Dave Eggers designed the ornate, ouija-board-like cover for Thrice's latest, Vheissu, and he's an apt artist for an album that many critics will hail as a work of genius. This ambitious effort incorporates everything from a music box to simulated call-and-response field hollers, and it performs all this experimentation with concision. Thrice shortens the soft-loud dynamic cycle by starting tracks with placid piano or chilled electronic beats, then unleashing a full-force dual-guitar attack, often completing this transition before vocalist Dustin Kensrue has even appeared. Not only does this accelerate the cathartic release; it also keeps Kensrue from having to croon cloyingly to match the opening instrumental fireworks.
Much of Vheissu plays like an abridged prog-rock record, with relentlessly transitive song structures creating the illusion of epic duration. Thrice uses scorched-throat screams sparingly, enhancing the impact of its heavy segments. The music complements the lyrics, communicating additional layers of meaning. When Kensrue sings, "I will die for you," his crystalline delivery sells his sincerity, while the baleful backing riffs reinforce the ominous implications of this vow. The lead single, "Image of the Invincible," should be the live killer at this gig. Built on a striking chanted chorus, it resembles a less hokey version of P.O.D's inspirational anthem "Youth of the Nation."