Tell me, has an album ever left you speechless? Left you with a facial expression that’s nothing more than a puzzled collection of awe and disbelief, while your brain’s a frazzled, fractured mess?
We’re all too quick in throwing out superlatives in our descriptions of what we love or loathe. All too often, when speaking critically, something’s unnecessarily labelled as the “best thing ever” or “worst thing ever.” But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. There’s no guarantee my favourite album is your favourite album, too. Even the world’s most renowned artists have their critics and I fully accept that. If we all liked the same thing there would only be one channel on TV.
Personally, I consider very few records faultless. I’m not one to throw out a 10/10 review unless I’m absolutely sure, and even then I’ll still have my doubts afterwards. But then again, what’s the true definition of faultless? Something that’s good for its time? Something getting better with age? However, when a potentially perfect album comes along, I take it upon myself to convey in the best way possible, explaining how it’s more than just an opinion, that a record is a masterpiece and requirement for anyone who claims to love music, regardless of genre or era.
The California-based band Thrice has continuously flirted with faultlessness.
Originally a post-hardcore band by trade, Thrice have grinded out a nearly twenty year career on a back of progressively more complex musical arrangements and nuanced songwriting. Melodic riff-play counteracted with bone-breaking drum beats and vocalist Dustin Kensrue’s piercing howl.
I’ve always felt that the band’s just an arm’s length away from greatness. Their consistent polarisation of their sound over the years has created a shifting sand-like fan base that constantly comes and goes. Yet despite this, they remain a much beloved member of the post-hardcore scene, even if their newer releases sometimes steer away from that, tapping into an indie-rock and math-rock agenda at times.
To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is Thrice’s eighth album (ninth if you separate the double release The Alchemy Index Vols I-IV). Considering the shelf life of any 90’s band is sporadic at best, this is an impressive achievement. You can’t put a price on longevity and the many pretty young things, currently fighting to forge out a career in music, would kill to know how these stalwarts manage to remain relevant. But it’s one thing to be relevant and another to release consistently solid material. Thankfully Thrice still do that in spades.
After a solemn clean guitar intro, the album-opening track “Hurricane” hits just like what it’s named after. Kensrue’s fractured howl pierces through the listener like a bolt of lightning in the night. The band knows when to turn it on though, striking only when necessary. Less wild beast and more strategic, precise blows. “It’s gonna rain, it’s gonna rain, until the levee breaks” shrieks Kensrue, amidst a wall of tempered guitars. There’s a lot to be said for a great opening track and this one does To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere no harm whatsoever.
To promote the album, Thrice released “Blood On The Sand,” a track both fiercely intense in its chorus and combative in its lyrical content, with mentions of panic, guns and suffering.
Thrice has rarely expressed such a snarling hatred in their subject matter in years.
“Black Honey” is the second track they released, with a video for the song in May. Thematically, it follows the previous tracks with its darker, self-destructive themes. The album picks its moments of safety as demonstrated in the beautifully haunting “Salt and Shadow”. This song brings the album to a graceful close, much like the fleeting moments of guilty realisation following an angry man’s rampage and self-implosion. ‘Wake Up’ is a kind of Ying-Yang creature, a two-sided entity with one favouring calm and the other destruction. Surprisingly, it works well: the quieter shades compliment the shadows.
At the same time, “Stay With Me” shows a truly beautiful side of Thrice’s songwriting. Nestled between tracks of varying degrees of dark themes it is a welcome respite, featuring a scared Kensrue begging his partner to remain with him as he battles through all manner of shit. The track’s a beacon of light on To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, accentuating Thrice as the poetic force they consistently prove to be.
To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere marks the first release since a three-year hiatus was announced back in 2012 (see BGM’s coverage of their farewell tour). Thrice always meant it to be temporary with no immediate plans to break up, more a break to recharge the collective battery. The recharge seems to have worked wonders, because this record’s phenomenal, front-to-back.
With tracks that blow you away, dust you off and reel you back in with a healthy dose of grit and clever songwriting, To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is an exceptional record and major contender for rock album of the year.