbert, on october 22, 2007
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: With the Alchemy Index Thricee once again evole and expand their sound, while maintaining the base elements (no pun intended) that make them the same band that they've been for the last 9 years. Both discs have a very unique and distinct sound, and listeners will easily be able to identify which element each track is meant to represent. The Fire disc (Vol I) is the hard hitter of the two, with loud guitar parts, great riffing and incredibly strong vocals, with Dustin's harshest screams to date. The Water disc (Vol II) is the mellow laid back disc, reminiscent of Atlantic from Vheissu. This disc is incredibly synth and piano heavy, with little noticable riffage. // 9

Lyrics: As the discs are written around the base elements of fire and water these elements are involved largely in the lyrics as well. Dustin has once again proved his abilities a lyricist, and has done an excellent job of encorporating the feel of the elements into the each songs individual lyrics. Lyrics on the fire disc deal with strength, power and destruction, which is what what fire is associated with. The lyrics on the water discs have a nautical tone, focusing more on the sea rather than water itself, with themes of loneliness and despair, yet manages to avoid a sense of depression. Dustin's vocals are as strong as ever, and certain tracks have an undeniable sing-a-long feel (especially the closing chants of Firebreather). Surprisingly the album's one instrumental track, Night Diver, is a highlight, which is strange given Thrice's reputation for strong lyrics and vocals. // 10

Overall Impression: The Alchemy Index Vols I & II is a great addition to the Thrice catalogue. It was a bold step, and one that some fans questioned, but in the end the band has proved their talent and have pulled off the conceppt with aplomb. Highlight tracks from Fire include The Arsonist and The Flame Deluge, the closing epic. From the Water disc include Digital Sea and the aformentioned instrumental Night Diver. This is not Thrice's strongest work, but it is still an exceptional album. If lost or stolen a replacement copy would be bought immediately, as this is one record that I am proud to own and couldn't stand not having. // 9

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overall: 7.7
The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water Reviewed by: unregistered, on october 23, 2007
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: Whether or not you'll like this album depends heavily on whether you cared for 2005's release, 'Vheissu.' A lot of The Alchemy Index's sound is very similar. Starting out on the Fire disc with the immense and heavy, "Firebreather" you'll notice some similarities between this and songs like "Image of the Invisible" and "Hold Fast Hope". Moving on to the Water disc, the sounds here resemble songs more like "The Earth Will Shake" and "Atlantic". Not that the similarity is anything to be worried about, especially if you enjoyed Vheissu; you'll be glad to hear how the sound itself has evolved yet stuck to the formula. My only problem is just how much they used the concept of the "elements" in their songs. They could've displayed a little more, freedom? in their sound instead of sticking to the Fire/Water theme so strong. // 8

Lyrics: Dustin Kensrue has a great voice and a real way with words, but as stated above with the whole elements theme, they really needed some subtlety. Almost every Fire disc song has some synonym or fire or flame and Water is hardly any different. The lyrics are great, don't get me wrong. But it doesn't fully display how poetic, deep and at times, diverse, Dustin's lyrics can be. // 7

Overall Impression: Whether this is to be hailed as Thrice's finest is up to you. Despite the flaws and nitpicking shown above, this is my personal album favorite of Thrice. I love a lot about the album. The evolution of the sound itself, how they've musically "matured" if you will. But my biggest problem is what I've been droning on and on about in the above paragraphs; just how much they actually drove the concept into the music. A little too much if you ask me, but any Thrice fan (including me) can easily look past this and enjoy this album to the full. // 8

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overall: 5.3
The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water Reviewed by: Ohio Jones, on october 26, 2007
0 of 6 people found this review helpful

Sound: The overall sound of Fire is big and beefy and a little to familier. It almost sounds like these songs where written during the Vheissu timeline and were saved for "Alchemy" Fire is not short on power but it is short on hooks and catchyness which I have always thought Thrice was great at. Nothing really new of ground breaking here. Water seems more like another Dustin Kensrue solo project. Inexplicably the band's unquestionable arsenal of instrumental talent is pushed aside for a collection of very bland, dull songs that include electronica, synthesizer, Drum machines, Sequencer, Keyboard and Samplers. // 5

