The inclusion of Thrice’s “All That’s Left” on the Madden 2004 soundtrack was a harbinger of things to come for the post-hardcore band, as by that time Thrice had released their first major-label record, and sacrificed none of their passion in the process. In fact, The Artist In The Ambulance was just the prelude to what would eventually become one of post-hardcore’s most interesting discographies – and that album led to Thrice’s masterwork, Vheissu.
Redefining their sound within an experimental post-hardcore framework was certainly not a simple task for Thrice, whose previous material consisted mainly of punchy melodic hardcore songs. However, the seeds were sown on their previous record. The Artist In The Ambulance. A much more accessible album than their previous material, Thrice injected more melodic structures into their brand of post-hardcore storytelling. Tracks like “The Melting Point Of Wax”, which tells the story of Icarus, maximized the potential Thrice had as far as creating brilliant songs.
Vheissu, however, is a different beast entirely. Shedding most of their galloping melodic hardcore influences without losing any of their C.S. Lewis-inspired lyrical prowess (see: “The Earth Will Shake”), Thrice effortlessly incorporated electronic soundscapes in a way that was never phoned-in or hamfisted. In fact, you can probably say they were inspired by bands like Radiohead, who often changed their sound around, especially with their Kid A record. This is a fair comparison to Vheissu, in that Radiohead followed up a fan favorite and critically acclaimed record in Ok Computer with a total curveball.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking Thrice suddenly went soft, though. Tracks like the emotive 1-2 punch of the slow-building “For Miles” (which reflects life’s journeys, as mentioned in the liner notes), and “Hold Fast Hope”, which is one of the most aggressive songs Thrice has ever released. Meanwhile, album standout “Like Moths To Flame” verges into post-metal territory, with Dustin Kensrue’s emotive vocals and Riley Breckenridge’s drumming leading the way into an epic finale.
Delay-heavy guitar manifests itself in the lyrically powerful “Of Dust And Nations”, which might just be the band’s best song period. Referencing Isaiah 40:15 and C.S. Lewis in the same song is not an easy task, but Dustin Kensrue does so with the touch of a veteran lyricist – not one who was only 25 at the time of Vheissu‘s release.
So put your faith in more than steel
Don’t store your treasures up with moth and rust, where thieves break in and steal
Pull the fangs from out your heel
We live in but a shadow of the real
Of course, we haven’t even gotten to the album opener, the fantastic “Image Of The Invisible”, or album closer “Red Sky”. The former bears more resemblance to the band’s earlier work with a more melodic atmosphere and a huge chorus, while “Red Sky” displays an uplifting, emotional sound that also hints at the direction the band would take on their Alchemy Index series – specifically the water EP. “Atlantic” and “Between The End And Where We Lie” do this quite effectively, as well.
What Thrice did on Vheissu is nothing short of remarkable. Evolving as musicians and lyricists and moving things forward, the band put forth some of post-hardcore’s best music of the new millennium – and considering there’s not a weak track to be found, it’s a real triumph that anyone who considers themselves a fan of music needs to check out.