Written by: DR on 24/11/2011 18:36:34

On 21st November 2011, Dustin Kensure, frontman of Thrice, announced that after their 2012 Spring tour the band would be taking an 'indefinite hiatus'. One could argue that is a less daunting way of saying the band are actually breaking up, but it seems likely that after thirteen years and eight albums (or seven, depending on how you view "The Alchemy Index") as a band, Dustin, Ed, Riley and Teppei simply needed to take a break. Moreover, they did so as they spent their career: no bitterness, no animosity, no drama, and on their own terms.

From their post-hardcore master class, "The Illusion Of Safety", to the slightly more streamlined and their ultimately best-selling album to date, "The Artist In The Ambulance", to "Vheissu" and "The Alchemy Index", their experimental masterpieces that propelled them out of the 'scene' and to the forefront of guitar music around the globe, to the raw and emotive "Beggars". Hell, there are even those out there who prefer the much overlooked debut "Identity Crisis". Given their progression, there is absolutely no definitive answer as to which Thrice album is the best. There just isn't.

They could have chosen to chase record sales - "Artist..." proved they could push 'units' - but, even at the risk of alienating some of their fans, instead opted for artistic ambition. They helped set the template for what was to become 'scene' music, and yet somehow ended up as quite probably the greatest guitar band of their time; the progression of Thrice cannot be overstated.

Such is the quality and consistency of this band that one does not anticipate a Thrice record wondering whether it will be good - we know it will, obviously, be great - we instead wonder what it will sound like. This brings us to "Major/Minor". This album is the most surprising Thrice progression yet, because it's arguably the most natural and least jarring progression in their discography. Considerably darker sounding than its predecessor (to be expected after the year the members individually had), "Major/Minor" at times permeates with aggression, at others it brings light, but it's always raw and honest. It feels like the band decided to strip their sound down and write a damn good rock album.

As soon as the grunge-y riff that opens and continues throughout "Yellow Belly" hits, Thrice fans will be rejoicing at one thing in particular: Teppei has brought back the riffs! That much continues, especially early on in the album. "Promises" is a groovy counter-part to "The Weight", "Blinded" marries a 90s-esque riff in the verses with a glide in the choruses and instrumental interludes, while the guitar-work in "Cataracts" moves with a swagger like Thrice have rarely captured before. However, that run of songs is the weakest on the album.

It's a rare moment when a Kensrue lyric feels forced, but he offsets the slightly awkward central coin metaphor in "Call It In The Air" with a stunningly powerful vocal performance - so much so that it actually destroyed his voice during recording. Indeed, every 'weak' song on this album - and by 'weak' I mean the slightly less excellent ones - still carries reminders of what makes Thrice so special in the first place. Be it a great riff, brilliant lyrics by Dustin Kensrue (who's middle name must be 'Humble'), or the always understated yet flawless performances of the Breckenridge brothers - there is always something that keeps Thrice a notch above the rest.

It is the second half of the album, however, that displays Thrice are a uniquely special band. "Treading Paper" shines because of a typically magnetic performance by Dustin, as he sings of there being meaning to the universe, as opposed to it being a string of random events, and he does so with much so emotion that even the most stark of non-believers could find themselves agreeing with him if they are not careful. "Words In The Water" took the longest of any song on the album to complete, but the result is one of the most hauntingly exquisite Thrice songs to date and has already asserted itself as a fan-favourite.

The closing one-two of "Anthology" and "Disarmed" is the perfect way to put an ellipsis at Thrice's career. The former finds beauty in simplicity; the lyrics reference six previous Thrice songs that deal with Dustin's relationship with his wife, which is probably why it's the most passionate and soaring vocal performance on the album, and in the latter the band find hope that death isn't the end, with a crescendo finale that matches the heights of "Red Sky".

Each Thrice album takes time to reveal its glory to you, although "Major/Minor" for different reasons. The progression from one album to next was formerly so striking and bold that it took a few listens to adjust, whereas with "Major/Minor" it's that it takes time to adjust to the lack of a huge step in progression. At first it can seem a little underwhelming, but if any band has earned the right to your patience and trust, it is Thrice.

Thrice have been the most consistently brilliant band in rock music in the 21st Century, so if "Major/Minor" is to be the final Thrice album, then it is a fitting cap to a glorious career. It's Thrice saying goodbye not with a whimper, but a reminder of why we fell in love with them in the first place. For that, and everything they have given us, we can only consider ourselves blessed.

Download: Words In The Water, Anthology, Disarmed
For The Fans of: dude, it's Thrice.
Listen: Vagrant Records' Soundcloud

Release Date 19.09.2011
Vagrant Records

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