The Evolution of Thrice
By Spike Brendle
The title of this article was originally, “A Brief History on Thrice, and Why They Are The Most Underrated Band of The Past 20 Years.” but, that was a little too... too true (also not very brief either.) Time and time again, I will re-immerse myself into Thrice’s catalogue and wonder, “Why did I stop listening to this again?” Join me as I take you through five, somewhat "non-singles" from five of their most significant albums.
We begin with Thrice’s debut release, Identity Crisis. This album was released in 2001, which I believe I was a sophomore in high school, and was also the prime of P2P software. (Napster, KaZaA, Morpheus, etc…) Me, spending most my weekends at The Nile where it seemed there was always an Epitaph, Fat Wreck Chords, or Drive-Thru artist coming through. I am uncertain how Thrice came up on my radar, but I imagine I had “borrowed” a few songs of theirs before ordering their CD from the local record shop. Compared to what was to come, this album comes off as a lot more raw, less emotion but the point still brought across. While there may be some more “single” like tracks on this album ("Phoenix Ignition," or the title track, "Identity Crisis") I would like to bring your focus the song I was most drawn to, "A Torch To End All Torches." Now, playing along with the sound and feel of the rest of the album, it has a huge purpose but comes off weaker than you’d expect. The production on this album lacks in showcasing the deep, solid sounds of the drums along with the mids from everything else (which you will hear later.) Understanding this track as the starting point of Thrice, you can grow to appreciate everything that has been done since. I must bring up, this is not putting the band down at all… I love this album and it will be one of my personal classics forever.
Their second full length, The Illusion of Safety was released just one year later, and was done so with such confidence and expansion. From this point on there will be no backstory needed, so we will jump right into this one. Track three, "See You In The Shallows” has kept its spot as one of my favorite songs for a long time. As epic as the song begins, a machine gun snare somewhat obnoxiously and overwhelmingly come out of nowhere. However, immediately adding the rest of the instruments… it blends together quite nicely (drums still lacking in “oomph” in my opinion.) It’s at this point where the precision, technicality and carefully placed guitar riffs shine through as an art, and the vocals couldn’t be more perfect. Another aspect worth mentioning is the bass. This was also a time where a significantly toned bass was “trendy” if you will… and Thrice definitely picked up on this… but in the most tasteful way possible. If it hasn’t happened already, pay attention to the lyrics. “It looks deep enough from here, I’m diving.” One of the few lyrics that have stuck with me through time. This backs up one of the truest pieces of advice I have ever received: “Always follow your gut feeling.”
Moving on to the next album, The Artist in the Ambulance, (2003) we come to a more mature, full sounding Thrice. Still keeping their roots with the “punk rock” aspect, but expanding in every aspect possible (and YES the drums are finally mixed well). This is also the first album you can really feel the emotion come through… it has a slightly darker sound to it. Again I will draw you to track three, "All That’s Left.” In short, I have previously nicknamed this track as “the song for the end of the world.” Arguably one of the best guitar riff intros to any song (yes I will argue with you about this) the song is full of energy and adrenaline from beginning to end. I will admit, it took until this album and this song to convince me that Thrice was one of my favorite bands.
Taking a little more time to write the follow up, Vheissu was released in 2005. This is my absolute favorite Thrice album, and definitely in my top ten albums of all time. This album really showcased a significant change musically (adding pianos) and brought forward even more emotion and feelings. Track five, “For Miles” is my favorite Thrice song of all. The first track using a classical piano, so sincerely and pure, leads into an epic guitar riff and pleading vocals, like it’s the last breath Dustin Kensrue has to take.
The last track of our history lesson, comes from their 7th full length, Beggars. Released in 2009, after an EP and two “concept-combo” albums. The title track, and also the last track on the album, “Beggars” is probably the most stripped down and honest song from Thrice’s catalogue. Kensrue uses his voice in a way he has not done in any track from any previous album. Soft, and quiet… as the guitar follows cautiously, the song builds up into the perfect finale with everything you remember from the past Thrice albums.
The evolution of Thrice could have also just coincidentally coincided with my evolving musical taste, but that would make this article pointless. The proof is in the pudding, they have done everything right since the start, and just recently released (post hiatus) their 8th album, To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere. I ask everyone to think about any band they have followed from their beginnings, and not been disappointed by their next release. It’s like your favorite football team winning the Superbowl every year, or maybe even your car getting better gas mileage every time you fill up. Make sure to head to your nearest streaming service to check out the new album, or maybe even buy it on vinyl at their show. Thrice is playing at Marquee Theatre in Tempe this Sunday, June 5th. Tickets available here.