Every Thrice album ranked from worst to best

Thrice in 2005
(Image credit: Getty)

Thrice are just fucking great. Formerly fixtures of the 2000s post-hardcore wave, they quickly outshone their peers by putting emo, skate punk and white-knuckle thrash together like it was a normal thing to do. The Illusion Of Safety and The Artist In The Ambulance inspired a generation of wannabes – then the band detoured into borderless rock to insure the imitators could never keep up.

In 2023, Thrice have just re-recorded Artist…, and are hot off anniversary shows for both Illusion… and Vheissu to boot. It’s a well-deserved victory lap, as a glance at their discography will prove. Below, Hammer has ranked every studio album to this lot’s name in reverse-order of their genius.

Metal Hammer line break

12. Identity Crisis (2000)

Identity Crisis summarises 20 years of Californian alt-music history in about 35 minutes. Equally smitten with SoCal hardcore, emo and metal, Thrice layered scream-singing vocals atop scurrying drums and the odd powerhouse riff. Their first go of it is strewn with highlights, like the stampede of Metallica chugs during A Torch To End All Torches and Phoenix Ignition’s swing from folk whimsy to punk rock fury. However, the band couldn’t sew those patches of brilliance into a congruent tapestry, with the abrupt genre shifts leading to, well… an identity crisis.

11. Palms (2018)

Thrice told their comeback story on the re-energised To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere. Then they got writer’s block penning the next chapter. Palms pushed the band into new soundscapes, starting with the pulsing synths of Only Us before trying to enchant new followers on the piano ballad Everything Belongs. These are all one-and-done touches, though – as is the acoustic math rocker Blood On Blood and the reportedly thousand-strong chorus singing The Dark. Doubling down on any one of these ideas would have made Palms more fascinating than it is.

10. Major/Minor (2011)

Had any other band released Major/Minor, it would probably be their masterpiece. It’s a tablet of hard rock poetry, bolstered by Kensrue’s earnest howls about abuse, religion and the follies of man. However, it was also the first Thrice album not to be a refinement or brazen leap away from what had come before. The band instead reused the same creative process they had for Beggars: jamming until they found affecting ideas. As a result, it can’t compete with the ambition of The Alchemy Index or the impact of Vheissu.

9. The Alchemy Index, Vols III & IV: Air & Earth (2008)

The Alchemy Index is whatever the opposite of a breakthrough is. It’s a two-CD, four-part piece where each quarter represents a different element – and major imprint Island Records were so perplexed by the masters that Thrice left. It’s the label’s loss: this second disc lays ambient rock side-by-side with piano-infused folk music to sublime results. There’s no hardcore to speak of, with A Song For Milly Michaelson and The Lion And The Wolf exposing the band’s tender heart. It only lands behind Vols I & II because of that pairing’s more dramatic diversity.

8. The Alchemy Index, Vols I & II: Fire & Water (2007)

While The Alchemy Index, Vols III & IV clash together two genres that are far from opposites, Vols I & II make a more dynamic double-whammy. The first half, Fire, blasts you back to Thrice’s heavy music origins with its shouts and distortion. Then Water beats with evocative post-rock and trip-hop sounds. It’s a more immediate showcase of the diversity that this band prize than the two-parter’s 2008 counterpart. How many other artists could ever traverse the blazing Mastodon riffage of The Arsonist and Lost Continent’s crescendoing keyboards, yet alone on the same album?

7. The Illusion Of Safety (2002)

There’s a problem with stunning everyone with how eclectic you are: you can only do it once. Thankfully, The Illusion Of Safety isn’t the sound of Thrice throwing even more shit into their sound. Rather than trying to outdo Identity Crisis, which got them a Hopeless Records deal and a Warped Tour slot, the band found focus amongst the variety. Deadbolt repeatedly returns to its tapalong guitars, Where Idols Once Stood savages with lightspeed drumming and A Subtle Dagger is an out-of-nowhere hardcore attack. Together, they became a deserved breakthrough moment.

6. Horizons/East (2021)

In five years, Thrice evolved from the dusty guitar anthems of To Be Everywhere… to Horizons/East: a bubbling bass and synth record. The Color Of The Sky instantly signals the shift, opening with wobbling keyboard noises, and Scavengers casts a revving-engine chorus riff against the isolated, rumbling low end of its verses. Plus, Robot Soft Exorcism is the closest to trip-hop the band’s ventured since The Alchemy Index. Add in the earworm hooks of Dandelion Wine and Summer Set Fire To The Rain and you get a late-in-the-game winner.

5. The Artist In The Ambulance – Revisited (2023)

Has an artist re-recording one of their classic albums ever made them better? Unsurprisingly, Thrice’s 20th-anniversary redo of The Artist In The Ambulance doesn’t usurp the post-hardcore masterpiece, purely because it’s less rabid than the original. That said, it’s still The Artist In The Ambulance: All That’s Left, the title track and Silhouette sound as unstoppable now as they ever did. There’s a more timeless grit to Kensrue’s singing too, since he’s long since ditched those emo yells of 2003. It makes for one of the few full-length redos that actually has merit.

4. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere (2016)

Thrice’s comeback album is fucking heavy, man. Of course, that statement applies to the music: the band sourced influence from Cave In and Cult Of Luna to create the crushing crawl of Hurricane and the ear-splitting static of Whistleblower. But it’s also heavy thematically. To Be Everywhere… is a damning assessment of the modern world, as Black Honey savages the US’s foreign policy and Death From Above laments the pointlessness of drone strikes. Elegant and intense in equal measure, this made everyone thankful that Thrice’s absence was a short one.

3. Beggars (2009)

After The Alchemy Index forced them into four stringent moulds, Thrice broke free on Beggars by simply jamming until they created excellence. The result is a driving rock record that crashes through mathcore, pop and prog. All The World Is Mad is an instant attention-grabber, containing one of the band’s career-best melodies. Wood And Wire is four minutes of solemn crooning over shuffling drums, then Talking Through Glass… is a post-hardcore explosion. Only the closing title track slows the pace – and it feels like a finale that’s twice as grand because of it.

2. The Artist In The Ambulance (2003)

Making their debut for major label Island Records, Thrice willingly put the blinders on, limiting their eclecticism to make all the money invested into them worthwhile. The band also streamlined their songs in the process, with such mainstays as All That’s Left and Silhouette making a fusion of scream-along refrains, heavy metal riffing and punkish brevity seem easy. Suddenly, post-hardcore had new West Coast idols, to the point that Alternative Press said Kensrue and Teppei Teranishi were doing for punk’s guitar playing what Dave Murray and Adrian Smith had done for metal’s. Blimey. 

1. Vheissu (2005)

The Artist In The Ambulance affirmed Thrice as a driving force of their scene – Vheissu declared that they were too talented to need a scene in the first place. The band have since called their fourth album “a reaction to Artist…”, huddling prog, ambient, acoustic and keyboard sounds under a blanket of hook-laden post-hardcore.

Image Of The Invisible into Between The End And Where We Lie is the best one-two punch in Thrice’s catalogue: the pair segue from gang-chanted choruses to a polyrhythmic drums-and-piano riff. Hold Fast Hope is a thousand-watt spotlight on Kensrue’s vocal prowess, Like Moths To Flame dances from classical to metal and folk and back again, and Red Sky is a delicate post-rock conclusion.

Together, the songs realised the potential of Thrice’s diversity and hook-writing, and thrust the band to number 15 on the American charts. It was their most relevant moment – not to mention a perfectly-timed leap into timelessness as post-hardcore began its downswing.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.