Thrice strikes an uneasy alliance between post-hardcore emotiveness and prog-rock conceptualism on its fifth album, The Alchemy Index Vols. 1 & II: Fire & Water. A multi-album essay on the four classical elements would seem like the kind of project Thrice was born to make: Frontman Dustin Kensrue’s lyrics and the band’s neo-classical ear for arrangement have always aimed for loftier plateaus than Thrice’s screamo contemporaries.
Noble as the idea is, though, the double EP falls victim to its own ambitions. Kensrue shoehorns artless fire metaphors (e.g. “The flames will rise and devour me”; “We will burn it down and build it again/ What was buried in flame”) into the predictably combustible rockers on the Fire disc. The calmer, more reflective Water struggles to float above hokey ocean references (“The ocean’s much like you/ Because it gives and it takes away”; “The sea calls my name/ And so I must go”).
There’s plenty of musical gristle, emotional heft and appealing production tricks on Fire & Water, and it would have made more sense to integrate the two halves into a single album. But spread apart as it is, Fire & Water contains too much artifice to swallow.