Lyrics: The lyrics are fitting to each topic. Fire. Water. Kensrue has always been an excellent lyricist and continues to be on "Alchemy." My only issue is after the 3rd or 4th water or fire based song, you get the point and it seems to become a little redundent. At times Kensrue sounds down right bored. // 6

Overall Impression: Overall I understand the concept of the record. The 2 elements with songs that coincide with each. To be honest I just don't really know why I should care. Thrice have always been a band that inspired me. I could always relate and really got swept up in thier pervious records. I congradulate them on the effort, but it feels like I got left behind on this one. // 5

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overall: 8.3
The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water Reviewed by: Kosh H, on april 18, 2008
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: Thrice's Fire & Water CD's were a interesting step towards something new and different. Fire sounded kind of like some of Thrice's earlier stuff, but songs like The Arsonist had a interesting new sound. Water, on the other hand, reminded me of Red Sky, from there previous album, but songs such as The Whaler and Digital Sea were well done. Also the band sounded excellent live, even when they played digigtal sea, which had strange vocal distortion. This new CD was a good innovation, having two contrasting elements (Fire & Water) and then playing the music in a way that the contrast was striking and refreshing. // 8

Lyrics: I liked some of the lyrics, but sometimes I didn't. In songs such as the Arsonist, The Flame Deluge, and Lost Continent the lyrics were hard to hear and sometime were impossible to make out. The lyrics went well with the music overall, with Fire having screaming and a louder tone than Water. Dustin Krensue's voice is excellent, and his screaming good too. // 8

Overall Impression: This album is good, but not as godd as artist in the ambulance or Vhiessu but is still worth picking up. The best songs in my perspective were The Flame Deluge, Lost Continent, and The Whaler. I love the sounds and the great contrast of Powerful, intense Fire and mellow, moving and soulful Water. If this CD was stolen I would be pretty mad, and definetly want it back. // 9

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overall: 5.3
The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water Reviewed by: thenewblack745, on june 10, 2008
0 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: Many might think these 4 "elemental" EPs to be Thrice's magnum opus. But "Fire and Water" each have their own personal flaws. Flaws that, perhaps if Thrice had a proper producer, might have been eliminated while in the studio. Fire. This is where almost all of Thrice's heavy ideas went. The tracks "Firebreather" and "Burn the Fleet" are the highlights here. Most of the other tracks feel incomplete. Like they are ideas, instead of songs. The sound involves a lot of distortion, and seems more like classic Thrice. Long time fans will most likely like this EP's sound more. Water. These songs seem more complete than the last EP, but still have one basic flaw. It doesn't sound like Thrice. The sound is incredibly ambient throughout the entire EP And I must say, Thrice is not all that good at Ambiance. Resulting in an overall boring set of songs. Not to say there aren't a few moments where the vocals manage to bring you back in, but it lacks the type of instrumentation we are used to from Thrice. // 6

Lyrics: The vocal melodies tend to work like past Thrice work. They work very well. Though some of the heavy vocals don't feel as strong. But then there is the frustrating part. The actual lyrics. I hate them with a passion. With the exception of a couple tracks, most lyrics feel forced out and some just stupid. For example: "Ten thousand men sleep down with Davy Jones; with stolen treasure they tithe. The open water chills me to my bones, but it's the only place that I feel alive. The ocean floor begins to disappear; I sense that terrible depth. The open water is my only fear, but I'll sail as long as I still have breath in me." Did you notice how often he references water. That gets annoying after a while. Especially since it's the same style for each track. It isn't quite as prominent in fire as in water, but it still will annoy you after a while. // 4

Overall Impression: In my opinion "Vheissu" was the band's magnum opus. And I happen to enjoy that album a lot more. The songs flow together better and the lyrics don't make me want to vomit after just one listen through. But there are a few keepers from the E.P.'s. "Firebreather," "Burn the Fleet," and "Lost Continent" are the best. The others just aren't up to par with Thrice's past work. // 6

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