Thrice is the musical equivalent of Michael Jackson’s face –- the second you think a description can be applied to it, things change completely. One minute they’re bursting at the seams with Megadeth riffage, next they’re dishing out punk like a newly-formed Refused, and every once in a while, they pipe down enough to sound like MxPx. Versatile isn’t even a good label for Thrice’s second full-length album The Illusion of Safety [Sub City Records]. It’s simply a temporary sticker that will peel off and wilt once the album is through spinning. To put it plainly, Thrice is better than anything you’ve heard in quite some time.
While every member of the band holds their own musically, it’s the mind-altering guitar work of Teppei Teranishi that propels Thrice from heavy to heroic. Teranishi’s fingers would most likely beat a hummingbird’s wings if they raced, and it’s surprising he doesn’t dislocate his shoulder every time a thick hardcore chord is machine-gunned out. His Eddie Van Halen finger-taps commingle with a Dave Mustaine heft throughout the record, creating a sound crunchier than a marble sandwich (and a hell of a lot more appetizing, too). Virtuosity by a young player like this doesn’t come along too often. Listen, inhale, ingest, love it. It’s aggressive music at its pinnacle.
Take “Betrayal Is A Symptom,” for example. The song itself is a conglomerate of styles, timings and vibes. Dustin Kensrue’s vocals can be quizzically pampering one verse, then as abrasive as sandpaper across your forehead without warning. Add in a hammering breakdown, a bass-line that very well may collapse breastbones and great cymbal work by Riley Breckenridge, and you’ve got an astounding track. C’mon, tell me there’s not a hint of Cobain’s reserved darkness and misery in the lyrics “Isn't it sweet how/trusted with angels/and how so quickly/I break my promises?”
The entire album screams originality and musicianship, and it’s displayed time after time, song after song. “Deadbolt” ends with a creepy piano solo (Faith No More, anyone?), and leads immediately into fully automatic pulsating punk licks of “In Years to Come”. The chops at times are so compressed and fast, it almost sounds as if you’re in-between stations on your radio. Don’t worry though…you’re tuned in, and you’ll be happy that you are. Further down the line, “Red Death” has some intricate fingerpicking on the guitar which sounds damn close to a xylophone (Tom Morello, anyone?), and the staggered, uber-staccato breakdown in “A Living Dance Upon Dead Minds” complements the poppy chorus. The opening to “Where Idols Once Stood” may be taken directly out of Metallica’s sheet-music for “One”, with hyper drive snare-shots and fuzzed out chords bashing your skull, but it’s the anti-societal, pro-self lyrics that hit the hardest. “Presuppositions set in stone/this coffin sealed by my own pride/and though it seems the sun will shine/I’ll draw the shades and stay inside.”
Granted, there are the slower, more typical crooning tracks like “Trust” and the textbook MxPx punk of “So Strange I Remember You”, but hey, have you ever eaten a perfectly delicious steak without cutting some fat off of it? Just push the scraps to the side, and consume every last drop of the real meal. In “Where Idols Once Stood”, Dustin Kensrue voice bleeds “Some things are better left unsaid.” To continue that statement, some albums are best left LOUD, and The Illusion Of Safety is an album that no matter how high you crank your stereo, the music will always outweigh the wattage.
Please, for the love of God, check out www.thrice.net, listen to some songs, watch some videos, and support this insanely talented group. Your holiday gifts depend on it.