WHAT: New album HORIZONS/EAST
DUE: Out tomorrow September 17
–by Nancy Leonard
If there’s anything I’ve learned from being in a global pandemic, it’s that people react to things in very different ways. Personally, I didn’t make bread or change careers, but chose to dial back and reflect a great deal more. Others, as Thrice have shown with their new album Horizons/East, have taken the opportunity of reflection and made it into an evocative journey of discovery in a time of doubt, fear and chaos.
The immediate impact of listening to Horizons/East is the linear storytelling. Starting with the opening track, “Color of the Sky”, the instrumental layers and changing speeds, coupled with the energy and intense lyrics, allude to what’s to come. “Scavengers” keeps that intense and powerful immediacy going, with its driving drone-like riff. The allusion to uncertainty becomes clearer, as lead singer Dustin Kinsrue sings about “Overhead, angels or vultures/Heavy wings and the hum of decay/They seethe and hover/Skew and smother the light of day” . Is this a good and benevolent entity circling, or something sinister and malevolent? What is this new, uncertain world that is now being presented to us?
The guttural scream of Kinsrue, coupled with the chunky guitar of Teppei Teranishi on “Buried in the Sun”, are perfect for moving through this timeline. The overall feel at the beginning of the song perfectly represents our current times, in dealing with the frustration from current events, but gives way to pared-down harmonies. The chorus – machine-like – is in direct contrast to the emotionally charged singing of Kensrue. Urgent, syncopated rhythms merged with a longer and softer refrain return to a more hopeful tone in “Northern Lights”, mirroring the world-wide confusion that embraced the world last year.
“Summer Set Fire to Rain” marks a definite change in the dynamic of Horizons/East. Soaring vocals and powerful guitars give way to quiet picking, which morphs into a cacophony of frustrated screams. Bleaker lyrics begin to lend insight to the outright frustration being felt by most everyone at some point in the last 18 months – “How long?” Kinsrue repeats in an almost tired, defeated fade at the end of the song. “Still Life” follows with a lazy open, shimmery guitars (for me, it felt like picking oneself up after a good, long cry); a slow build-up to a powerful refrain of realization that the old way that we once knew is no longer available hits home (“The way is closed now and I can’t go home”) gives way to a singular thought – “But what if I just let go”. The dreamy guitar work framing this song supports the idea that we, as travelers in this timeline, have to address the reality, and somehow move forward, and it might be by letting go of our old notions and constructs.
Two songs mark the second shift in Horizons/East, “The Dreamer” and “Robot Soft Exorcism”. The former continues with the almost dream pop guitar work from “Summer Set Fire to Rain”, but Hensrue’s quietly urgent singing belies the calm of the music itself. The soothing bridge tamps the energy back somewhat, kind of patting us on the head, saying “there, there”, but the brisk tempo keeps the listener alert. There is a palpable struggle going on with the new identity as “The Dreamer”. “Robot Soft Exorcism” latches onto that uncertainty, and draws the listener in with a lulling, hypnotic riff. This easily evolves into groove where everything seems fine, and easier just to go along with the machine that’s being offered as a solution. But the break through of powerful guitars, coupled with lyrics begging we as travelers to come down, come out, start again, lights the fire, and the energy dials up again. The entirety of “Robot Soft Exorcism” feels like an overall calming down, acceptance of the situation.
Finally, the traveler comes to “Dandelion Wine”. Dreamy, lazy and meandering, it feels as though this might be a release of sorts into something good. Lovely harmonics in the refrain support that feeling, but the raw vocals of Hensrue’s tell something else. “The snow drift is dangerously high/But I’ve found my favorite proof”. The simple, curving tones open to a portal of energy, sucking the traveler in, and in the end, there’s nothing to be done. “The ceiling is starting to groan/Then everything ends with a crash/Crushed like a rat in a trap”. The lyrics allude to a lamentation of what has come to pass, while suggesting to just let it happen. Once this transformative event has passed, “Unitive/East” opens. Almost heavenly, with lush piano work, one feels like a passing has taken place, and with that, a rebirth of sorts. Perhaps the long, last note of “Unitive/East” is a portent of the things to come from Thrice.
Overall, Horizons/East is a mature and focused collection. Having listened to Thrice for some time, the growth is evident – the members have learned to fine tune their editing, and this album is a prime example; there are no needless additions, no overdone vocals or playing. It reminds one of The Alchemy Index, with it’s dedication and distinct point of view. The mash up of instruments, tempos and approaches is to be commended – not many groups could pull it off as well as Thrice.
Horizons/East Track Listing:
1.The Color Of The Sky
3.Buried In The Sun
5.Summer Set Fire To The Rain
8.Robot Soft Exorcism
See Thrice on tour (Tickets available HERE)
October1–Orlando,FL–Hard Rock Live
October2–St Petersburg,FL–Jannus Live!
October 5–Norfolk,VA–The NorVa
October7–New York,NY–Terminal 5
October10–Boston,MA–House of Blues
October13–Columbus, OH–Newport MusicHall
October15–Detroit,MI–Saint Andrews Hall
October21–Salt Lake City,UT–Union
October27–San Diego,CA–Observatory North Park
October30–Anaheim,CA–House of Blues