Thrice tries to step outside the box again
Hailing from Orange County, post-hardcore veterans Thrice have always been in an impressive yet unfortunate position. Their creativity and work ethic has earned them nothing but heaping praise from their fellow musicians, but they never quite broke into the mainstream.
The quartet, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Dustin Kensrue, guitarist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge and his drumming brother Riley, established itself in the Orange County rock scene early, before their 2003 album The Artist In The Ambulance gained them nationwide press. It was their 2005 record Vheissu that shattered their genre boundaries. They released several more high-quality experimental albums before going on hiatus in 2011 to spend time with their growing families. They then returned in 2016 with To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, which continued the same creative trend. Now in 2018, they have officially released their tenth studio album, Palms.
Palms opens like any other Thrice album: unpredictably. The first track, “Only Us,” is an ominous 6/8 synthesizer groove before the rest of the band adds their muscle. Lead single “The Grey” follows, with an aggressive Southern-style riff launching into an anthemic chorus. “The Dark” then channels Imagine Dragons with its ultra-compressed snare hits and background reverb. After that, “Just Breathe” brings a complex time signature and an angular bass line to the party.
Listeners hoping for a little variety from the guitars finally get a break with the album’s first piano ballad and overall best track, “Everything Belongs.” Kensrue’s gritty vocals are at their raw, unprocessed best, while Teranishi’s distinct guitar work drones distantly in the back. The mellowness continues with “My Soul,” an introspective acid trip where the lyricist asks, “Are you ready for my soul?”
Guitars make their comeback with “A Branch In The River,” which channels Thrice’s post-hardcore roots with a slight Americana twist. The rock really shows up on “Hold Up A Light,” a grungy foot stomper where Kensrue gets to access his inner Dave Grohl. “Blood On Blood,” the ninth track, is a weird number that can’t decide its own identity as it pushes back and forth between ethereal, chilled-out and shout-y. Finally, as expected on every record, the closing track, “Beyond The Pines,” is a slow power ballad.
Ultimately, while Thrice does a good job incorporating modern elements into their sound and definitely know how to experiment, the music doesn’t deliver the emotional punch it’s supposed to. So even though Palms is an entertaining listen, it lacks the feeling to make it truly special.