Both Pelican and Thrice are stretching the boundaries of their sounds and others' expectations. Pelican's City of Echoes soft-pedals the band's usual throb, taking its complex art-metal instrumentals in a melodic direction. The tracks are still dense but don't unwind as far, getting through each thematic movement with heretofore unseen concision. The interplay of guitarists Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and Trevor de Brauw reaches another level, as they move closer to the prickly churn of groups such as June of '44 or Rodan (they are from Chicago, after all), leaving behind dark stoner-gloom for something more supple and subtle.
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Thrice rode the crest of emo's second wave, scoring a deal with Island for its third album, The Artist in the Ambulance, which achieved the apotheosis of the postcore bluster, tightened and polished to a dull sheen. There was nowhere for Thrice to go but the ambitious, meticulously layered, stylistic schizophrenia of 2005's Vheissu. Aggressive, beautiful, and overwrought, Vheissu begat the band's latest project, Alchemy Index, Vols. I-IV, released on Vagrant, which explores different sonic elements on four album sides, each featuring a distinct aspect of Thrice's sound.