Thrice – ‘Horizons / East’

By Dave Stewart

Music, regardless of genre, is used as a form of expression. Be it grief, love, loss, death, religion, politics or anything in between, music serves as the perfect vessel to explore emotional connection with, and there are few bands that captain that exploration quite like Thrice. From their humble emo and post-hardcore beginnings over twenty years ago to the intricate and progressive rock masterminds that they’ve become, their new album ‘Horizons / East’ is their most explorative yet, and it’s one beautiful ride.

Everything kicks off with the hazy and soft tones of ‘The Color Of The Sky’, with flickering synths and rich melodies walking hand in hand with one another as they kick-start the journey solemnly. Front man Dustin Kenrue is walking a journey of his own, detailing that direction in his lyrics with lines like, “Setting out across a new frontier / A new horizon with each eager step I take,” where you can really feel the longing in his stunning, gravelly vocals.

Everything that follows details every aspect of Kenrue’s internal search, exploring both the negative and positive sides of what he found. The colossal ‘Scavengers’ is bold and brash, marrying bleak imagery with colossal guitar and bass tones that both rattle your ribcage. ‘Summer Set Fire To Rain’ is just as loud but feels a little more upbeat, the drums punching at a steady tempo whilst the music erupts around them like fireworks. A similar display is woven into ‘The Dreamer’ too only a lot more colours, floating through an almost psychedelic landscape with vibrant chords and dream-like tones.

The softer side of this album is where it shines the brightest, and it’s because the sincerity is laid completely bare. The devastating musings of ‘Still Life’ touch on the difficulties often tied to letting go, every guitar string plucked with pain as Kenrue utters the words, “The way is closed now, and I can’t go home.” The rich piano sounds buried within ‘Northern Lights’ create a more prog-rock vibe when married with the bright guitar licks and tasteful drum work, serving up a beautifully timed change of pace.

The closing number is arguably the most special that’s on display, bringing the journey to an end in the most impactful and grand way. When listening to ‘Unitive / East’ you can almost picture Kenrue gazing up at the night sky, pitch black and full of twinkling stars, really trying to see beyond them as he wholeheartedly asks, “Is there a me without you?” It’s a really stirring final moment, elegantly closing the curtain on a truly wonderful record.

Lyrically, this is the most candid Thrice have ever been, Kenrue questioning his own beliefs and looking for the answers outside of the band’s boundaries. From examining his own faith to humanity itself, the record is full of doubt, uncertainty, pain, hope, resilience and so much more, and it makes for a really warm and compassionate listen. It somehow manages to both sound desolate and full; not at the same time of course, but to be able to traverse both realms so effortlessly isn’t an easy feat.

That desire to constantly push their boundaries has always created stunning results, but the textures with which they’ve flooded this record have made the listening experience really intense. The way they build suspense only to strip it away, the way they develop soundscapes from an isolated idea into a limitless chasm, the way they toy with instrumentation to convey just as much power the words; it’s like a collection of short stories, and you’ll fall in love with them all. A truly stark and honest record that extends its hand out to anyone listening, and before you know it you’ll find yourself reaching back to grab it.

DAVE STEWART

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