Written by: PP on 13/10/2009 17:16:07

Right, time to write the most difficult review this year, namely a review of the new Thrice album "Beggars". See this is a band that causes headaches and nightmares to reviewers all over the planet, because they outright refuse to write the same album twice in their career. Their early records were hardcore punk and technical punk respectively, then they signed on a major label and released a rather commercial, straight-forward rock album ("Artist In The Ambulance"), followed it up with a ridiculously underrated art rock masterpiece "Vheissu", before stumbling on a small rock-but still holding balance with their overly ambitious four EP release "The Alchemy Index" representing each of the four elements of nature found on our planet. The funny thing is that even though critics and Thrice fans have angry debates about which of these albums is exactly the best Thrice album ("Vheissu" by far in my opinion), a universal agreement exists between all parties that every Thrice album is fucking good, no exception. "Beggars" unfortunately doesn't continue that trend..... who am I kidding, of course it does, this is Thrice, the most consistent experimental rock/post-hardcore/punk/whatever band of our time, band that'll be looked back in retrospect as 'one of the greats'.

So how does "Beggars"-Thrice sound in comparison to "The Alchemy Index"-Thrice? Much more straightforward. Much, much, MUCH more straightforward. So much that I'm nominating "Beggars" to be the missing link between "The Artist In The Ambulance" and "Vheissu". Experimentation can still be found at the later stages of the album, but it has been toned down loads, especially in the beginning where the band opts to write high-flying melodies and soaring atmospheres instead of subtle, pick-your-brain-apart type of stuff. In short, the result is a way more accessible sound than before. And that's absolutely a step in the right direction if you ask me, but even if you don't care about my opinion, just listen to the thunderous masterpiece "All The World Is Mad", which finally allows Dustin Kensrue to return back to the one reason why Thrice are so highly regarded in the first place: his incredible singing. Just listen to how easily he moves from side to side on his range, spitting out unforgettable melodies that catch on the first moment you hear them. And then you hear "The Weight", where his soaring vocals make the listener wonder why he isn't considered the very best vocalist of our generation. The chorus especially showcases some of Kensrue's best pipework of his whole career....and if you've heard him sing before, you understand the full implications of that statement.

"Circles" has a "Music Box" type of vibe vocally, while the instrumentals resemble "Water EP" / "Air EP" songs from "The Alchemy Index", so even if you find yourself missing songs like that instead of the more aggressive rockers like "Doublespeak", then you'll find a couple of them here as well. "In Exile" feels strange in the beginning because of it's simplistic drum beat that you'll find on a lot of scene disco electronica screamo emo bands (etc), but even on an unfamiliar territory like this Thrice excels because of a brilliant chorus as well as the rather experimental guitars throughout the song.

Maybe you're then wondering if there are any screams on the album? Not really, but on a couple of tracks Kensure comes pretty close, at least to the extent that you can hear a nice, purposeful strain in his vocals. Only on track seven, "Talking Through Glass / We Move Like Swing Sets" do you hear screams comparable to "Image Of The Invisible", and here's where I have to note that even though the soaring clean vocals are brilliant, I've always thought that Thrice are at their very best when they combine those two into driving songs that feature otherworldly clean vocals and contrast them with earth-shattering screams. They were always the best band to do that, and it baffles me why they don't do that too much anymore, considering that "Vheissu" was basically the reason why Thrice are as huge as they are today.

All of the above is why "Beggars" is a serious contender for the best Thrice album yet. However, there are a few pointers that suggest it isn't. First off, the title track of the album finishes the record, and it's easily the worst track on the CD. It's just too quiet, too slow, too uneventful to be interesting when compared to, say, "All The World Is Mad" which the album opens with. Second off, a teeny weeny bit too much experimentation can be found in the underwater style soundscapes - the ones with lots of ambiance and minimalistic instrumentation - towards the end of the record, but even here the band usually completes a home run during their respective choruses. But overall I think we can all agree that this is an incredible record, so now that we've got yet another album in our arsenal, it's time to re-ignite the discussion: which Thrice album is the king, leaving the rest of their records 'merely' as princes?


Download: All The World Is Mad, The Weight, In Exile
For the fans of: Thursday, As Cities Burn, Brand New, Circa Survive, Poison The Well, Hopesfall
Listen: Myspace

Release date 09.08.2009

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