Sound — 8
As a long-standing name in the post-hardcore scene, Thrice have traveled a winding road in their catalog. From the revered likes of their chaotic and technical emocore albums (2002's "The Illusion of Safety" and 2003's "The Artist in the Ambulance"), they took a turn for the experimental in their 2005 magnum opus, "Vheissu," setting another impressive example of the artsy sophistication that post-hardcore was capable of. But that artsy initiative would jump the shark in Thrice's following concept double-album, the bloated "The Alchemy Series," and from there, Thrice would journey further away from their post-hardcore base with their 2009 album, the overly-reserved "Beggars," and the alt-rock initiative of 2011's "Major/Minor."
Shortly after "Major/Minor," Thrice went on hiatus, with each member tending to their respective solo/side-projects, but after frontman Dustin Kensrue and lead guitarist Teppei Teranishi got together at a Brand New show (another post-hardcore band currently working on their long-awaited comeback record), their longing for getting the band back together had them lift the hiatus in 2015 and work on a comeback record.
With this comeback record, "To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere," Thrice don't rehash the golden days of their fleeting post-hardcore years, but with more grit heard in their distortion, there's more bite to this album than their previous two. One can pick out the characteristics that call back to Thrice's previous albums that manifest here as well, whether it be "Wake Up" using the same low gear as nearly everything on "Beggars," the pretty guitar melodies in "Death From Above" harking back to the likes of "Vheissu," and the ethereal ender "Salt and Shadow" weaving a serene post-rock soundscape akin to the post-rock endeavors heard in "The Alchemy Series."
But there are plenty of new flavors to be found in the album as well. Some doom-inspired moments in the slogging bridges of "Wake Up" and "The Long Defeat," Kensrue contorts his voice to a Citizen Cope-type of rugged soul in "Wake Up," and perhaps most ambivalently, Thrice venture further towards a mainstream rock sound with the uneventfully straightfoward "Blood on the Sand," and the organ-laced, Coldplay-esque uplifter "Stay With Me." While plenty of fans are bound to stick their tongues out at the pop overtones here, Thrice still keep their songwriting wits about them, and along with keeping up their penchant for odd measurements (like the 5/4 chorus in "Whistleblower" and the 7/8 verses in "The Window"), they deftly utilize a parallel key modulation in the end of "Hurricane" from a wistful F major to a darker F minor, which further appeals to the doom flavor of the album.
Lyrics — 7
Having dabbled with sociopolitical topics before in his lyrics, Kensrue's lyrics in "To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere" is by far the most concentrated effort in that realm of subject matter. Though the vague calls for revolutionary movement in "Wake Up" and "The Long Defeat" lack a compelling factor like any boilerplate "rise up" message, Kensrue gets direct as can be in the Edward Snowden-inspired "Whistleblower," and a drone pilot's moral reckoning in "Death From Above" ("No longer human beings, no longer people / Just targets on a screen, none of it's real"). And while Kensrue's direct criticism of xenophobic-influenced foreign policies in "Blood on the Sand" sounds like he stole a page from Tim McIlrath's lyric book, Kensrue gets more symbolic in "Black Honey," which alludes to military campaigns only being intended for acquiring foreign oil fields and how that's inspired terrorist attacks ("I see them coming after me / And they're following me across the sea / And now they're stinging my friends and family / And I don't know why this is happening").
Kensrue also flexes his symbolism muscles in other songs that break away from the political themes, like the curious tale told in "Stay With Me," where a love born out of crisis carries a lingering insecurity of hoping for perpetual crisis in order for that love to sustain ("And would your love for me grow colder / With no one left to fight?"), and the prison-esque imagery of "The Window" that illustrates the ongoing battle between faith and doubt ("There's no way I can prove / That there's a place / Beyond this room / But still, there's something in the way / A light comes shining through").
Overall Impression — 8
Despite the praise gained from critics, the steps that Thrice were taking forward in the sound of their previous albums were understandably polarizing for those who still wanted Thrice to be dishing out their dependable post-hardcore, whether in the visceral madness of "The Illusion of Safety" or the elegance of "Vheissu." And though some will always be waiting for Thrice to write a "The Illusion of Safety, Pt. II" type of album (which is very unlikely to happen), Thrice's output in "To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere" is a well-rounded offering for a comeback album, succeeding in both pushing things forward further for the band's sound, while also peppering in a solid amount of classic Thrice characteristics to keep that original appeal hand in hand with the change.