FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Thrice, “Vheissu”

Words by Amy Heycock 

When Thrice’s Vheissu was released in October 2005, I was a fresh faced 15-year-old. I had been a fan of previous albums, so when I read a review that stated it was a good-but-not-great record, I bought it anyway. Looking back, I wonder if that reviewer had listened to the album before filling my mind with such lies. I honestly get irrational when I think about the things I would say to that reviewer, who obviously never deserved to listen to the album anyway. Because every time I listen to it I fall in love with it a bit more.

The albums opens with Image of the Invisible. It reached out to my confused teen angst; it was heavy in its sound and full-hearted in its lyrics. It definitely played the role of the catchy opening track, and it transfers really well to the stage. That fist-in-the-air ‘fuck the world’ attitude stayed alive, and years later at 22, I would see Thrice perform. I would scream this song right back at the band, in the same way I had in my room when it first came out.

With their fourth album, Thrice experimented musically in a more sophisticated way. There are complex time signatures and structures, varying sounds and textures within songs. The perfect example is The Earth Will Shake, opening with an acoustic intro, exposing Dustin Kensrue’s lone voice and guitar. Soon, is heads into heavily layered sounds, with Kensrue growling down the microphones. In case that wasn’t enough, there’s also a brief breakdown featuring chain gang-style, prison blues group vocals.

The album recently celebrated its ten year anniversary, and the band took the opportunity to talk about its recording. They explained how they stayed in upstate New York for nearly two months; one moment they’d be recording, and the next, they’d be in the middle of the woods. If you listen, you can hear that connection to the elements throughout the sounds and lyrics.

It’s so hard to pick the right songs to write about, because I don’t want the other songs to think I don’t love them as much. For Miles brings in a piano to produce one of the mellower songs on the album. It’s a reminder of their musical diversity, and a break before building up to the heaviest track of the album, Hold Fast Hope. Music Box actually opens with the sound of a music box, looping that strange, haunting melody throughout the entire song. Of Dust and Nations begins with soft ambient tones. It lures you into this false sense of calm, before exploding into a huge verse. Meanwhile, the lyrics talk about how we worship possessions and we value belongings. Am I the only one who took these lyrics as questioning society’s false attachment to capitalism?

“So put your faith in more than steel
Don’t store your treasures up with moth and rust
Where thieves break in and steal
Pull the fangs from out your heel
Well, we live in but a shadow of the real”

To me, the final song on this album is its best. Red Sky is truly one of my all time favourite songs, and showcases everything that I love about Vheissu; the vast atmospheric sound, the deep lyrical content, Dustin Kensrue’s beautiful vocals and incredible talent as a lyricist. “I know what lies beneath, I’ve seen the flash of teeth. Conspiring with the reef to sink our ship. The wind’s a cheating wife, her tongue a thirsty knife. And she could take your life with one good kiss.”
We get it, Dustin. You’re a brilliant wizard who somehow manages to be an original and constantly captivating storyteller in a genre like post-hardcore, that’s inevitably filled with lyrical repetition. It isn’t the kind of song that gets instantly stuck in your head, but it’s one of those beauties that you can listen to on repeat for hours for years to come.

The album is solid from start to finish. There aren’t a lot of down points or fillers, which you cannot say for many post-hardcore albums. The band often spoke of how they wrestled with their record label to make Vheissu the album they wanted it to be. There was pressure to make a more mainstream album, or The Artist in the Ambulance Part 2. This album is true to the band and it shows that they didn’t play it safe: Vheissu is progressive and well developed. Years after its release I would meet the band at a festival, and I was so nervous I started shaking and had to leave. They were so down to earth, I don’t think they knew what to do with such an emotionally unstable weirdo, but in my defence, what do you say to people who create such brilliant music?

Vheissu brings no sense of nostalgia to me because in the last ten years it has been constant on my playlist. It was there when I was 16 travelling the east coast of Australia on a bus for a Make Poverty History Oaktree Campaign, it was there when I moved out of home into the most run down house in Brisbane, it was there when I moved to New York and sat on the subway at 1am after finishing 16 hour work day, and it’s here now while I’m siting on bed on in Sydney eating pizza in my pyjamas (welcome to the good life).

Vheissu is one of those albums you need to listen to repeatedly. No matter how many times you do, you’ll hear things differently, you’ll notice a beautiful lyric or a clever riff you hadn’t heard before. Ten years later, I know I still do.