by: Thrice

There was a telling moment on Thrice's 2005 B-sides and rarities set, If We Could Only See Us Now. The quartet's live, acoustic performance of "Artist in the Ambulance" was notable for how much it suggested the Cure when unplugged. But there were also those kids in the background, solemnly singing along with vocalist Dustin Kensrue. These are the adoring submissives, the fans who filled Thrice-related message boards with dramatic tributes and pledges of allegiance in the run-up to Vheissu's October release. They represent the leap Thrice has evidently made, to go beyond the usual hardcore and metal dynamics and conventional emo devotion to become a guiding light. Thrice fuels that devotion -- Vheissu's deluxe edition includes wordy, earnest testimonials from each bandmember on his inspirations, his songwriting, and the recording process. However, the real earnestness is in Vheissu's music. Insular and meticulously layered, it switches restlessly between gauzy piano figures and righteous, full-bore post-hardcore, often suggesting a more thoughtful At the Drive-In. "Like Moths to Flame," "Image of the Invisible," and "For Miles" do this effectively, and the atmospheric stretches of "Stand and Feel Your Worth" opt for the cool, liquid tones of a Rhodes. But Kensrue inevitably screams again, and when he does he'll usually say something unfortunate like "Awed by grace I fall on my face." Like Incubus on Crow Left of the Murder or the extremes of ATDI spawn the Mars Volta, Thrice's ambition borders on self-indulgence. In Vheissu's most opaque moments you wonder, is this for everyone, or just the converted, those kids standing next to their stereos in salute? And yet, a record with too much ambition is better than another emo placeholder. And when their curiosity is aligned with more measured songwriting -- as on the breathy, dreamlike "Atlantic" or surging closer "Red Sky" -- Thrice throw open the doors of their devoted club to let the light shine with promise. ~ Johnny Loftus

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